If anyone is going to wear your uniform or name tag or represent your brand, you only need a small set (six to ten actions/standards) for your employees to live by. These nonnegotiable standards are also referred to as the “never and always” list. The critical importance is, if they do occur, you have to be confident enough that your employees recognize and understand your “never” and “always,” and you can be confident that your employees would “never” do this and “always” do that instead. If your company does nothing other than institute the “never and always” list and makes everyone aware of them, if your Customers rarely experience a “never” and consistently experience an “always,” then you are in the top 5 percent of Customer service organizations! As you read through the list, you will see that they are all simple and common sense, but the majority of businesses and frontline employees too often execute the “never” list and don’t consistently execute the “always” list.
In the examples shown, you will see that each one matches the following three criteria:
1. The items are typically one to three words in length.
2. They are black and white; there is no room for personal interpretation.
3. They are crystal clear and do not need any additional explanation.
Some things you wouldn’t see on a “never and always” list are things such as “Always be professional” or “Always return calls promptly.” Why? Because they are vague. What is professional to one is completely different to someone else. What is “promptly”? To one person it may be two hours; to another it may be two days. Let’s show some examples of a few good Never & Always:
Point versus Show
This is typically thought of in the hospitality business (e.g., showing someone to the restroom instead of pointing them there). However, in the business-to-business and call-center world, pointing happens all the time. For instance, it happens when we say things like “You can get that off our website” or “You need to call this person in this department.” Why are we making the Customer do the work? We can send them the link, and we can transfer them to the correct department.
Saying no versus focusing on what you can do
Eliminate the word no from your company’s vocabulary; no one should ever be allowed to use that word. You may not always be able to say yes, but offer alternatives and options and never allow anyone from your company to utter the word no. You will be amazed at how creative your team will get at satisfying Customers. I never want a Customer of mine to tell me that someone from my organization said no to him or her. To me that is the worst swear word you can use in front of a Customer.
While we cannot do everything our Customers request, we can always respond with what we can do. If someone asks if we can sell them something we don’t even sell, we can answer with “While we do not carry product X, what we do carry is product Z, and the reason we do carry product Z is because it is proven to be the best, longest lasting, healthiest, whatever.” By the time you are done explaining the benefits of product Z, that Customer should never want product X. If for some reason they still want product X, then you explain how and where
they can get product X.
“No problem” is a big problem
The biggest street-slang terms used in every business today are the responses “no problem” or “not a problem.” In fact, as a result of reading this right now, you will be shocked at how many times you will hear “no problem” over the next two days. Joe Schumacker wrote an excellent blog titled “No Problem, Big Problem” that articulates this point really well. “No problem” is a problem for two reasons. The first issue with saying “no problem” is that it consists of two negative words. We shouldn’t be using any negative words, let alone two back-to-back.
The second problem is that the “no problem” auto-response sends the message that what the Customer is asking of you is not a problem for you. However, when we are serving others, it is not about our convenience; it is about what the Customer wants. The phrase “no problem” places the staff member’s comfort ahead of service to the Customer. Customers want to feel that their interests are first and foremost in the mind of the staff member, not that they may have inconvenienced a staff member by being a Customer.
Excellent responses instead of “no problem” are “certainly,” “my pleasure,” “I would be happy to,” “consider it done,” and “absolutely.” Using “certainly” or “my pleasure” is so much more professional than the often heard “not a problem.” It elevates the professionalism of your employees’ terminology. It starts establishing a culture of hospitality where the Customer is first.
The following are great examples of “never” and “always” items that are a Never & Always from great companies that The DiJulius Group helped to create. Ideally, you only want a maximum of ten “nevers” and ten “always.”
Action Plan – Create a small set (6-12 actions/standards) that match the following criteria:
* The standards are 1 – 3 words
* Do not need any additional explanation
* Not stage specific (i.e. do not apply towards phone, check in, check out, etc.)