This post builds on two of my recent posts that are more related than most people think. I’m referring to the blog posts on customer service training (No One Really Needs Customer Service Training, June 22, 2011) and on employee motivation (The Factors Preventing Employee Motivation and Employee Engagement, June 14, 2011).
As more and more businesses find themselves fighting against the tide of commoditization, it is becoming increasing difficult, (if not impossible, depending on the product and services) and significantly more expensive, to differentiate from the competition.
I believe the least expensive way to do it is developing true differentiation in customer service. But, it has to be truly exceptional, noticeably unique and different. How can a company with limited resources and with its products and services continually fighting commoditization differentiate itself with “world class” customer service?
They do it by creating an initiative that combines the strategies in the two articles I mentioned above, customer service training and employee engagement. But, neither in the way companies traditionally do those 2 things.
I thought of this approach after being reminded recently about a former client whose company leadership preached to employees about providing”world class” customer service.
Yet, when I asked many of those same employees to define “world class” customer service and how they were expected to deliver it, I received mostly blank stares.
The great thing about employees is that they are also customers. Everyone single one of them has experiences organizational leaders should be tapping into. Most do not.
Instead of bringing in a “customer service expert” to take employees through a training on customer service (the type I argued was unnecessary in No One Really Needs Customer Service Training), I have an alternate solution.
Imagine if you were hold an internal customer service symposium that would tap into the collective genius and life-long experience of the people in your organization. Doing a program like that would:
- Allow you to engage your best advocates in solutions to improving your company from the bottom up;
- Make everyone of your employees feel valued because their input was requested and the ideas they provided or contributed were actually implemented;
- Improve motivation and morale
- Give employees ownership of the ideas and strategies making it easier to hold themselves and their teammates accountable for the implementation
- Improve customer service, customer relationships and customer retention
Here’s how it would work:
- Get as many company leaders and employees together in one room as possible.
- Pair up people at different levels, President-Receptionist, Board Chairman-janitor, etc.
- Give each group 30-minutes to share 1-story of the BEST example of customer service they’ve ever experienced; a time when someone truly exceeded their expectations.
- Create a forum/format for capturing the best ideas from each of those experiences.
- Brainstorm additional ideas that your company can add or build on the ideas captured from the stories.
- Vote on the 10 best ideas that are a fit for your company that you are not already doing.
Now you have a list of 10 hot ideas for improving your customer relationships. But, you are not finished as 2 key steps remain:
- Identify and list all past, present and future obstacles (excuses) to implementing these ideas
- Commit to strategies for eliminating those excuses that are the highest priority items so you can begin implementation of the ideas within 30-days.
These final two steps are what a colleague of mine calls “the secret sauce.”
Without attacking those final two steps, the entire effort will not just be wasted, it will undermine and sabotage morale and motivation moving forward, and you can forget about people contributing their ideas in the future.
One final note: You don’t have to necessarily be able to eliminate all the obstacles identified to implement a particular strategy, but you do need to give people reasons for why its not possible, or not possible at this time. The feedback and loop closing is key so people feel heard and valued.
But, I would argue that if the item is on your top 10 of “Customer Service Strategies We Should Implement” I’d jump through a fiery hoop to eliminate those obstacles to make it happen to set yourself apart and create a killer gap between yourself and your competition.
What do you think of this approach for identifying strategies to create “world class” customer service?
Often, because of emotional connection to the topics and situations, certain relationships in the room and unintended positional intimidation, it is difficult and less than effective to have an internal person facilitate these types of sessions. It can be more effective to have an external facilitator experienced in bringing groups to consensus on ideas such as these.
That’s some of the work I do, if you’d like to learn more about a session like I described above and what it might look and feel like for your company, please click here to contact me and we’ll set up a complimentary Strategy Session.