More Customer Service Lessons From A Customer Experience Fail

Boosting Customer Satisfaction Levels and Enhancing Customer Experiences

Last week we shared with you two valuable customer service lessons from a dissatisfying customer experience we had with San Diego cruise line Flagship Cruises & Events. These lessons relate to a customer experience fail as outlined in an earlier post on how this organization fails to understand customer needs.

This week we will add two more customer service lessons on how organizations can enhance the customer experiences they deliver and increase their customer satisfaction levels. You may need to read our blog post on March 6 to get a full background on these lessons: Flagship Cruises Customer Experience Fail.

 

Lesson #3: Set Customer Expectations

If you want to enforce a dumb rule like no personal photography allowed, then it is best to post the rule publicly for all to see.

This will help minimize negative interactions between your front-line staff and your customers.

Of course, this will make your organization look absolutely foolish, which is one indicator that you should not have such a customer unfriendly rule in the first place!

 

Lesson #4: Learn to Leverage Social Media

Had our family been allowed to take a nice photo of our daughter with the ship’s life preserver, we would have each shared the photo using the check-in feature on our respective Facebook pages.

Flagship Cruise Customer Experience Fail

Despite the Flagship Cruises & Events no personal photography policy I got this snap off.

Imagine how many positive Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter posts Flagship Cruises is losing daily due to its ban on personal photography at the life preserver post. This positive publicity would far outweigh any minimal loss in picture sales they incur from a change in policy.

Our personal marketing philosophy is simple:

if it touches the customer, it’s a marketing issue™

The “no personal photography” policy of Flagship Cruises is definitely a marketing issue, with direct impact on customer satisfaction levels, customer experience delivery, and word-of-mouth publicity. It may or may not be an operational policy, but it is definitely a marketing issue.

As such, these are the lessons for all organizations. Next week we will have two more customer service lessons to share with you from this dissatisfying customer experience at one of San Diego’s better-known cruise lines.

Customer Service Lessons From A Customer Experience Fail

Enhancing Customer Experiences and Customer Satisfaction Levels

In last week’s Monday Morning Marketing Memo we shared the dissatisfying experiences we had recently with Flagship Cruises & Events and how this San Diego cruise line fails to understand customer needs.

This week we will share some of the customer service lessons from this customer experience fail. You may need to read last week’s blog post to get the full background on these lessons: Flagship Cruises Customer Experience Fail.

Lesson #1: Birthdays are important.

Everybody likes to have memorable birthday experiences. This makes birthdays a great opportunity for any organization to provide an exceptional experience that is not only memorable, but will also result in positive word-of-mouth publicity as well. After all, the little things matter in customer service.

For instance, Flagship Cruises could have party balloons at its cruise check-in point and use these in the photos it takes of those celebrating a birthday or anniversary. The chances of increased sales of such photos are extremely high.

Additionally, instead of having an attitude that helping to celebrate one’s birthday on a public cruise is “too difficult,” this company could proactively create memorable experiences such as letting the birthday celebrant take photos in the wheelhouse with the captain, or even holding the ship’s wheel. After all, how difficult is that to implement during the course of a four-hour cruise?

The bottom line is if you help your customers create happy and memorable birthday experiences they will be guaranteed to share their experiences with family members and friends.

Lesson #2: Policies are fine. Exceptions are critical.

There may be numerous valid reasons for the “no taking of personal photos” rule enforced by Flagship Cruises. These could include speed of moving customers to the waiting area, hopes of increased photos sales by prohibiting personal photos, reduced agitation by customers in line having to wait a few extra minutes to board, etc.

For each supposedly valid reason I could counter with equally valid reasons and process to avoid anticipated fallout. Of course, I approach such situations from my marketing philosophy of if it touches the customer, it’s a marketing issue.™

Rigidly enforced rules, with no empowerment to frontline staff to make exceptions, is bad policy. We are well past the days when being customer-oriented meant operating in order to meet the needs of the typical customer. Every customer has individual wants, needs, desires, likes, and dislikes. Businesses today cannot afford to build operations and policies attuned to meet only the needs of the average customer. To be fully successful, and to avoid negative and dissatisfying customer experiences, businesses need to be flexible in how policies, procedures, and processes are implemented.

