Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Four Strategies for Customer Service Leadership

The best customer service organizations have many things in common. I believe the most important is that leadership focuses on customer service and the customer experience. Check yourself and your leadership against these 4 strategies.

1. Leaders dedicate dollars, time and creativity to training. They know employees must have “state of the art” skills as well as a desire and motivation to serve. How creative is your training? Is it “just in time” for customer initiatives and needs? Is enough time spent in the new hire employee orientation?

2. Leaders have a focus on people and processes. They realize the best employees can’t adequately serve if the processes are not customer friendly. Customer needs and company processes are often in conflict. What bureaucracy issues can you deal with and eliminate? Ask your employees what processes need to be fixed. Look across departments and determine how to create a seamless experience for the customer. I know most of you have done this already. It is time to do it again.

3. Leaders keep the customer focus upfront in team meetings. The agenda includes the latest customer data, the voice of the customer, create opportunities to discuss improvement, ideas and recognition of great service efforts. Keep the meetings short and relevant. What needs to be changed about your team meetings? How
much time is spent talking about real customer issues?

4. Leaders at the best organizations are visible, great cheerleaders and story tellers. Employees need to be inspired and included. Do you spend enough time with the customer facing team? What stories do you need to tell when in front of the
employees? How are you inspiring the team to deliver a great experience?

Customer focus is an everyday activity. Leaders make certain that their time and actions are consistent with the expectations of great service and experience delivery. What must you do today to make a difference?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Do Happy Employees Create Happy Customers?

Could it be so simple? I define a happy customer as one who is loyal and willing to refer you to others. Happy customers tells me, their problems were solved and their needs met. Statistics tell us that the service experience has a big impact on the companies bottom line. The delivery of superior experience depends on processes, technology and people. Even with social media and innovative technology, customers still need and want to deal with real voices and real people.

In a recent study, American Express reported that US customers will spend 9% more with companies that provide great customer service. Research by RightNow says 85% of customers are willing to spend more over the standard price to ensure a superior customer experience.

Your team members make the difference. A 2009 Gallup report looked at the impact of customer and employee engagement. Companies in the upper half of both customer and employee engagement get a 240% boost in bottom line results. With these powerful numbers, employee engagement has become a major goal for many organizations. Employee engagement means feeling involved, motivated, and enthusiastic to the job, organization and associates. The Gallup survey proved engaged employees find creative ways to solve customer problems and even involve customers in creating innovations and solutions. These same employees feel open to suggesting ideas to improve the company. So it does seem that happy engaged employees may be the answer to happy engaged customers.

The real question is how to create an engaged team member. The best organizations have visible leadership working to improve the customer experience with their processes, products, service and people. The leaders inspire employees to feel connected. Try these tips to develop an engagement connection :

- Talk real purpose. People need to feel connected to the meaning of the work.
Help them understand how their cubicles,“their 17 square feet”, affect the
customer experience. Employees want to be a part of something exciting,
purposeful and big.

- Communicate realistic goals. Let people know what is expected of them.
Create service standards. Without service standards and goals, everything is
left to chance.

- Celebrate when goals are met.

- Keep employees informed and updated. Share the latest voice of customer data,
discuss challenges and create excitement around opportunities. Employees
want to help improve the organization if shown their input is appreciated.

- Make managers approachable. Managers need to reward publicly as well as coach and be the cheerleader for exceptional customer service.

There are many great companies that seem to have these tips right, three of my favorites are – Zappos, Enterprise and Ritz Carlton. Zappos has embedded engagement into their culture via the core values, hiring practices, orientation and training. Enterprise’s culture focuses on “hiring and training good people from the ground up”. The Ritz is known for their credo and clear expectations. Employees are engaged to serve the customer and empowered to do the right thing.

So, do happy employees create happy customers? If the statistics aren’t enough proof, then act as if it is true and work to improve your employee engagement anyway. I am certain an engaged employee is a good thing for your organization and especially your customers. Make certain your customers have their problems solved and needs met with responsiveness, thoroughness and speed. Take a leap of faith and believe that happy employees do create happy customers.