The most common question we hear when launching service excellence training programs inside large organizations is: “Do leaders really need to attend these workshops?”
This raises a different and more important question for senior leaders:
Do you seek to achieve service improvement in specific departments of the organization?
Or are you seeking to build a culture of service to boost service throughout the organization, upgrading customer experience, improving employee experience, and driving the differentiation of your brand?
If you choose the latter (and most business leaders do), then the idea of questioning leaders’ participation in service excellence training is based on several false assumptions:
Service is a frontline activity only.
Business leaders are not really involved in service delivery.
Business leaders already understand service and have good service skills (otherwise how could they be leaders?)
Business leaders only need an overview of service training content, not actual participation.
Service education is tactical, not strategic, and thus not worth as much of leaders’ time.
However, if your aim is to build a culture of service excellence, then service education is not about specific skills, such as answering phones, grooming, listening, or following a service delivery process.
Instead, service excellence programs are created and delivered to create a mindset for service that influences everything your people do, for customers and for colleagues. It is a strategy to make your brand more vibrant and alive; to improve internal and external relationships, to create greater value, for customers, and for employees.
Thus, the answer to the original question: “Do our leaders need to attend Service Excellence training programs?” is emphatically and enthusiastically “YES!” And here is why:
All leaders must become advocates for the culture and fluent articulators in the new language of service.
Change must be demonstrated daily from the top, and not just announced.
Teams follow leaders. They do what their leaders do. So leaders must role model new service behaviours. Don’t assume they already know how.
Integrating new language, tools and processes with current programs and systems will only happen when leaders lead, coach, explain, promote, and insist. They must fully understand the changes they are promoting.
All organizations rely on supporting service from suppliers, vendors, and contractors to deliver. Leaders can bridge the gap with these key players to ensure they also understand and partner efficiently in supporting a new service culture.
Sustainable service education requires application. Leaders must know where, when, and how new service tools will be applied to relevant business needs.
Here’s are six steps you can take to effectively include leaders in your service excellence educational programs:
Adapt service education to the level of leader. The time, activities, and focus may be different, but the vision, language, framework, and tools remain the same.
Don’t have leaders merely attend. Have them to lead the workshops.
Insist that all leaders open and close your service excellence trainings. This shows support and allows leaders to listen for employees’ concerns, ideas and outcomes.
Provide leaders with a “Communications Kit” to articulate goals and directions before, during, and after service education.
Give leaders a KPI for their team’s new ideas and action plans. This ensures new actions are encouraged to support current business needs.
Ensure leaders share their progress with other leaders. Leadership meeting reports, service dashboards, and starting each meeting with a positive service story are a few effective tactics.
If the question: “Do our leaders really need to attend service excellence training?” is heard in your organization, you can be sure another frequent question will be your employees asking themselves, “Does my leader understand what is in this workshop? Has she or he attended??” The answer to both these questions must be (or become) a resounding and positive: “YES!”
The Service Culture Implementation Roadmap is a proven methodology to quickly upgrade service performance and build a service culture that grows stronger over time. Each of the five key elements in this approach are adapted for your organization, then deployed,
reviewed, and carefully managed.
Using our proprietary Service Culture Development Checklist, the UP! Your Service team will work closely with you to plan, implement, and sustain the momentum of your service culture building program.
How long does it take to build an Uplifting Service Culture? In our experience working with organizations in every major industry and around the world, you can achieve substantial improvements and results within 12 months, if you apply the right planning and implementation roadmap.
Introduction to The Implementation Roadmap and Service Culture Indicator (#4 of 4) - YouTube
Leadership team members understand why service is a key to the future and what is required of them as leaders—and as a team—on this demanding and rewarding journey.
Culture Steering Committee
This Committee schedules diverse activities, galvanizes support, reviews program results, and makes recommendations for ongoing improvement. Committee members represent the concerns and interests of everyone in the
The 12 Building Blocks
These areas touch the lives of team members and customers daily. Select and schedule activities in key areas to enjoy early wins and secure long-term results. Aligning these activities with service education increases the
effectiveness of both.
Actionable Service Education
All team members can learn to increase their service value to customers and colleagues. Our proven train-the-trainer approach creates Leaders and Champions for continuous service improvement throughout the organization.
System & Process Integration
The principles of service education and culture-building activities are embedded into your daily processes and procedures so coming to work and doing work automatically makes your service culture stronger.
Leaders can’t just tell people to serve; every day they must show people how to serve and teach them why it’s so important. People at every level of an organization will only make a service vision come alive when their leaders are living it, too.