So let’s turn this rule on its head. Since Flagship Cruises appears to like rigidly enforced rules, here’s a new rule they can implement:

“Customers celebrating birthdays and couples celebrating anniversaries
today will be allowed to take their own celebratory pictures
at our famed life preserver post.
Thank you for helping us make their special day even more memorable.”

If they posted a plaque with this “rule” at the entryway, other customers would not feel inconvenienced by the handful of people taking their own photos. In fact, some in line will likely shout out birthday and anniversary greetings, or even start a chorus of the Happy Birthday song.

These are just a couple of lessons, and ideas, on how to move from a customer experience failure to a memorable customer service experience.

Next week we will share two more valuable lessons that will help you enhance your customer experiences and customer satisfaction levels.

 

 

San Diego Cruise Line Fails To Understand Customer Needs

Flagship Cruises Customer Experience Fail

I have written many times about the stupid rules and regulations organizations have that prevent superior customer service. I have also written frequently about the need for commercial operations to truly understand customer needs and for these needs to be fully understood by all staff.

Now I have a new customer experience fail to cite in future writing and speeches, courtesy of Flagship Cruises & Events in San Diego.

Last month we took our daughter to San Diego to celebrate her 9th birthday. A highlight of the 5-day trip was supposed to be a whale watching excursion. Good idea. Bad choice of excursion providers.

After booking the cruise I called the Flagship Cruises customer service line a few days before our trip to enquire if there was any opportunity to do something special for my daughter since we would be going on the cruise on the actual day of her birthday. I was politely told that doing anything extraordinary was too difficult on a public cruise. Oh well, nice try but “too difficult.”

We arrived early on the day of the cruise and spotted a beautiful life preserver ring with the Flagship logo and date of the cruise on it. What a wonderful photo opportunity we thought. But the two Flagship Cruise employees would not allow us beyond their entry rope to take a photo of our daughter with the life preserver.

Instead, as we entered the boarding area a half hour later we were asked to pose next to the life preserver so that they could take a photo of us with their camera! We told our daughter to do so as it was her special day. But when mom and dad tried to take our own photos we were shouted at loudly that such actions were prohibited. And one staff member (Leslie) actually knocked my arm tried to physically block me from taking a photo.

Upon querying her actions we were told the two staff members (Julia was the other young adult staff member) were merely following their boss’s orders. Even after explaining the significance of the date to our daughter, they still refused to make an exception to the rules.

All of which, unfortunately, caused our 9-year old daughter to burst into tears on her birthday!

So, for causing a 9-year old to cry on the morning of her birthday, Leslie and Julia of Flagship Cruises are now enshrined in my Customer Experience Hall of Shame.

Flagship Cruises claims to be a family owned and operated company. But it appears they don’t have a clue about what is important to families and customers celebrating an important life milestone.

Even worse, they promise on their website to “treat you and everyone aboard like family.” They certainly don’t live up to this claim with rigidly enforced rules on photo taking. What kind of a family prevents other family members from taking photos?

After the cruise, I posted a short complaint about our treatment on the Flagship Cruise Facebook page. Here’s the reply I got: “Thanks for reaching out Steven. We’d like to hear more about what happened. Could you please reach out to me directly at trongley@flagshipsd.com?”

I guess “trongley@flagshipsd.com” thinks that I need to proactively seek him or her out to further explain my dissatisfaction with their service. And here I was thinking that I am the customer! Well, this Monday Morning Marketing Memo is my further explanation.

At the end of the cruise, the photograph of my daughter taken by the Flagship Cruise staff member was available for purchase at $10. That is not a significant price, especially since it was a lovely photo. But I could not bring myself to buy it for the photo would only serve as a lasting memory of an unfortunate and dissatisfying customer experience.

