My professional colleague and friend Michael Kerr is a Hall of Fame international business speaker and the author of six books, including The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses Are Laughing All the Way to the Bank. He is also my guest blogger today, writing about what it takes to create an organizational culture that is focused on customer service. Even though I’ve often blogged about specific situations that demonstrate what it takes to build (or destroy) customer loyalty (for example, Tilley Endurables, G Adventures, United Airlines, and Sahara Furniture), Michael’s post today comes at this subject from a more macro perspective. Good reading, I hope you find it of value as well.
P.S. Michael and I will be sharing the mainstage platform (with two other exceptional speakers) at the Customer Service Leadership Summit in Calgary later this year on November 15. More information about the Summit is at the end of this post below.
A young woman approached me after a talk recently and asked me the following question: “I’m a brand new leader overseeing a large customer service department and I really want to drive home the importance of customer service, so what messages could I deliver to help my employees embrace a service-first attitude?”
Seven messages you should heed
Here’s the gist of what I relayed to her – seven messages I think any customer service leader needs to tell their employees around the topic of customer service.
#1: Good customer service isn’t good enough. People expect good customer service, so all we are doing when we deliver “good customer service” is staying out of the customer service doghouse. Nobody in the history of business has ever wowed anyone by merely “meeting expectations.” We need to exceed our customers’ expectations of good customer service every time we interact with them.
#2. It’s not good enough to exceed expectations, we also need to be different. We need to define, embrace and celebrate our uniqueness. We need to look for opportunities to do things that our competitors aren’t willing to do. We need to be bold and stand out from the herd to be heard!
#3. We need to provide exceptional customer service day in and day out because it’s the only reason we exist! We are in the service business. Zappos, the on-line shoe business, has a wonderful mantra: “We are in the service business. We just happen to sell shoes.” Howard Schultz, Founder and CEO of Starbucks once said, “We are not in the coffee business serving people, but in the people business serving coffee.” These attitudes are the same I want everyone one of us to embrace – that we are first and foremost in business of serving our customers.
#4. Customer service is our #1 competitive advantage that we have full control over. We can’t control the weather, our competition, or the costs of our products, but what we do have total control over is providing exceptional customer service each and every time.
#5. If we don’t provide great service, people will talk. And not like they did in the olden days of say, the 1990s, where they might have gone home and shared their story with a dozen or so friends and family members. Nowadays they’ll spread the word before they’ve even left the premises. They’ll Tweet their disgust while they’re still in the line-up, they’ll post it on their Facebook page or they’ll get their 11 year-old to create a www.WeHate______.com website. They’ll vent on Trip Advisor or yell for help on Yelp. We all need to remember the old TV classic, “Smile! You’re On Candid Camera,” because these days, our entire business is on candid camera!
#6. Conversely, when we provide outrageously phenomenal customer service, people will talk. So let’s create customer service moments that are so memorable, so outrageous, that they become legendary stories that will go viral and spread like wildfire.
#7. It’s fun to provide exceptional customer service. We all know the old saying, “Happy employees create happy customers,” but I want to remind you that the opposite is also true. When you create memorable moments with our customers and make them happy, you’ll be happier. You’ll have less stress and come in to work with greater sense of purpose.
Speaking of exceptional customer service …
Michael and I (plus two fantastic speaker colleagues of mine) will be headlining the Customer Service Leadership Summit in Calgary later this year on November 15. In one power-packed day you and your leadership team will learn smart practices and fresh ideas to attract new customers, and turn current customers into raving fans. Enrollment is limited so register early. I’m giving you fair warning, this event will sell out, so don’t be disappointed!!