Roy's Blog: Serving Customers
April 16, 2017
The recent debacle with United Airlines has once again demonstrated the woeful state of leadership in some organizations.
And don’t even suggest that it’s not a leadership issue.
It is in every respect. The buck stops at the leader when there are egregious acts committed by their company.
The leader is responsible for the values and the culture of the organization; they get paid the big bucks to ensure that customers are served with respect, employees are inspired to perform and shareholders earn a reasonable return on their investment.
What can leaders learn from the recent United meltdown?
1. The employee outranks the customer. No room for employees meant the plane was “overbooked”and a customer had to go. Really? No other solutions?
Hard to believe, but to me it shouts out the priority of the organization. Where is the leader’s fingerprints on this process? MIA.
2. The “dumber” the rule the more draconian the enforcement measure. Actually there is a range of treatment at play here. On the one hand the customer is enticed to accept compensation for “overbooking” to physical extraction if they don’t accept it.
3. The customer’s personal circumstances don’t matter. The passenger was a doctor and had to get home to see patients but that didn’t seem to matter. He was chosen to go and that was it. No special dispensation here.
4. The first response should be to blame the customer for the outrageous event. After all a “belligerent” individual deserves what they get, right?
Seem to me there should be an organizational value that deals with the customer’s charter of rights.
5. Do whatever it takes to NOT apologize, and get the lawyers involved in the communications process. Have the lawyers tweet out your position to mitigate any potential liability you might face.
Draw the process of repentance out as long as possible hoping the matter will soon fizzle out and the royal OOPS! will soon be forgotten.
Basic customer service leadership 101: own the screwup IMMEDIATELY, apologize - say it… “We screwed up and we are so very sorry.” And go further and state what the plan is to “make it right”.
6. The power of social media can be “managed” to keep it from shining the spotlight on egregious acts like this. Leaders need to understand that people now have a powerful voice which they use to expose things that are just plain wrong.
So when things go awry, leaders need to anticipate a social media response and get out in front of it.
This event so far has cost the United shareholder dearly and there is more potential bad news coming in the form of a law suit.
United is not the only organization committing unforgivable acts on their customers but we should take the opportunity as leaders to reflect on how our organizations deal with similar situations.
Don’t ask for an organizational review.
Get on it yourself.
- Posted 4.16.17 at 03:03 am by Roy Osing
March 27, 2017
There are two elements to a service strategy: core service and the service experience.
Core service is the basic product or service you provide the market; your dial tone so to speak. Without your core service you don’t have a business. Clean hotel rooms, dial tone, accurate financial advice, working stereo systems and 24X7 cable service are all examples of core service.
Interestingly, customers expect your core service to work every time, and when it does they give you a ‘C’ on your service report card. Customer loyalty is unaffected; it neither goes up nor down.
The source of customer loyalty is the service experience; dazzling a customer will get you an ‘A’ on your service report card and they will keep coming back and tell everyone else how wonderful you are.
The objective, then, is to deliver your core service seamlessly and consistently 24X7X365 AND to dazzle and amaze the customer when you do it.
How does an organization create dazzling experiences?
1. Hire human being lovers. Can you dazzle a customer if your frontliners have a fundamental dislike for humans? No. Creating memorable experiences for customers requires employees who want to serve; they want to take care of people.
Look at your recruitment programs. Do they explicitly look for this attribute?
2. Recover: fix it and do the unexpected. Service mistakes happen in any organization; what’s critical, however, is what you do when they occur. The amazing thing is that customers are more loyal after a successful service recovery than if the mistake never happened at all! How to recover?
Fix the mistake FAST and then blow them away by surprising them with something they DON’T expect.
3. Kill ‘dumb rules’. Do you have policies that don’t make sense to customers? The rules, policies and procedures that piss them off royally? Seek them out - ask your frontline - modify or get rid of them so they are not a source of aggravation.
Policy creation should be driven from the customer’s perspective not internal staff groups who are constantly in the control mode.
4. Bend the rules; empower the frontline to ‘say yes’. You can’t dazzle customers if your frontline is enforcing rules all the time. Allow them a bit of flexibility to bend the rule when it makes sense to do what the customer wants and delight them in the process.
Organizations that build culture around these 4 attributes are loved by their customers.