Interestingly, I have noticed that when my daughter or I talk to others about our San Diego trip we mention the famed San Diego Zoo, the Birch Aquarium, Sonny Jim’s Cave, and the Safari Park. Neither of us speaks of the whale watching excursion and neither of us is recommending this cruise to others.

It just goes to show how a bad customer experience results in the lost opportunity for positive word-of-mouth advertising and social media publicity.

Ironically, the company also states on its website that they are “the best in the business providing San Diego visitors and tourists with experiences they will remember for a lifetime.” Well, I’ll certainly remember my experience with Flagship Cruises for a lifetime, but perhaps not in the way they hope.

There are many customer service lessons to be learned from this experience with Flagship Cruises, which I will discuss in next week’s Monday Morning Marketing Memo.

 

Being Customer Focused Means Being Easy To Do Business With

Customers Do Not Want To Be Nomads

Larry Weber, the founder of public relations firm Weber Shandwick , says that “most customers are nomads.”

And rightfully so. Too few companies and organizations deserve customer loyalty.

The reasons why customers are nomads are numerous:

  • Service delivery is inconsistent.
  • Customer service is perfunctory and uncaring, lacking warmth or even pleasantness.
  • There is no recognition of the customer’s previous engagements and interactions with the organization.
  • There is a lack of personalization to meet individual needs, wants, desires, likes, or dislikes.
  • “Value-added” pricing and packaging comes without the value add.
  • Customer rewards programs are thought to be true customer loyalty programs.

Despite all these hurdles, customers do want to be loyal!

After all, loyalty saves the customer time (our most precious commodity in today’s world). Plus consistent service delivery can be anticipated, expected, and planned for. No surprises results in the customer not having to make new plans or contemplate new decisions.

How can you obtain customer loyalty? Does becoming customer focused work? What does it mean to be customer focused anyway?

Call it customer focused, customer centric, customer caring, or any other clever phrase you want. Being customer focused may boil down to one simple question ─ are you easy to do business with?

How do you rate in terms of convenience, easy ordering, customizable products and services, personalized delivery terms, and flexible terms and conditions?

Being easy to do business with is more about pre-sales and post-sales support than about the core features of your products or services.

For example, I buy almost all my books from Internet retailer Amazon. Unlike the big chain bookstores, or even my local neighborhood bookstore, Amazon is easy to do business with because:

  • The titles I want are always in stock.
  • I never have waste time while the checkout person chats idly with the customer in front of me.
  • I never have to search for a knowledgeable staff member to help me find out where the book I’m looking for has been placed.
  • I do not consume fuel driving to Amazon, nor do I have to wait or pay for a parking space.
  • The time and fuel costs I save more than outweigh and offset any shipping charges I pay.
  • My personal shipping addresses and credit card details (yes, both are plural for a reason, another sign of their flexibility and customization) are on file, so I easily check out with the mere click of a few buttons.
  • Amazon notifies me when my order has been shipped, saving me the time to follow up.
  • Amazon gives me an approximate delivery date, thus setting my expectations (which they then always meet).
  • Even when I place an order on Saturday it gets shipped the next day ─ a Sunday!

I cannot think of a single thing Amazon could do to make it easier to do business with them. I have read where Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is passionate about improving the customer experience. For me, he is certainly hitting all the right buttons.

Amazon is a great example of a company that is practicing Customer Retention Marketing by being easy to do business with. As a result, they are keeping good customers (like me) loyal in terms of both buying behavior and brand preference.

Customers do not need (or want) to be nomads. All it takes to change this is being easy to do business with.

 

KEY POINT:  being customer focused may boil down to one simple question ─ are you easy to do business with?

TAKING ACTION:  ask yourself, is your organization easy to do business with? What rules, procedures and processes do you have that make it hard for your customers to do business with you?

How could you make it easier for customers to do business with you? What changes can you make in the areas of convenience, order placement, product or service customization, delivery, and other terms and conditions that would make it easier for customers to do business with you?

Review with your major customers which of your processes, policies, procedures, terms, conditions, and other elements drive them crazy and make them wish you did things differently.

