written by Ken Smith and Judith McLean
The single most important thing to realize about any enterprise is that there are no results inside its walls … the result of a business is a satisfied customer … and that is an experience best built from the inside – out. Peter Drucker
Whenever a customer makes a purchase, they will have priorities as to what makes their experience a positive one. Obviously the first priority is that they get whatever they have purchased from the point of purchase to their car or home. If it is a small item that they can take with them, the business’s responsibility is to see to it that the item is packaged and presented in a manageable, portable fashion with a minimum of waiting. However, customer service begins before this. When a customer enters the store or the showroom to find what they are looking for, they may require the attention of staff to enable them to find it. Some customers just want to browse. A staff then is required to ascertain what a customer wants, how they want to go about it, and whether they will need any help.
The customer service experience can be defined as any action you take to ensure that a customer is pleased with the transaction on a long-term basis. This includes “before sales activities, during sales activities and after sales service”, which entails ensuring that the customer leaves the point of sale with the item that they were looking for, within the period of time that they intended to spend sourcing it, and then has no problems using it.
It is easy enough to ensure a customer goes away from the point of sale with the item they had come to purchase. Ensuring that they are happy going forward may require more care and attention, and this is where after-sales service needs to be at its highest level. Pre-sales, after sales and point-of-sale service are all essential elements of the customer service experience.
Before we embark upon a strategy to put into place a customer service experience we must first have some background which will not deter our efforts and lead our program to falter.
In putting together the material for this article my associate and I brainstormed the difficulty in companies’ abilities to provide a consistent customer service experience. Let us look at several difference makers and key indicators to these shifts in the implementation of a successful customer care service experience.
Values – Values have changed significantly over the past ten or so years; the likes and dislikes, wants and needs of the generation mixes not always seeing eye to eye. A greater understanding is going to be required by the small business owner/operator in managing the workforce of today; this does not mean to abandon your values but learn to better understand the values in the workplace.
Fame from 15 to 1 – the past two generations have taken the definition of fame or what some call self-worth and almost reversed the scale from a lower rank to the top rank. Many young people are seriously motivated by fame (generally speaking) a trend which places a significant emphasis on personal accomplishments or achievements than ever before.
Day Dreaming – The cause of a rise in time spent day dreaming could be attributed to the attraction of the smartphone/cell phone and always having to know what others are up to, that feeling of “oh I wish I was there” feeling. The workplace must be kept interesting to take away the art of negative day dreaming.
Empathy – As a generation searches for this self-worth, or fame, or self-esteem, the individual loses the need or desire to feel empathetic towards others. This is very pronounced in some individuals’ emotional intelligence (EI) where employers are seriously seeking leadership and teamwork skills in the workplace. One could correlate this understanding to draw a conclusion that if your staff are feeling less empathy towards others their customer service skills will also lack empathy.
Self-Reflection – Employers might want to offer staff a learning session that deals with emotional intelligence (EQ). EQ Training can create opportunities to discuss, practice, present personnel assessments, mentoring and coaching, customer-staff role-playing situations, interviews of customers by staff and of course opportunities to critique our behavior, delivery and characteristics when interfacing with the customer, supplier or our peers.
Reflection – Staff need to be taught the art of reflection. It is one thing to mirror behavior and yet another to reflect in our behavior the culture of our workplace. Dedicated time will need to be set aside to train staff about the expected workplace culture, values, etc. if personnel are to understand and demonstrate the company values and personality.
Care Less for Others – In trying to understand the background for candidates we want to hire or promote. we might want to consider following research (from a US based study conducted over the past 5 years) about the motivations of the younger generations. “Popular views of the millennial generation, born in the 1980s and 1990s, as more caring, community-oriented and politically engaged than previous generations are largely incorrect, particularly when compared to baby boomers and Generation X at the same age,” said the study’s author, Jean Twenge, PhD. “These data show that recent generations are less likely to embrace community mindedness and are focusing more on money, image and fame.”
Emotional Intelligence – My associate and I have had several discussions over this past year as to whether it is possible to improve one’s emotional intelligence or emotional competencies.
We are pleased that each time we have this discussion that we come across recent studies and research findings which supports the notion that many emotional skills may be learned. A series of recent studies showed that formal and informal staff training (i.e. courses taught by professional trainers and coaches) can increase emotional intelligence skills and that these skills can be maintained for significant portion of the employee’s lifetime. These skills include empathy, social skills and the attitude of authenticity.
Communications – todays more youthful populations in particular, embrace their mobility and independence with their smartphones and tablets. Particularly the millennia’s believe that in their place of employment they expect to be able to connect at any time on their device. They have been dubbed as the “connected” generation (which sleeps with their mobile devices at their bedside). To accommodate, we might have to rethink our company strategy in providing time and infrastructure to keep our workforce “happy”, at our site.
Customer Service Experience – Outlook and attitude are essential in any job, but particularly in one where you will be dealing with the public. It may seem that the day is not going your way, and that you are permanently going to be frustrated, but the essential thing to remember is that if you project this mood on to the customers, you will certainly have a bad time – sales-wise. Positivity is hard to manufacture out of nothing, so sometimes you have to project it when you are not necessarily feeling it.
Social concerns in a recent article in Huffington Post written by Kim Garst, state that a great customer service experience starts with and includes the following:
- A quick response – promptly and respectfully
- A sense of humour – lightens the mood and puts a smiling face to your business
- Staff turn complaints into opportunities to shine or show their talents
- They listen intently – feedback, discussion, pain points
- They are specific (never say we are sorry to hear of your experience, state what you intend to do to solve the issue)
Getting customer service right is no easy matter. This is why the enterprises who are good at it have such a good record of customer retention. It takes time to build a reputation for good customer service experiences. It also takes dedication and great people skills.
We look forward to your comments.