In his book No B.S. Ruthless Management of People & Profits, business coach and consultant Dan S. Kennedy presents a straightforward assessment of the real relationship between employers and their employees, and dares you to take action. In this edited excerpt, guest author Keith Lee describes his simple system for improving your business's customer service.
If you have anything less than exceptional customer service in your business, you’re wasting the time of, creating extra work for and frustrating your frontline people, other staff, managers and yourself—and that’s poor management.
Here’s how customer service training happens in most businesses. With the best of intentions, the business owner has a “rah rah” meeting about customer service, and the service improves for a few weeks, and then, without reminders, you’re back where you started. The reminders don’t come because you’re a busy business owner and you have lots of other things to do. In addition, it’s likely you can’t understand why people don’t always do what they’re supposed to.
So what can business owners do to improve their customer service? It's a two-step process:
1. Train your entire team to deliver exceptional customer service.
2. Consistently reinforce your customer service expectations with your team.
To start, your entire team needs to get trained with your exceptional customer service expectations. This is the “rah rah” training I talked about above. But it can’t stop there. You need to consistently and persistently reinforce those expectations.
When you have your entire team trained and you’re consistently reminding them of your customer service expectations, you need to make sure every new employee (team member) gets the same initial customer service training that your entire team received.
The best thing you can do to show every new employee your commitment to customer service is to train them about your customer service expectations immediately. After your new team member fills out the required government employment forms, what do they do? In most businesses, it’s not customer service training, but it should be.
Anything less than exceptional customer service is your fault. It's happening because you haven’t trained properly, or reinforced properly, or have the proper systems in place, or don’t have good feedback systems to monitor customer service, or you haven’t fired someone! If you’re not committed to exceptional customer service, your business will never achieve its potential for profitability or sustainability.
When you’re committed to exceptional customer service, you’ll fall short sometimes, but when you do, you’ll often still be providing good customer service. In addition, when your customers are used to getting exceptional customer service, they’ll be much more likely to forgive you in the rare instance when your customer service falls below good.
You can't rely on the absence of customer complaints as your standard. The reality is that the huge majority of customers who are disappointed with any business won’t complain to anyone, they just leave. You have to determine the appropriate definitions of “exceptional” and of “good enough,” train and coach accordingly, and have systems in place to insure those standards.
Satisfied customers are . . . satisfied. If someone else has a little better price or opens a store that’s a bit more convenient, they’re gone. Just think of it, if your goal is a satisfied customer, even if you and your staff do everything perfectly, the best you’ll get is a satisfied customer—that’s your goal.
Customer satisfaction isn't good enough. Your customer service expectations need to be exceptional, and you need to create not just satisfied customers, but happy, loyal customers.
Don’t keep your standards a secret
Truly outstanding businesses committed to exceptional customer service don’t just make up slogans about it, they let their customers know what they’re up to and put themselves and their employees on the hot seat by doing so. Your customers need to know your customer service expectations.
Find as many ways as you can to tell your customers that you want to know if they are not happy. Tell them when they are on hold on the telephone. Tell them with signs when they are at your place of business. Tell them in your advertising. Tell them when you communicate via email. Tell them on your website. Survey them by email or direct mail, and simply ask them, “What do you like? What don’t you like? I’d like to know.”
But if you’re going to ask for input from customers, you need to act when you get it. Whether it’s a good comment or a complaint, every customer who contacts us gets a response.
But there’s another great reason to share your customer service expectations with your customers and ask them to let you know if they’re not thrilled. The best reason for sharing your customer service expectations is that your staff knows customers may come directly to you when they feel they haven't gotten the promised level of service. You'll also be much more concerned with having everyone meeting your customers’ expectations if there is a direct path to you, and you have to get personally involved with every failure.