The most outstanding customer experiences aren’t built on technology. They’re rooted in a practical vision, focused leadership and empowered employees. Here’s how to set the right course for your customer experience in 2017.
Keep in mind: These building blocks are not set in stone. They should shift over time, as the experience evolves with time, technology and customers’ needs.
“Excellence in customer service and the customer experience isn’t a puzzle or riddle that can be solved once and for all,” says Micah Solomon, author of The Heart of Hospitality. “It’s going to require sustained diligence and focus because inertia and push-back will otherwise inevitably set in.”
Make these principles the basis of your customer service and experience efforts, and you’ll keep customers loyal in 2017:
1. Create a focused philosophy
Wordy customer service mission statements, visions or philosophies are difficult to understand and execute. If you have one like that, it’s time to ditch it.
Opt for (or create) a short, memorable and believable motto that people can make happen, says Solomon.
For instance, the Mayo Clinic says, “The needs of the customer come first.” It’s easy to remember, and it guides every employee on what to do and how to make decisions when executing their jobs.
2. Hire the right people
“You can’t build a great customer service organization without the right people,” Solomon says. “These ‘right people’ aren’t necessarily the ones who arrive at your organization with all of their technical skills and knowledge in place.”
Instead, their personality traits stand out. Solomon suggests you look for people with these WETCO traits:
- Warmth. They show simple human kindness.
- Empathy. They sense what another person is feeling (and ideally react to it).
- Teamwork. They’re more inclined to work together with others (colleagues or customers) than do things on their own.
- Conscientiousness. They’re detail-oriented, plus able and willing to follow through to completion.
- Optimism. They can bounce back after challenging situations and not internalize the effects of them.
3. Create positive peer pressure
Creating a positive culture starts at the top. When leaders treat employees and customers well, positive behavior catches on.
It’s also important to treat customers well when you aren’t working directly with them. Leaders should talk about them kindly, avoiding negative comments about customers in front of employees. Encourage employees to vent quickly and quietly to their supervisors when they have problems dealing with customers, then move on.
Many organizations keep an “empty seat,” reserved for the customer, at top-level meetings so executives remember to consider how their decisions affect customers.
4. Benchmark the best
You may be the best in your industry, but there are plenty of other great customer service providers who can teach you a thing or two.
Benchmark yourself against your competitors. Find out what they do right and what you do better through surveys and online feedback. But consider what other companies outside your industry do best. Customers judge your service against the quality and speed of every company they deal with.
Regularly ask employees to talk about where they experience great service and explore ways you can incorporate those practices into yours.
5. Reinforce the mission
Many companies celebrate customers, service and success once a year — and that’s about the only time they reinforce their mission and how they’ll continue to pursue it.
Solomon suggests daily reinforcement of your evolving customer service and experience philosophy or vision.
Try daily, 10-minute huddle-style meetings at the beginning of the work day to talk about customer service principles, successes, failures and what you can learn from them.
If that’s not practical, schedule a monthly meeting focused on those same topics, and get everyone to share something they’ve improved in providing service and something they’ve learned from customers.