 

This article is excerpted from our book The Best of the Monday Morning Marketing Memo, available at Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.

Customer Churn Continues Unabated

The Importance of Measuring Customer Retention and Loyalty

Customer attrition rates remain unbelievably high, despite (or maybe because of) continued investments by corporations in CRM technology.

According to a study a couple of years ago of 1,000 consumers by Accenture, 18% of respondents reported they stopped conducting business with at least one retailer within the past year due to poor service. A significant proportion of consumers in this survey also stopped doing business during the previous 12 months with Internet Service Providers (15%), banks (14%), telephone companies (12%), wireless/cell phone companies (11%), and cable/satellite TV service providers (10%).

That’s a whole lot of customer churn going on.

And I have not read or seen any data or evidence that these numbers are significantly different today. In fact, they may well likely be worse.

It is little wonder that Larry Weber, founder of the Weber Shandwick public relations firm, says that “most customers are nomads.”

When viewed in the light of another piece of research, perhaps these findings are not so surprising after all. A destinationCRM.com reader poll conducted in October a couple of years ago reports that:

  1. 39% of customer contact centers do not measure either customer loyalty or customer satisfaction.
  2. 19% measure only customer satisfaction.
  3. 42% measure both customer loyalty and customer satisfaction.

This means that a full 58% of customer contact centers do not measure customer loyalty at all, at least according to this reader poll.

If you are not measuring customer loyalty, then you probably have little idea how to manage and reduce customer attrition.

Building a sustainable and profitable business requires a customer strategy that is centered on creating (and measuring) customer loyalty.

Doing so requires keen customer insight, not million dollar CRM computer systems. In most cases, the thousands and millions of dollars spent on CRM hardware would have been better spent on hiring, training, motivating, and retaining good staff who have your customers’ needs, wants, desires, and best interests in mind at all times.

In another Accenture research study reported in the article Meeting Individual Customer Expectations by Michael Breault, “delivering consistently on the brand promise plays a greater role in creating loyal customers than any other customer-facing capability does.”

In fact, according to the study, “regardless of their industry or business model (B2C, B2B, etc.), developing and delivering a branded customer experience comprises 33% of a company’s ability to achieve strong customer loyalty.”

In his article, Breault also cites a Bain & Company study that found some 80% of companies believed they are delivering a “superior experience” to their customers, while the customers of these firms rated only 8% of them as truly delivering a superior customer experience. Now that is a perception gap!

It is a perception gap that is caused by the corporate focus on using transactional data to define the relationships with customers and a lack of insight on customer attitudes, behaviors, and perceptions. It is also caused by the reliance on demographic segmentation instead of segmentation based on customer needs.

It is also caused by companies not listening to their customers. A study by customer experience research and consulting firm Strativity Group concludes that too many companies do not properly use the information garnered from customer surveys. The two biggest problems cited in this study were:

  1. although a majority of the respondents (59%) claimed to design customer surveys with strategic intentions, only a small minority (23%) managed to obtain internal buy-in for change in response to customer survey results.
  2. only 45% of the 200+ plus firms surveyed around the world could translate their customer survey results into actions.

One of the other problems identified in the Strativity Group survey is that 69% of the survey participants reported that they faced internal struggles with people arguing about the validity of the customer survey results. As the report concludes, “the study results indicate only a superficial and incremental commitment on the part of companies to their customer studies and to acting upon customer insight.”

When these various independent research studies are reviewed in aggregate, one reaches the conclusion that:

  1. Customer attrition rates of 10% to 15% per annum are likely to remain for years to come.
  2. Until companies start to measure customer loyalty, they will remain ignorant and naive about this critical bottom-line impacting issue.
  3. Too many companies are fooling themselves (or their senior management, but not their customers) by conducting customer surveys that do not result in action and customer experience enhancing changes.

One of these days, corporations are going to understand the cost of customer attrition. At least that is my hope.

Until then, of course, any company that makes customer insight and customer loyalty a focal point of their business operations will have a significant advantage in creating long-term, sustainable growth and profitability.

