Think back. When is the last time that you received excellent customer service? Not the expected service or decent service, but that above-and-beyond service that makes an organization or business really stand out in your mind.
Now, who performed this feat of excellence? I’m willing to bet that it was the front line staff of the organization – the cashier, switchboard operator, waiter, hostess, order-taker or receptionist. Most of a company’s impressions are made by the individuals that many times are in entry-level positions with limited experience and training.
When was the last time you had terrible service? Odds are that the poor service was delivered by front line, entry-level staff. Why did one person or one organization succeed when others often fail? The key to having consistently good, if not excellent service, is in creating an environment that clearly defines the expectation of service and provides the resources for staff to deliver.
Creating an environment of excellence starts at the top. Management must be the models for all other levels, but it must also specifically define the expectations. This means writing policy, procedures or guidelines that are specific to each position.
Once guidelines are in writing, it is up to management to ensure understanding. Providing mentoring and evaluations of performance are both excellent tools to determine if staff members understand the expectations. Do not be afraid to revise policy regularly in order to make your vision clear.
Now comes the really hard part. You have to enforce the rules, consistently and with everyone. This is easier if you take the time to write position-specific guidelines. This allows for flexibility since you may require some actions by one position while other positions have different expectations or even limitations. For instance, a cashier may be instructed never to leave a specific post, limiting their ability to provide hands-on help to a customer. It is up to you to provide an alternative if you want this level of service to be provided by your business.
Allow people the opportunity to learn about other areas within an organization. This creates a team that understands, respects and can assist one another. Recognize the good as often as you correct the bad and make sure that examples of excellence are celebrated by everyone.
Last but certainly not least, give staff the flexibility and support needed to go the extra mile. A perfect example comes from Zappos, an on-line shopping outlet that has limited personal contact with customers. Consequently, they try to maximize these opportunities. They have empowered their customer service representatives with a limited budget to provide the extra as determined by the REPRESENTATIVE. Sometimes this is done in the form of an upgrade in customer status, but it is not limited to in-house perks. A Zappos representative sent a customer flowers on behalf of the company after learning about a recent illness. That is excellence – all because the company voiced its expectation and then supported its staff as they strived to deliver more than just the expect!
This article was written by Denise Calhoun with the City of West Monroe. Denise recently led a customer service workshop for WMWO Chamber members. To learn more about customer service, please call the WMWO Chamber at (318) 325-1961.