Is it possible to go from bad to great at Customer Service?
While The DiJulius Group has been fortunate to work with many world-class Customer Service companies, we have also been hired by poor Customer Service companies, ranked near the bottom in service in their industry, and have had amazing success at helping them become industry leaders (see the three Case Studies within this article).
How to change a company’s poor Customer Service Culture
A company with bad Customer Service can no longer hide. In the age of smartphones and social media, Customer Service scandals will be exploited. Can historically bad Customer Service companies change? If so, how? Take United Airlines for example – United cannot stay out of the news for repeated Customer Service scandals. Why? Where does it start? How can it be fixed?
It is easy to see why World-Class Customer Service companies are superior. The person leading the organization is obsessed with the experience they deliver. If the top people can’t passionately believe in the Customer Experience, the company will never embody it.
What do (did) Howard Schultz (Starbucks), Tony Hsieh (Zappos), Richard Branson (Virgin Airlines), Steve Jobs (Apple), Horst Schulze (The Ritz-Carlton), Truett Cathy (Chick-fil-A), Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines), John Nordstrom (Nordstrom), and Jeff Bezos (Amazon) all have in common?
Each of these leaders obsessed over their company’s Customer Experience, down to the smallest detail. They passionately articulated their vision for World-Class Experience every time they spoke, to anyone and everyone who would listen. And their companies are all known for World-Class Customer Service. Service Aptitude starts at the very top.
Just the same, for every poor Customer Service company, you can typically track the reason back to the lack of Service Aptitude of its leader. United’stroubles extend far beyond a single mistake. In recent years, the airline has injured passengers, sold their seats, misplaced their pets, and caused a pet’s death. Many believe United’s problems start with their CEO Oscar Munoz. Airline expert George Hobica recently told Business Insider, “It’s just a lack of integrity in their leadership.” United’s favorite airline has to be Spirit. If it weren’t for Spirit, United would be the worst. Bottom line, without senior leadership being fanatical about Customer Experience, it will never be a priority and nothing will change. A great place to start is Creating your company’s Service Vision statement.
Most would agree that the soft skill side (how our Customers are treated and cared for) is just as important as the technical/operational side of what the Customer receives. However, the vast majority of a company’s employee orientation and ongoing training contradicts that.
How many hours do you train new employees before they can start interacting with your Customer? It may be two days, two weeks, or one month. Whatever it is, now do the math. How many of those hours are devoted to technical training: product knowledge, processing orders, scheduling appointments, etc. versus Customer Experience training: Customer Service vision, non-negotiable standards, building Customer rapport, service recovery, etc.? The vast majority of businesses spend 98-100% of training on the technical part of the job and breeze over their Customer Service philosophy because they think it is common sense.
“It is not the employees’ responsibility to have high Service Aptitude; it is the company’s job to teach it to them.”
Your service training needs to be certifiable just like technical training
It all comes down to Service Aptitude training. If today’s younger generation lacks the skills gained from human interactions, who is responsible for improving their people skills and increasing their Service Aptitude? The businesses that hire them! We need to have better training programs, not just training on product knowledge and the technical side of the job, but also training & certification on the soft skills. The companies that deliver World-Class Customer Service are the companies that understand this fact and provide training in Customer Service skills. A great example of this would be Creating a day in the life of your Customer story.
“If it is not felt on the inside, it will never be felt on the outside”
In order to have a World-Class internal culture you must attract, hire, and retain only those people who have Service DNA. The best service companies do an incredible job achieving this goal, starting with the process of recruiting and hiring, then extending through orientation and continuing throughout the entire employee career experience. According to a Gallup survey, the top three reasons why employees leave their jobs are:
Lack of faith in the leadership or vision of the company
Concern with the way management is treating people
Lack of management support in areas such as performance reviews and employee development
The single most important determinant of an individual’s performance and commitment to stay with an organization is the relationship the individual has with his or her immediate manager. People leave their manager far more often than they leave the organization.
“People leave their manager far more often than they leave the organization.”
As business leaders, we need to have standards that require prospective employees to earn the right to be part of our company. Having a set of non-negotiable hiring standards, characteristics an employee must embody that are clearly defined and articulated, will turn your prospective employees either on or off. The main objective of your interview process is to scare the applicant out of wanting to work for you. If you can’t, chances are very good that the applicant will be successful.
John R. DiJulius is a best-selling author, consultant, keynote speaker and President of The DiJulius Group, the leading Customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on Customer experience trends and best practices.