KEY POINT:  if you are not measuring customer loyalty, then you probably have little idea how to manage and reduce customer attrition.

TAKING ACTION:  review the results of your two most recent customer surveys and then identify what actions were taken as a result of the surveys. Was sufficient action taken? Why or why not? What actions were overlooked or not implemented? Why?

What is your customer attrition rate? If you do not know, how can you start monitoring this immediately? Your customer attrition rate should be a critical component of your Marketing Dashboard. Is it?

How can you start to measure customer loyalty? Make measuring customer loyalty one of your top goals for the coming year.

 

This article is excerpted from our book The Best of the Monday Morning Marketing Memo, available at Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.

 

Customer ENTHUSIASM

Fire Up the Enthusiasm of Your Staff for Your Customers

While doing research a few years ago for one of my marketing books, I came across a note I had written to myself on creating enthusiasm for customers within an organization.

In the note, I turned the word enthusiasm into an acronym:

Enjoy your work. When you enjoy your work, customers enjoy you.

Never say “no.” Find ways to say “yes” to customers.

Take the time needed to fully satisfy the customer. The best gift to offer customers is your attention and time.

Hustle. Time is valuable, help customers save it by serving them efficiently and fast.

Understand before trying to be understood. You cannot satisfy customer needs until you listen.

Smile. Your smile tells the customer he or she has come to the right person.

Insist on astonishing. Merely satisfying customers is not enough. Astonish.

Ask if the customer is completely satisfied. Ensure customer satisfaction by asking if there is anything else you can do and if what you have done is enough to have them return to you again in the future.

Suggestive sell. Suggest related items that make the customer’s purchase better.

Meaningful “thank you.” A sincere thank you builds loyalty that brings back customers.

Legendary American football coach Vince Lombardi is quoted as saying “If you aren’t fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm.”

We are not suggesting that you need to start enthusiastically firing your staff. But we do hope that the ENTHUSIASM acronym might be useful to you in firing up the enthusiasm of your staff for your customers.

Otherwise, it may be your customers who fire you with enthusiasm.

KEY POINT:  never say “no” to a customer; find ways of saying “yes” instead.

TAKING ACTION: are your frontline staff and customer contact personnel only measured on quantitative scores such as how many customers per work shift they handle? Why?

How can you institute some qualitative scoring measures tracking how their handling of customers impacts your customer retention results?

Train your staff to take the time necessary to fully understand the needs, wants, desires, likes, and dislikes of your customers. Time spent with customers is rarely wasted.

Teach your staff not to be afraid to ask customers if they are fully satisfied. Without asking, you will never know their true feelings. Asking shows that the organization cares and wants these customers to return again and again.

This article is excerpted from our book The Best of the Monday Morning Marketing Memo, available in paperback and Kindle formats at Amazon.

 

The Customer Experience Is More Important Than Price

Consistently Good Customer Experience Drives Repeat Business

From a customer’s perspective, every interaction with your organization is a customer experience. And each of these interactions has a cost to the customer ─ in terms of money, time, or both.

If these experiences are consistently good, customers are more likely to repeat business with you; giving you the kind of customer loyalty your organization truly desires.

A research study from Amdocs, a leading provider of software and services that enable integrated customer management, supports the importance of the customer experience on customer retention.

Called the Customer Experience Survey, the survey reveals that consumers and businesses around the world say that they are more likely to stick with a telecom provider based on the quality of the customer experience than on the cost of its service. For an industry that seems driven by constant cost pressures and incessant price cutting, this survey may be quite an eye opener.

For those of you who hate being put on hold when calling a customer contact center, you will not be surprised to learn that 57% of the respondents to this survey said they would pay extra not to be put on hold, or have to talk with multiple service representatives, when dealing with a call center.

This survey queried over 1,000 consumers and 400 businesses in the United States and the United Kingdom about their interactions with telecom providers. While the results are industry specific, I believe similar findings would occur in most other industries and markets across the globe.

