“Do what you do so well, they will want to see it again, and bring their friends.”
– Walt Disney
I started my life in training as a customer care trainer. I was chosen because I have a passion for serving others and delivering a great experience to others. These are my reflections on how to embrace a service culture in your company.
1. Be clear about what you deliver – and to whom you will deliver it
I was told recently that the problem with delivering a great service to me was because of where I live. “We struggle to service rural areas.”, I was told by my supplier – the supplier who has happily taken money from me every quarter for four years now.
Gobsmacked? Yes, I was! Why did they sign me up as a customer if they can’t service the area I live in? I was told this repeatedly during the conversation. I said ‘I haven’t moved since you signed me up.’ Until eventually I felt I was listened to.
I think this is a root cause of a lot of companies’ problems – in the case of my supplier, an eagerness to drive sales means that the company is now stretched over a geographical area that they cannot support.
When you get to this stage, you have no chance to deliver excellence in customer care. In fact, people like me will be looking for an alternative supplier.
Take a step back; take some time out of your business. Work out:
- What are we good at?
- What do we want to provide – product, service, or both?
- Who do we want to provide it to? – who are our dream clients?
- How we will be the best that we can be – what will these dream clients say about us?
Then draw up a business plan to support this vision. Design, maintain and live the systems, processes and procedures that will support the client having a great experience will be essential in you achieving your vision.
You cannot deliver excellent customer experiences without knowing who is your ideal client, and who isn’t.
You cannot deliver a great product consistently to paying clients unless you take time to build systems and procedures that will maintain standards.
You cannot care for your clients if they are seen as ‘outside our area’ of normal operations. You will serve them better by signposting them elsewhere.
2. Establish your values
Once you have established what you will deliver, decide how you will deliver it. Our culture is how we behave – the tiny things we do on a regular basis. This is where great customer experiences happen – our values are stated, lived and celebrated. Take the time to decide how you will be the best at what you do, and what culture you need to make it happen.
For example, a supplier of mine recently used a third party to deliver the service to me, their client. The third party had clearly not been onboarded in how to represent my supplier, as they criticised the lack of training they had received (evidently), told me they don’t agree with certain policies, and that their pay wasn’t good.
I looked on the website of my supplier, and the values page said ‘coming soon’ – they’ve been in business for two years now. So how they work isn’t as important as winning new business, and serving their existing clients. Another busy fool organisation; working so hard to build the business, that they are not keeping their existing clients happy. They have a revolving door of new business coming in, and old clients leaving.
A wise person told me that if you don’t have a culture stated, people will create their own. Which leads me onto…
3. Get the right people doing the right things
You can’t deliver service without the right people in the right places. Yet often, like in my third party supplier example, no time is spent recruiting and developing our people. Last week I challenged a person who said ‘We don’t have any great clients.’ to a group of their peers. Why would this person let themselves, their company, and their client down by saying such a thing? What company would want this person to work for them?
It may sound cheesy, but clients pay our bills. They are choosing to spend their hard-earned cash with us instead of someone else. They deserve respect. If they are difficult to manage – then got back to 1 – Be clear about what you deliver, and to whom you will deliver it.
Take time to put a people strategy in place. Great companies have great people and great people practices. You need to:
- Recruit people on their technical skills, yes, but also on whether they match your values. This is what really matters – it is much harder dealing with a comment about “We don’t have any great clients” once the person is in the post because they are creating the culture.
- Onboard them – spend time creating a welcoming induction, where they meet values champions, and really understand why you do what you do, and how we do things around here.
- Develop them – yes, technically we need to be kept up to date – but develop them against the values. How do your people live the values of great customer service? I was with a client recently where they celebrated saying “No” to a client who repeatedly expected them to bend the rules for them. It wasn’t enabling them to deliver against two values, so they celebrated this in the staff meeting.
- Talent spot – who has service to their core? Who in the team will serve those around them so they are an exceptional leader of others?
- Retain them – everyone wants to go to work to deliver a great service to others. You will find keeping people a lot easier.
Kay Buckby is passionate about customer care, and delivering service excellence. She is so passionate she does mystery shopping in her spare time to help organisations get the feedback they need to benchmark, develop and grow. Kay delivers consultancy, coaching, seminars and development programmes to enable clients to excel in customer care. Contact Kay to discuss how your business can grow with a customer first approach.