Your most important assets are not your customers and your employees. It’s how your customers and your employees feel about your company. Your success as a customer service manager is directly proportional to your ability to drive simultaneously customer satisfaction and employee engagement. Happy employees are inclined to go above and beyond for your customers. And when your customers feel they are cared for, they will return. You can’t satisfy customers with disengaged employees. Start there first. So what can you do to ensure your employees are engaged? As a first step, begin by asking at least one employee these two questions every day:
What are you hearing? You cannot even begin to satisfy customers until you remove all the potential dissatisfiers within the customer experience. The American Customer Satisfaction Index found that the response rates for electronic surveys were averaging between 5% and 15% . So if surveys are your only source of feedback, then at the most, you personally know 15% of all your customers’ angst. If you are interacting with customers while you supervise employees, you may know between 20 – 50% of your customers’ dissatisfiers. But your Associates know 100% of your customers complaints and concerns because your customers tell them everyday. So find out what they are hearing and act to systematically remove any potential dissatisfiers.
What can I do for you? Jan Carlzon, former CEO of SAS Airlines and author of the book, Moments of Truth said, “If you’re not serving the customer, your job is to be serving someone who is.” To serve the customer, your employees need the empowerment, tools and resources to take care of their customers. Without the tools and resources, they will not feel empowered to solve customer complaints or respond to customer questions. As much as you want your employees to fulfill your customers’ needs, you need to serve your employees to fulfill theirs. So at the end of every employee conversation, whether it is a group setting or a one-to-one conversation, ask, “What can I do for you?” Listen and then act on their suggestions. Seriously weigh every suggestion, no matter how small you might think it might be. If they mentioned it to you, it is a BIG DEAL to them. Otherwise they wouldn’t have said anything. And if it’s a BIG DEAL to them, it should be a BIG DEAL to you. Whether you are able to implement their suggestion or not, always personally get back promptly to the individual employee who offered the suggestion. It will reinforce their perception that you are committed to their success, as much as you are to your customers’ satisfaction.
The biggest complaint from employees of their managers and supervisors is a lack of communication. Ask these two questions every day to generate a flow of ideas to continually improve the employee and customer experience. Then act on the feedback you receive to drive engagement and empower your employees to deliver exceptional service that your customers will rave about to you and others.
I am a big fan of Marriott International. With the recent acquisition of Starwood, Marriott is the world’s largest hotel company with over 5700 properties worldwide. If you ask loyal customers and me to describe Marriott in one word, we would respond with “Consistency.” I am convinced that the enviable growth of Marriott is based the focus of its associates to consistently deliver an experience that meets the high expectations of its customers. And that focus was set by founder JW Marriott with this business mantra, “Only close attention to the fine details of any operation makes the operation first class.” Even more succinctly, Teri puts forth in her post that, in any business,”Everything Speaks!”
Imagine visiting a fine dining restaurant for a special occasion. You’ve been looking forward to the meal and you’ve heard good things about the restaurant. Then imagine noticing something crusty on your fork and lipstick marks on your water glass. Wouldn’t you begin wondering about the cleanliness and quality of everything else in the restaurant? Everything Speaks! It’s important to pay attention to the details of the work environment because everything is communicating a message to your customers. Every detail of your physical environment says something about you and your business. Everything the customer sees, hears, smells and touches creates an impression.
Now picture a technician pulling up into a customer’s driveway. The service vehicle is dirty, dusty, missing sign letters and disorganized in appearance. The customer opens the door to greet the technician who smells, shoes are muddy, shirt askew and hands are dirty or greasy. During the application of the service, the technician receives a personal phone call, then stands around and has a cigarette before continuing the job. All this detracts from your business’s image. It both consciously or subconsciously raises the customer’s antennae and makes them question, “Do I really want to spend my money with this company?”
One of the keys to Walt Disney World’s success is meticulous attention to detail. Using the entertainment analogy of “onstage” and “offstage”, cast members are constantly reminded the importance of recognizing they are “onstage” every time they step into a guest area. Just about everything is carefully planned, managed and orchestrated to ensure a positive guest experience. Cast members are responsible for their appearance with the appropriate, clean costume, name tag and fresh-faced look. “Onstage” behaviors do not include smoking, drinking, eating, or cursing. All cast members are responsible to keep up the work area appearance by picking up trash or noting when things need maintenance.
Great memorable service people are the ones who understand the concept of Everything Speaks. I’m talking about…
The pest control technician who took off his shoes and put on cloth slippers before coming into my home.
The insulation rep who worked in my attic in 90 degrees heat, went out to his service van and changed his shirt before coming back in with the bill so he wouldn’t look or smell bad.
The plumber who showed up in his shiny, well-organized truck, clean-shaven and wearing a monogrammed polo shirt and nice trousers. After he finished installing a new garbage disposal on the kitchen sink, he cleaned up the kitchen floor. When I shared my appreciation for his thoughtfulness, he said “I always try to leave a customer’s home looking better than what it was when I came”.
Teri Yanovitch is a speaker, author, facilitator, and consultant. Her passion is helping organizations create a culture of service excellence.
Previously as a keynote speaker with the Disney Institute, she shared exemplary practices of customer service with organizations world-wide. For more than a decade, she facilitated cultural change as an executive with the company that revolutionized total quality management, Philip Crosby Associates. And for the first five years of her career, she trained hundreds of leaders and frontline staff of the Hertz Corporation in the value of the customer experience.
In 1991, she began her own firm, T.A.Yanovitch, Inc. Over the years, Teri has helped many diverse organizations such as; AAA, Marriott, Ernst & Young, Subway, America’s Blood Centers, Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise, First Citizens Banks, Ocwen Financial, and many college and universities to share her combined experience and knowledge of how to offer a customer experience that delights and differentiates one from the competition.