After all, the frustrations that customers feel about the service they receive, particularly when trying to reach a frontline support person, are universal.

“The Amdocs Customer Experience Survey proves that keeping customers happy is not just about reducing prices,” says Mr. Michael Matthews, Chief Marketing Officer of Amdocs. “By adopting an integrated customer management strategy, providers can get a full picture of their customer interactions. From there, they can identify customer needs and provide a differentiated and intentional customer experience. That is the right strategy regardless of whether the customers are consumers or large corporations.”

Customers buy experiences.

Customers pay for the experiences they receive from your organization ─ either in money, time, or both.

For many customers, perhaps even a majority, time is a more valuable currency than money.

As a result, many customers are willing to pay for convenience. In the Amdocs survey, a majority of respondents claimed they were willing to pay an extra US$5 a month if it meant that they would not be put on hold and not have to talk to multiple service representatives when contacting a telecom call center.

In a world of product parity and commoditization of both products and services, it may seem like price is the most important determining factor in the customer buying decision-making process.

But as the Amdocs survey results show, this may not always be the case. Even in the highly competitive telecoms industry, where product parity and service commoditization are the status quo, there are market segments eagerly willing to make purchase decisions on factors other than price.

In a world of customer experiences, sustainable growth will come to those who monitor and improve the experiences of customers at each and every point of interaction.

After all, good customers place a higher value on their experiences in dealing with organizations over the prices paid for products and services.

And since customer retention is all about the art of keeping good customers,™  focusing your efforts on improving convenience to customers and reducing their time costs when dealing with your organization is one of the best ways to improve the overall experiences of your customers.

 

KEY POINT:  customers pay for the experiences they receive from your organization ─ either in money, time, or both.

TAKING ACTION:  survey the top 20% of your customers and ask them specifically what steps you could take to improve your convenience to them. Also be sure to ask them if they would be willing to pay a fee to receive improved and more convenient service.

Monitor your call abandon rates, as well as the length of time customers spend on hold, at all your telephone service centers. Survey your customers about their experiences with your phone and call centers. Where is improvement needed?

Benchmark your customer experiences with those of your competitors. How can you make the customer experience a point of differentiation so that you do not need to compete as much on price?

Message to CEOs: Focus On Your Customers

The Purpose of Business Is To Attract and Keep Good Customers

Here is a scary thought for a Monday morning: many CEOs have lost sight of the importance of customers.

Oh sure, they do know that customers are the folks buying their products and that such sales are important. However, with a focus on quarterly sales and profit figures, head counts, share prices, mergers, cost structures, and other financial ratios, too many corporate leaders have lost the customer insights required to develop and maintain market leadership.

My long-held suspicions on this were confirmed in an article in Inside 1 to 1, the publication started by the Peppers & Rogers Group. Appropriately titled “Dear CEO: Don’t Leave Customers in the Dust,” the authors Don Peppers and Martha Rogers write that they are “amazed at the number of CEOs who give interviews on how to grow their companies, or even more fascinating, the CEOs who tell the media how they are going to save their failing companies, and yet make no reference to customers whatsoever.”

The authors tracked one month of interviews on business news channel CNBC and reported that “23 CEOs discussed their companies’ strategies and only six used the word customer” in their responses.

The authors also cite a Deloitte survey of 50 technology CEOs, which found that only six percent said building customer loyalty is their biggest challenge to sustaining growth. This was well behind other “more important” issues such as bringing new products to market (27%), hiring salespeople (18%), and developing strategic relationships (15%).

I have noticed this trend for several years in my own reading of business publications. Senior executives are more willing to talk about how they are cutting costs than about the steps their organizations are taking to better understand the changing needs, wants, and desires of customers.

Rare is the executive who claims “we are going to be successful and grow our business because we are listening to our customers and aligning our future products and services with their future needs.”

Fortunately, such executives are only rare, not yet extinct.

It is sad to watch stellar organizations go through cycles of poor leadership, wrongly placed focus, and lack of direction simply because senior management decides to take the corporate eyes off customer needs.

