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An attitude, not a process

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August 2, 2016

Claire Gallagher, Internal Brand Director

Are you really happy to help?

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Maya Angelou

We all know the secret to business success is happy customers and yet customer service standards are at an all time low in Australia. A recent report from Accenture suggests the cost of poor customer service in Australia is $122 billion. (B&T Magazine, 11 April 2016) So where does it all go wrong?

Customer service is an attitude, not a process

Customer service is an attitude, not a process. The Accenture study/ B&T article revealed ‘human interaction remains a vital component of customer satisfaction, even in the ‘digital age’. The majority (81 per cent) of Australian consumers would rather deal with a person over digital channels when it comes to solving customer services issues and getting advice.”

Surely, then, our focus should be on creating the right attitude in people, so they actually want to please customers, feel empowered to do so and act as advocates for your business. Doing that depends upon creating the right behaviours and beliefs.

This takes three things:

 1. Focus on the essential behaviours that underpin your ideal customer experience.

Many front line staff are rarely are invited to discuss the value they add. Too often the focus is on process, efficiencies and cost. As a result, customer experience feels like a transaction and customers feel like numbers. Focusing on behaviour can be a real game changer.

Take Ritz Carlton as an example. All staff (or Ladies and Gentlemen as they refer to staff) take part in a daily ‘line up’ where they focus on one of their customer service values. These values incorporate behaviours that create a great experience for guests plus behaviours that build the employee experience. The daily line up takes place 365 days a year, three times a day and every Ritz Carlton focuses on the same service principle. Although each “line up” is short (approx. 10 minutes) this daily discipline has created a culture that puts customer service first. It’s simple and effective, treating employees as they should treat guests, a single-minded focus on the behaviors that really make a difference and locking it into a routine.

2.Make it about the whole organisation, make it your core purpose

Organisations need to reinforce the importance of customers and service and it must start at the very top and touch everyone. All too often service is delegated to a function or team and customers are seen as outsiders or just not understood.

How can front line teams prioritise service when, for them, it’s just another task? How can you “delight” customers when you know nothing about them? Every part of your organisation (not just the front line) needs to understand and care about your customers and take pride in delivering exceptional service. For customer facing teams, the disconnect between their experience and the expected customer experience is often too great. How they feel, are communicated with and how they are rewarded can be at odds with service or experience goals.

And if it’s not leader-led, it just won’t work. Look at IDEOs “collaborative helping”. They identified that collaboration and helping each other was critical to unlocking creativity and solving complex problems, so they hard wired ‘helping’ into their organisation. Giving and receiving help is an explicit focus of the CEO, helping behaviours are encouraged in all leaders and time to help is planned into design processes.

Or look at the Disney Institute: they focus on managers enforcing the right behaviours and they do this in several different ways including encouraging “management by walking around”, “walking in the shoes” of employees such as filling a front line shift, understanding what specific front line jobs involve and acknowledging when people are “doing it right”. Disney doesn’t see customer experience as an interaction between front line and customers, it’s about how everyone works and learns together, it’s part of their DNA.

3. Never stop listening, learning and trying.

Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”.
Bill Gates.

As Amazon recognise, customers are far more likely to complain about what’s not working than they are to shout about good service so they monitor complaints and fix the problems. By fine-tuning the experience they are constantly evolving, learning and improving the customer experience. This genuine and constant focus on learning what customers want coupled with a readiness to try new things are key to success.

Where most companies fall down is introspection. Over 75% of organisational time is now spent on internal systems, processes, policies and yes, politics. Companies who are talking about “driving sales, increasing cross-selling or minimising resources” are living in the past. Millennials are now the largest demographic in the marketplace and they are looking for experiences that are omnichannel, they don’t tolerate slow response times, they value relationships, demand authenticity and they need and expect to be appreciated. In other words, your customers are now your service experts and they can’t be ignored.

Can I help?

Todays’ customers want personalised service. They are looking for a 1:1 relationship with a brand or business of their choosing. Brands such as Apple, Air New Zealand and TaskRabbit are doing this by matching their actions to customers needs, offering a service that is highly responsive and personal. And employees of these companies are happy to help. They have an all-of-company orientation to the customer and his/her needs, a positive attitude to service and a clear picture of who their customers actually are, creating brands that are distinctive, genuine, desired and socially engaging.

But what lies at the heart of their success is not what they do but how they do it – and most importantly, how that makes us feel. So when I hear those three special words – ‘can I help?’ – please make me feel like you mean it.

Principals. We inspire every client to achieve brand leadership.

We can help businesses with customer experience mapping, creating essential behaviours, customer service training and creating a customer orientated culture.

by Claire Gallagher, Internal Brand Director

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