During a recent survey I conducted, 86% of those surveyed stated that great service is more important now than ever before - and those customers used words like "personalized," "trustworthy," and "consistent" when defining the kind of service they valued.
Customer experience has always been important but now there is a clear expectation that can help your business stand apart in the marketplace.
But it is not enough to WANT to provide a great customer experience. You have to put in legwork to deliver on the promise.
I'll let you in on a secret learned from decades of serving customers and leading teams: most people understand what it means to deliver great service. Where they struggle is operationalizing the strategies and building the organizational mindset for long term growth.
Experience is where the battle for consumer, customer, and guest dollars will be won and lost. It is where you will build loyalty and where you grow your business.
As our economy restarts - and in some cases reinvents itself - the power of amazing service has lost no potency.
Never forget that customer experience is one of the fastest paths to sales growth.
It takes a strategy, in concert with strong tactical behaviors, to make this a reality.
I have worked with many organizations over the years to implement and scale customer service and experience initiatives, and this always holds true.
Combine Executive Sponsorship with Grassroots Pull
The best organizations have the bookends buying into the service culture. You must have a robust strategy that is exemplified and lauded by executive leadership. Without their sponsorship and push you won't get very far. Your founder, CEO, or president must use the right vernacular and reward the right behaviors or it will be an exercise in futility to get anyone to care. When senior leadership regards customer service as important, the rest of the organization will as well. It's human nature - we value what our leaders value. When we hear them talk about it passionately, it makes them valuable champions for customer-centric activities. But the words must be followed by actions.
You cannot have a lip service only approach - your C-suite (or senior team) must allocate resources along with endorsement for this to work.
If you demand high touch service but slash labor and training budgets, that doesn't align with your vision. But that said, you must also offer training, tools, and products that your teams find valuable. Poorly thought out systems and processes will disengage (rather than energize) your teams and that will lead to frustration and poor customer outcomes. When executive endorsement meats front line pull you'll find a recipe for amazingly repeatable customer experiences.
Tie Customer Wins to Employee Training
Training reinforces behaviors, but only when done intentionally and with an eye toward results. When I look at most organizational training programs, they are rife with agendas and buzz words. To be impactful, training must tie back to the mindset and behaviors you need to provide great customer experiences. That means looking at the customer experience from the customer point of view and training to the results you are seeking.
You can glean much of this through understanding your customer's journey and by reviewing your VOC (Voice of the Customer) data. Tying your data and journey mapping to training will help you smooth out customer friction and frustration points.
Talented training professionals also ensure the team understands the why behind their work, thus creating a mindset for success. Without beginning with the hearts and minds, you'll never be able to train the behaviors your seek. From there you can translate the mindset to behaviors and the behaviors to compelling customer service moments. The crux here is that the training must be great and the recognition plentiful. This is gut check time - is your employee training great or is it mind numbing virtual garbage that has little or no value when it comes to inspiring team members? That isn't to say that you can't utilize online or virtual training - large organizations will need this arrow in their quiver to scale - but it has to be good. You can also drive adoption through leader-led training and pre-shift rallies; however, they have little impact if you haven't trained and equipped leaders to deliver these with passion, enthusiasm, and competency.
Keep Team Experience and Morale at the Forefront
Have you ever noticed that companies that attract the best talent often have amazing customer service? Sure, it seems fairly straightforward and logical. But why does Chick-fil-a, Disney, and Ritz Carlton seem to attract such great talent? That is the true question that you have to consider - and rest assured that it isn't all about pay (nor should it be). Now I'm not one of those people that will say that pay doesn't impact engagement or longevity - to a point. Anyone who says pay doesn't matter has never led a team in a tough labor market or been responsible for employee retention.
What you need to understand is that people will rarely stick around in an awful work environment just for the money.
They also won't abandon a job they love for a little more pay. However, there is a tipping point to all of this. The reason the companies I mentioned early attract such great talent begins with their reputation. When you are at the pinnacle of your industry and have a history of treating people well, you will find that folks gravitate toward you. Great people want to work at best places, period. Once they are on board, leaders have to deliver on the promise of a rewarding work experience. Some folks have come for the experience, others for a chance to learn, and still others for a great line item on their resumes. But the impact will be felt by the customers - high performing, well engaged teams deliver great customer service. That is why prioritizing selection and engagement is the first leg of the CX journey.
Launch a North Star
I have a natural bias here, as I have spent time leading customer service missions and helping others launch theirs. Customer service can never be relegated to a single department - it is everyone's responsibility, but there is a benefit to having someone at the helm of your mission. Having someone who is the voice of the customer in every room, meeting, and strategy session will keep service in the mix. I have seen technology meetings take quick turns to consider user experience when a CX professional was in the room. It is easy for various disciplines to forget about the end user, so it never hurts to have someone at the table who will advocate for customers. Finally, the natural state for any organization is to build silos - it happens organically for a number of understandable reasons. This is why businesses spend so much time fighting it. The one thing that ties everyone together is the customer, consumer, or guest. This is an unintended benefit of strong CX professionals - they can help bust down walls and inspire communication. This is a powerful benefit of a CXO (Chief Experience Officer) or CCO (Chief Customer Officer), so long as that leader is a strong, passionate, well reasoned force for service - and has the appropriate positioning within the organization at a senior level.
The details of your vision, values, and mindset are less important than having thought them through.
That means ensuring that you have a market demand and customer need that you can fulfill - and that it goes beyond products to solving problems or delivering an experience.
Once you have alignment, you can use that purpose and corresponding mindset to inspire your teams to deliver with the tactical behaviors that drive success for your customers and your organization.
That truly keeps your customers at the center of everything you do - and builds advocacy and sales along the way.
Be crystal clear about the problems you are solving or the experiences you seek to provide for your customers.
Prioritize service skills and positive attitudes during your interviewing and selection processes.
Ensure that customer service is baked into your onboarding, training, ongoing development, and pre-shift rallies.
Engage your senior leadership to provide endorsement and excitement around the customer experience - and to speak of it often and with passion. Installing a CXO or CCO can help with this.
Tony Johnson, CCXP
Customer Experience Speaker | Author |Trainer | Consultant
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Tony Johnson is an award winning speaker and author on the topics of sales growth, customer service, and leadership. Tony speaks to thousands annually and has also been featured on ABC News and Fox News. He is available for business planning, motivational keynotes, leadership workshops, and employee service skills training.
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