This happened to one industry-leading MNC in Southeast Asia, when several changes in management led to cost cuttings, reduction in staffing, and automation replacing humans at key points of interaction with customers. This company was previously the benchmark for customer service in its industry. Today, customers constantly comment that “they used to be the best, but now they are the same as everyone else.”

Not surprisingly, this company has also seen massive staff turnover within its middle management ranks, something that was unheard of only a few years ago.

As the legendary Peter Drucker wrote, “the purpose of business is to attract and keep customers.”

This phrase should be posted on the walls nearest every CEO desk.

And next to it should be a poster saying “My primary role as CEO is to ensure we build loyalty with our customers and our employees.”

Customers. Employees. Operations. This is what CEOs should focus on, and in the same order as the letters in their titles.

The ones who do this are the ones who will build sustainable and profitable businesses over the long haul.

KEY POINT:  senior management should focus on customers first, employees second, and operations third.

TAKING ACTION:  review your last dozen public or internal pronouncements on your organization’s business strategy. How many of these include comments and directions on customers and customer needs? What priority is given, if any, to customers and customer needs?

Ask yourself, how much time per month do you spend in internal meetings? How much time do you spend attending to operational or financial issues? Then calculate how much time you have remaining for meeting customers and coaching employees. If you are not happy with the results from these calculations, what steps do you need to make immediately to give higher priority to customers and employees?

Go out and meet with customers. Conduct account reviews with your large and high potential customers. Gain insights into their current and future needs. Ask them questions about their business and where their industry is headed. Ask them how they view their relationships with your organization.

Bring together your leadership team for a full-day discussion on customers and customer needs. Enforce this rule: no discussions on sales forecasts, profit projections, cost structures, or internal constraints. Simply discuss your customers’ current and future needs. Then discuss how you can profitably provide solutions to these needs.

 

This article is excerpted from our book The Best of the Monday Morning Marketing Memo, available at Amazon in paperback ($13.88) and Kindle ($3.88) formats.

20 Service Excellence Leadership Practices

Inherent in Organizations that Consistently Provide Excellent Customer Service is the Notion of Service Statesmanship

Customer service ─ and service quality ─ are critical managerial topics in business today for many reasons:

  • Service quality has strategic importance in the long-term success of the business.
  • Excellent customer service is a critical means by which an organization can differentiate itself from competition.
  • Everyone in the organization needs to focus on providing good service (not just front-line staff) ─ from senior managers to customer contact personnel.

As we wrote in the previous Monday Morning Marketing Memo, inherent in organizations that consistently provide excellent customer service is the very notion of Service Statesmanship. The two key aspects of service statesmanship are:

  • A Service Statesman is a role model, constantly reinforcing the organization’s key service messages and service values.
  • A Service Statesman is seen by staff as constantly engaged and interested in improving service delivery.

Here are 20 Service Excellence Leadership Practices that any leader, from a department or business unit manager to the CEO, can and should perform in their role as Service Statesmen:

  1. You provide a clear, written statement to employees explaining what you mean by excellent service and how you will create it for your customers.
  2. You make certain that employees can explain their specific role in delivering excellent customer service.
  3. You make certain that employees know the day-to-day things they can do to deliver excellent customer service.
  4. You communicate to employees on a regular basis about the importance of providing excellent service to customers.
  5. You ask employees how customer service quality can be improved.
  6. You have your managers set personal examples of good service to customers.
  7. You set standards for response time to customer complaints or questions.
  8. You track the success of your efforts to improve service quality.
  9. You share customers’ evaluations of your service quality with all your employees, colleagues, and peers.
  10. You reward employees who take a personal interest in resolving customer complaints and problems.
  11. You recognize employees who provide superior service to customers.
  12. You make it clear that delivering excellent service is important in career advancement decisions.
  13. You keep employees up-to-date on customer expectations.
  14. You encourage employees to go “above and beyond” regular job descriptions for the customer.
  15. You encourage managers to work one-on-one with employees to meet service quality standards.
  16. You train customer contact employees to deal with angry customers.
  17. You provide employees with sufficient training on the company’s products and services.
  18. Your policies and procedures are designed to help deliver excellent service.
  19. You define procedures for what to do when mistakes are made or errors are discovered.
  20. You make it easy for customers to reach the right person or business unit when they have problems or questions.

