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Want a Customer-Focused Culture? Here’s a Road Map to Get You There

hands-way-guide-touristMany of you may have heard the story of a Supreme Court Justice who said this about pornography: He couldn’t define it, but he knew it when he saw it.

Somehow, that’s the way it is with customer service.

What we’ve seen in working with more than 25 JD Power award-winning clients is that it’s an easy thing to talk about and a very difficult thing to execute… particularly across a large physical footprint.

The companies doing a great job providing exceptional service to their customers are doing it differently than you might think. Creating a truly customer focused culture requires much more than an “initiative” or one of those god-awful posters. (If you have one on your wall, please just take it down now. I’ll wait…)

Great customer service cannot just be a one-off. Instead, it has to flow from the CEO down through the organization in a holistic way that creates a cultural shift. Here are six principles that we’ve seen successful companies practice, which will help create the customer service culture to which you aspire.

1. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll wind up somewhere else.

It’s easy to assume that everyone knows what good service looks like, but do they really? Defining exactly what good customer service looks like behaviorally and double-checking that it jives with what your customers are looking for is the first step in being able to replicate it across the organization. Unless we all know the goal, there’s no way to get there with any consistency. Just ask a Millennial, an X’er and a Baby Boomer how they define good service and you’ll see the issue. Until we define the skills, behaviors and outcomes we are seeking and engage everyone in that process, the goal of exceptional service will remain elusive.

2. You don’t have to Wow me; just keep your promises.

One of the greatest myths of customer service is that you have to “WOW” your customers. I mean, that’s great and all, but in fact, the companies best known for creating loyal customers know that the better bet is to first ensure that you can make good on your promises to customers… every day… in every location… in every interaction. That’s the key to building a trusting and long-lasting relationship with your customers. Think Amazon and you’ve got the picture.

3. KISS.

Yep, Keep it Simple Silly. Our research shows that the No. 1 most important practice among successful customer experience creators is: make it easy to do business with you. You’re saving your customer time, energy or effort. And then put equal focus on making sure that when something goes awry — as it will — that the issue is rectified immediately. We’ve all had the customer experience of being told that we are the ones who are wrong, or of having a service provider not recognize how the issue has negatively impacted us. Much of what we take away from that experience is not necessarily what the final outcome was (i.e. did they eventually put me on another flight after mine was cancelled?) but how was I treated in that moment… was I recognized, heard, apologized to? Mastering positive communication skills at every level is the first key to the experience.

4. Technology won’t save us. People will.

Don’t get me wrong… having simple, easy-to-use technology both inside and outside the company is vital. But we’ve all heard the old adage, “Garbage in, garbage out.” Provide your team with both the training in the technology and the soft skills they need to call on when the technology doesn’t work as planned. That’s what customers will remember.

5. If you’re selling to everybody, you’re selling to nobody.

Many companies make the mistake of promising the world to their customers and then they aren’t able to make good on that promise. You have to know what your strengths are, and one of the best ways to identify them is to ask your best customers what they think your strengths are. That’s how you know what people are really buying. Drill down to identify your unique selling proposition and find more people who are looking for that strength – they will be your ideal customer.

6. Recognize the good, not just the bad in your employees.

Most organizations spend a great deal of time talking about what went wrong, the bad customer interaction, the escalation… but how much time do we devote to talking about the good? Leaders need to be just as skilled and eager to deliver recognition and positive rewards for a job well done as they do having the difficult conversations. As we begin to define what behaviors we are looking for, it is vital that leaders become adept at finding moments to positively reinforce those skills we are looking for. It serves double duty: this positive reinforcement given in public not only lets the one team member shine, but it can serve as a mini-coaching session for the whole team at one time.

Are you up to the challenge? Give these six steps a try over the next few weeks and let us know how it goes! Does it make a difference? Where are you seeing the wins? We’d love to help tell your customer service story!


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