Sunday, May 5, 2019

Is Customer Service A Priority?

Good morning
"And the beat goes on...................."

Note;  I will continue with more of the Aroha Philanthropies grantee interviews in a couple of weeks.  

What frames and guides your approach to customer service?
The for profit world understands that customer service is critical to their success.  That's true whether it's an industry based on specific products or one which is service oriented.

We too can appreciate the value of a well thought out customer service approach that clearly centers on the customer and one which is ascribed to by the entire organization.  But in many of our organizations, including some of our biggest and best, customer service is almost an afterthought.  In many cases, we operate under the theory that our product - the art we serve - is of such exceptional quality and value, that we are already providing customer service merely by presenting the art around which our organization is centered.  We may believe this.  Our customers may not always entirely agree.

And even if we understand, on a deeper level, that customer service involves everything from the ease and navigability of our websites, to access to tickets, to parking and to the on site experience, we sometimes don't treat customer service as the critically important variable it is in terms of attracting, retaining and expanding our audiences.  We may be guilty, at least from time to time,  of taking our customers for granted.  Customers recognize when this is happening, and by and large, they don't like it.

Let me ask you a question.  Does your organization have a vision statement for its customer service approach?  Not a vision statement for your organization, nor a values statement as to what guides your organization, but a vision as to how you have organized and how you manage your customer service approach.   Few of our organizations have given thought to formulating such a vision statement to guide their customer service approach.  That's unfortunate.

In an article in Forbes by Shep Hyken, a customer service / experience consultant, he quotes such a vision created by Horst Schulz, founder of the Ritz Carlton Hotel Group - a simple, single sentence that "sums up exactly how every employee of the Ritz Carlton is to treat their guests and fellow employees:

"We're ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen."

I love this.  It's an elegant, simple vision statement that succinctly and strongly encapsulates the priority of treating the hotel's customers with respect, while at the same time according that same level of respect to those who work at the company.  It involves the organization in maintaining their respect for both their customers, and themselves.  It is both motivating and a source of pride.

The article notes that:  "Every employee carries a laminated placard with the Credo. Also, on the placard are 24 standards that drive the success of the Credo. Before every shift, a manager goes over one of the points with their team. By the end of the month, they have cycled through the 24 standards. Then, it starts over."

Hyken lists four objectives that Schutz included with his vision statement:

1.  "Keep the customer.  Surveys and stats from multiple sources state that it’s less expensive to keep an existing customer than to find a new one. And, that brings us to number two…

2.  Get new customers. This is how a business grows. By the way, take care of the first objective and word-of-mouth will help bring you in new customers.

3.  Encourage the customers to spend as much as possible, but without sabotaging number one.

4.  In all of the above, keep working toward more and more efficiency. Schulze has always looked for ways to improve the process. Don’t sit back on your laurels. Always look for opportunities to do anything and everything you do better – especially if it results in something positive for the customer."

The key to a meaningful customer service approach is to continually reinforce your vision with your people - to live it every day.  Too often, our customer service approaches are merely trophy like ideas that have long been forgotten, and are almost never reinforced.  

What a brilliant customer service vision statement does is to instill in everyone involved in the organization - from staff, to artists, to the Board to volunteers - the critical importance of valuing and respecting your customers.  It frames your attitude towards your customers and sets the standard of behavior towards your customers that is expected from everyone in the organization.  For those with  frequent direct contact with your customers, that vision statement ought to be the screen saver on their computers, or in some other way, reinforced daily.

Because, if you don't constantly reinforce that message and work to have the organization live by it, your customers will notice, and will react accordingly.

So if you don't have a customer service plan of action, or yours has become dormant, you might start with a brainstorming sessions to create a simple vision statement as a starting point.

It will be worth your while.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit