Simply ask about ten CEOs and their employees how customer oriented their organizations are, and you will be amazed at their glowing answers. They will always answer in the affirmative. Why then do we have customer service failures in various organizations? What most organizations have not realized is that, they are not meant to be the judge on how well or exceptional they customers have being treated or served. They are not to set questions for themselves to answer. The customers will have to decide who is serving them well or not. In order words, exceptional customer service should be viewed from the angle of the customer and not the organization. It is possible to think that you have treated a customer well and that same customer is not thinking so. Your services and products should be tied to the needs of the customer.
In the last decade, organizations have made huge investments training their employees on customer service. Personally, I think training on customer service has surpassed other areas, and that means that most leaders of organizations know the benefits of treating the customers well. Truth be told, treating customers aright is not only for leaders or senior management in organizations but for all employees – on payroll. Every employee must be an advocate of an exceptional customer service. Like Walt Disney said, “Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends”. Let this question be on the lips of every employee at any given service rendered: Sir/Ma, with this service I have rendered to you, would you be able to bring your friends or relatives to patronize us? A yes answer means you have done very well, while a no answer (or not yet) means you still have more work to do.
Serving the customers in a way that will create an unforgettable experience for them is a choice that all employees MUST have to make. Let’s paint a picture on our minds. We all hold parties when it is necessary. During the party, the host has just one thing in mind, and that is to ensure that all the invited guests are well taken care of. What the host has done is to “focus on the outcome”. You might ask: does holding a party has any correlation with running an organization? The answer is yes. Both cannot do without guest (people or customers). Any organization that opens its door for business is holding a party and requires guests to attend (requires customers to patronize). The way out to resolving customer service failure is to begin to see our customers as invited guests to a party in which we are the hosts. It’s our job to make their stay all through the party very comfortable. It is also every employee’s job to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.
Points to ponder:
It is no more enough for organizations to assume they are customer focused by mere word of mouth. To determine if your organization is really customer-focused, all you need to do is check whether or not you have the followingcharacteristics:
- Are you “close to the customer”-especially senior executives (i.e., do you see, touch, feel, meet and dialogue with them face-to-face on a regular basis out in the marketplace)?
- Do executives include the customers in their decisions, focus groups, meetings, planning and deliberations?
- Does your organization know and anticipate the customer’s needs, wants and desires–continually, as they change?
- Is surpassing customer needs the driving force of the entire organization?
- Do you survey the customer’s satisfaction with your products and services on a regular basis?
- Does your organization have a clear “positioning” in the marketplace vs. the competition in the eyes of the customer?
- Does your organization focus on Creating Customer Value–i.e., “value-added” benefits to the customer such as: Quality and reliable products and services, Individual Customer Choices, Customer Responsiveness, delivery, speed, Customer Service, relationships?
- Does your organization set quality customer-service standards and expectations that are specific and measurable to each department?
- Are each department’s customer service standards based on customer input and/or focus groups?
- Does your organization require everyone to experience moments of truth by meeting and servicing the external customer directly…at least one day every year?
- Does your organization focus and reengineer the business processes based on the customer needs and perceptions…and do it across all functions?
- Is your organization structure focused and based on the marketplace–i.e., structure the organization by customer markets (1 customer =1 representative)?
- Does your organization reward customer-focused behaviors (especially cross-functional teams) that work together to serve the customer (both internal and external)?
- Does your organization have a clear policy…and the heavy use of Customer Recovery Strategies (CRS) to surpass customer expectations?
- Does your organization hire and promote “customer friendly” people?
Organizations exist to deliver customer value. Serving the customers is not only the job of “Customer Service Officers”. It is the job of all staff members. I like the words of George Patton, “always do more than is required of you”. For your organization to be customer focused, every employee would have to aim at doing more than is required of him/her. Giving the customer just what he wants may not yield more results for your organization in the long run because everybody is doing that. Going the extra mile to serve him/her is not done by everybody, so when you do – you are likely to capture their minds and hearts.
Finally, I would say, do all you can to keep your customers happy and remember if you don’t take care of them, your competitors will gladly do.
As always, I welcome your comments, questions or requests.
A very trusted advisor,
By ‘Uju Onwuzulike,