“Moments of truth” are the critical incidents in which customers come into contact with the organization and form their impressions of its quality and service.” Karl Albrecht and Ron Zemke
Do your employees simply serve customers or do they really care about helping customers solve their problems? Do they recognize that every interaction they have with their internal or external customers is a moment of truth? Do they know that their interaction will determine the customer’s perception of your organization as either helpful, caring and accessible, or cold, disinterested, and unwelcoming?
As a manager, there are three key steps that you can take to instill, support and maintain a customer service culture throughout your organization.
1. Establish a customer service mission. This begins with identifying the significant impacts that your organization’s services have on both your internal and your external customers. Look beyond the obvious features of your product or service to find the benefits they provide to your customers. For example, a company that makes anti-lock brakes does more than manufacture a product. Their product will ultimately save lives.
Next, describe the image that your organization would like to project to your customers. For example, a call center’s mission statement is: “To take ownership of each call, manage each request correctly, dispatch efficiently and communicate to ensure the customer’s complete satisfaction.”
As another example, the mission statement of J.B. Hunt Transportation: is “Providing optimum service and solutions to maintain customer productivity and satisfaction.”
Finally, plan a strategy to make this image a reality. This will entail the next two steps: ensuring both customer-focused employees and organizational systems.
2. Ensure that your employees have a customer service mentality and focus. Every employee needs to support the customer service mission in every interaction they have with customers.
Review the “moments of truth” when your customers interact with your organization. You want your employees to consistently make these moments positive and responsive. Keep in mind that customer service is every employee’s responsibility. It is not limited to the people who work at the reception or service desks. There is no way to predict when a customer will come into contact with your organization.
Highlight and emphasize the key customer service qualities and skills necessary to fulfill your organization’ s customer service mission. For example, the first person with whom potential customers typically have contact is a receptionist. This employee needs to be friendly, open, welcoming and helpful. The employee who is responsible for resolving customer complaints needs to have good listening, communication and problem solving skills.
When you recruit employees, publish your emphasis on customer service; and when you screen applicants, include behavioral interviews in which you ask the applicants how they would handle different customer service situations.
Once you have hired the employees, establish both qualitative and quantitative performance standards and means of measurement to ensure that the desired customer service skills are used during customer contacts.
3. Ensure that organizational systems, policies and procedures support the customer service mission. Do not put your employees into the uncomfortable position of having the desire and skills to provide excellent customer service without the necessary systems or procedures that enable them to follow through.
Empower employees who are closest to the customer situation to make the required decisions to resolve the issues. Identify and resolve inconsistent performance expectations. For example, make sure that employees are not placed into a Catch-22 situation where they are expected, on the one hand, to meet the customers’ satisfaction while, on the other hand, they are evaluated on the basis of the number of customers served in a given period of time.
Confirm that, when one department makes promises to customers, the other departments can deliver on those promises. Provide incentive programs for quality customer service. Conduct customer surveys and act on their responses when feasible.
Check to see that employees have the training and tools to provide the desired customer service. Keep them up-to-date on policy changes that affect customers. Provide the technology they need to effectively perform their work. Also review the forms and other paperwork required of customers to make sure they are as clear as possible, with samples of completed forms and detailed instructions to complete them.
If you and your employees continually ask yourselves, “How will what I’m doing or planning on doing impact my customers?” and then take constructive action on the basis of the answer to that question, you will know that you have successfully built a customer service culture.
May your learning be sweet.