Like most things in business, you have two choices when it comes to being a Service Statesman. You can either talk about it, or you can lead by example via the above 20 practices.

The “talk only” approach, or what might be called the NATO (No Action, Talk Only) approach, is unlikely to produce the desired results.

I always admire the restaurant managers at McDonald’s, whom you frequently see with mop and bucket in hand cleaning up after a spill or when customers leave a messy table behind. You know McDonald’s is serious about cleanliness when you see the restaurant managers actually doing the cleaning.

The same goes for your business. Customers know exactly how serious your organization is about customer service by observing how your managers act and perform. Likewise, so do your staff.

You can reinforce your dedication and your message about excellent service delivery, to both employees and customers, by putting into practice the 20 managerial habits we have given you this week.

KEY POINT:  inherent in organizations that consistently provide excellent customer service is the notion of service statesmanship.

TAKING ACTION:  select four of the 20 service excellent leadership practices found in this week’s Monday Morning Marketing Memo that you would like to start using in your job. For each practice selected, list 3-4 things that you could start doing this week to implement these practices.

Review your policies and procedures. Which ones enable your staff to consistently deliver quality customer service? Which ones hinder them in their pursuit of delivering excellent customer service consistently? How can the latter ones be amended and changed?

Are you seen by your staff as constantly engaged and interested in improving service delivery? What personal steps can you do to improve in this area?

Review your agenda for your last staff meeting. What percentage of the meeting was planned for customer service discussions? For your next 4-5 staff meetings, make sure that customer service is the dominant item on each agenda. Then your staff will know how serious you truly are about this topic.

This post is excerpted from the book The Best of the Monday Morning Marketing Memo, available at Amazon in paperback ($13.88) and Kindle ($3.88) formats.

Taking Care of Customers

If you don’t take care of your customers, someone else will

I was in Melbourne in 1999 attending a major meeting of the Australian and New Zealand banks that issue MasterCard credit cards and Maestro debit cards.

Mr. Nicholas Utton, Chief Marketing Officer of MasterCard International at that time, had one key message for this audience of senior bankers concerning customers: “if we don’t take care of our customers, someone else will.

That’s worth repeating — and reflecting on: “if we don’t take care of our customers, someone else will.”

And how true that is.

Just think about all the choices and options available to your customers today.

Rare is the organization that finds itself without numerous competitors. Even rarer is the customer without readily available options, choices, or substitute products for the solutions they seek.

To take care of your customers, you need to have a full understanding of their wants, needs, and desires.

I would also suggest that you need to have a corporate-wide attitude that understands a person or an organization is not truly your customer until the second time they buy.

That is right. I recommend you do not consider anyone a customer until the second time they buy from you.

The first time they buy they are merely a trial user. Unless they achieve satisfaction from the purchase and the use of your product or service, they may be unlikely to repeat their business with you.

Hence, taking care of the customer goes beyond the mere sales cycle and includes all post-purchase activities such as use, repair, servicing, customer service, warranties, and trade-in or re-sale.

The best way to take care of your prospects and customers is to tailor or customize your products and service offerings as much as you profitably can.

Treat your customers as individuals ─ with individual needs ─ at all customer touch points and you will be well on your way to developing customer loyalty.

And remember, in the words of MasterCard’s former Chief Marketing Officer, if you don’t take care of your customers, someone else will.

 

KEY POINT: if you don’t take care of your customers, someone else will.

TAKING ACTION: are you fully aware of the experiences customers have with your products? How satisfying are these experiences? Any way to find out?

Where can your product or service offer be customized? How can you create tailored solutions for your very, very important customers?

This article is excerpted from our book The Best of the Monday Morning Marketing Memo, available in paperback and Kindle formats at Amazon.

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