And they win.
- Posted 3.27.17 at 04:16 am by Roy Osing
February 20, 2017
There IS a secret ingredient to mixing a brew of remarkable customer experiences.
And it’s not just about your service strategy.
And it’s not just about the theory of customer behaviour.
So much is being written about how to build an effective customer experience strategy.
In fact advice and direction is “raining down” on organizations looking to establish “The Experience” as a competitive advantage.
Here’s my thinking.
I don’t think creating memories with an organization starts with strategy or study of consumer behaviour at all.
In fact I believe you can have a mediocre strategy and know sh*t about consumer behaviour theory and still deliver mind-blowing experiences.
The most common experience is created when two humans engage with one another. Yes, human-meets-technology creates an experience but it pales in comparison with the more frequent human interaction (I would argue in any event that the human - technology interaction should be modelled after the human - human one. It’s the benchmark that people use to set expectations).
The critical ingredient in human-to-human contact is emotion.
Does the server really care about taking care of the customer? Do they have the basic instinct and innate desire to serve others?
Because if they do, they will deliver crazy amazing experiences regardless of the specifics of the strategy.
These types of people would create dazzling experiences even if the strategy merely said “We intend to provide world class customer service” (YUK!).
“Head west” with your experience strategy but be obsessed with recruiting people who are born with the “caring virus”); who are “sick” with it and who naturally spread it to their colleagues.
Ask THEM how the human - technology interaction should look.
A pristine strategy without people who “love” people will go down in flames because execution is not an intellectual exercise; it’s achieved through acts of emotion on the frontline.
A vague strategy fuelled by human being lovers will deliver amazingness involuntarily.
P. S. And it’s NOT a training issue. You can’t train people to “love” other people. You can train ‘em to “grin” but that’s as far as it goes.
Check out my BE DiFFERENT or be dead Book Series
- Posted 2.20.17 at 05:44 am by Roy Osing
December 5, 2016
Most startups have other priorities when they launch.
Creating interest in their idea, searching for investors and filing any required patents occupy most of the founders’ time at the get-go.
Thinking about creating a customer service culture doesn’t command much attention, if any at all.
Wrapped around your relevant and compelling idea, building a sustaining enterprise from the beginning must include developing a culture that exists to serve your customers as one of your priorities.
Here’s an approach to begin your service journey without overloading your resources and placing your other critical priorities in jeopardy.
Well before you are overwhelmed with drumming up interest for your launch, take a day and develop a service strategy for your business.
This strategy is intended to not only emphasize the handful of service elements you intend to focus on (to give you a competitive advantage) but also to define the context for the culture you want.
Avoid aspirational declarations in your strategy. “We will exceed customer expectations” or “We intend to provide excellent customer service” are not particularly helpful in understanding precisely how you intend to service your customers differently than your competitors.
Use the service strategy as your recruitment template; to define the type of skills, experience and attitude in EVERY person you intend hire; not just service employees.
Everyone in the enterprise from CEO to service clerk - must innately possess the service mentality. If you don’t hire with a serving criteria, a strong service culture will escape you.
Establish your own internal language based on the elements of your service strategy. Have everyone “talk the same talk” about service. For example I insisted we use “promises kept” as the phrase we used to describe meeting a commitment made to a customer. A promise is personal and was intended to engender personal accountability to the customer.
Take a moment to recognize “service heroes” regardless of whether you have 2 or 3 employees at the startup stage or more. The important thing is to build this recognition “system” early on so it becomes part of “the way you do things around here” - culture.
Bring customers in to have a conversation with the team. It’s extremely important to do this early and to communicate “we walk with customers”.
When it is necessary to establish rules and policies to govern how you intend to transact with customers, test your intentions WITH customers. You need to be “easy to do business with” and separate your startup from the herd. Customers will not only give you honest feedback they will be impressed that you asked for their input (because no other organization does).
Even before you have a single customer, decide on what needs to be measured (using you service strategy) and set up a simple system to measure how customers PERCEIVE the service they receive from you.
Be The ONLY startup with the foresight to begin crafting a service culture before you open your doors for business.
Waiting is a mistake.
Check out my BE DiFFERENT or be dead Book Series
- Posted 12.5.16 at 05:50 am by Roy Osing