In our experience working with many of the world’s outstanding organizations, we have discovered seven essential rules successful service leaders always follow. Some leverage the power of one rule more than another. But each of these rules is essential to lead your team to success.
Introduction to The Seven Rules of Service Leadership (#3 of 4) - YouTube
UP! Your Service provides your team with the service excellence principles and workshops you need to continuously improve internal and external service performance.
This suite of powerful service improvement tools are easily customized to achieve your business objectives. Each workshop emphasizes application to specific service situations ensuring new ideas are generated, new actions are taken, and new value is created.
Introduction to The 10 Service Excellence Principles (#1 of 4) - YouTube
Workshop participants apply proven techniques to:
• solve service problems
• handle difficult service situations
• boost service performance
• add service value
• increase service commitment
• build powerful and lasting partnerships
• convert customers into loyal ambassadors
• manage customer expectations
These workshops build a common service language among internal and external service providers enabling your team to communicate quickly and easily across a wide range of service situations.
In a previous article, we explored the difference between Perception Points vs. Process Points in Service Delivery. Focusing on process improvement is a key strategy for business success. What started as an initiative in manufacturing is now seen in many service industries as well. And as technology is increasingly present in the delivery of service, these process improvements will continue.
But if we only focus on improving process, we miss the opportunity to improve the customer’s experience of our process. Perception Points are where customers experience our service processes, form their opinions about us.
Perception Points are often found between or around process points. For example: staff attitudes and styles of service, waiting times, user-friendliness of website, ease of finding information, room temperature and odors, tone of communications, recognition and even appreciation – these are just a few of the Perception Points (but not necessarily process points) in a customer’s experience.
Here’s why Perception Points are the right place to look for service improvement ideas:
1. Perception Points deeply impact the experience of your customer.
Perception Points provoke or provide the feeling of service. And in some cases, this may be more important to customers than speed or accuracy of your process. How often have you recommended a service provider because the experience felt great – even if something in the process broke down?
2. Perception Points can help you overcome weak process points.
Sometimes your process requires steps that your customers will never enjoy; for example, regulations and requirements that are out of your control. Or your new system to improve a process may take time and investment, and cannot be fixed immediately.
Studying and improving the Perception Points that surround these process steps becomes critical. For example, a friendly voice, a follow-up phone call, a humorous video, or an easy FAQ will ease, comfort, or reassure your customers through less-than-optimal process points.
One telecommunications company we work with planned to upgrade their technology platform. In the long run this would provide better speed and reliability for customers. But the transition would also cause changes and confusion. Call center staff were trained to acknowledge, empathize, and soothe short term frustration while educating customers on long-term benefits. This protected loyalty and market share by focusing on the experience, not just the technology.
3. Perception Points may be easier to improve – and less expensive.
I have helped organizations map Perception Points for hundreds of Service Transactions. In every case, teams are surprised by how quickly and easily Perception Points can be improved, uplifting the customer experience.
Routinely, 75% of improvement ideas generated by these teams can be done immediately, at zero or little cost, and without needing a committee, a task force, or senior management approval. Often small changes in communication, style of service, or easy-to-follow instructions will improve customer experience dramatically.
4. Perception Points will distinguish you from the competition.
As services become increasingly competitive, quality and cost are driven to parity in most industries. Strong process has become a basic requirement, and is no longer a competitive differentiator. Perception Points that uplift the experience of your customers are a better and stronger place to stand apart. Process is easy to copy – experience is much harder. And customers are willing to pay a premium price for a great customer experience.
Where can your Perception Points separate you from the competition? What Perception Points make the difference for your customers?
“If you always do what you always did,
you’ll always get what you always got.”
– Henry Ford
“When you start doing what you haven’t done,
you’ll get what you haven’t yet gotten.”
– Jeff Eilertsen
The 8 Wastes are central to the Lean Manufacturing system developed by Toyota. The 8 Wastes of Service are a modified version used by service experience and service process experts. The 8 Wastes of Service are not new, but regular review checks our assumptions about the service we provide.
Waste is anything that does not create value for a customer or colleague. Finding and eliminating waste in your service can cut costs and improve customer experience.
Waste goes unnoticed over time. Often we do something, again and again, as we always have, until we no longer see its impact. We must keep asking ourselves “Are we wasting value for our customers?”
Study your Service Transactions closely. Where is waste leading to poor customer perceptions. How can you improve your customers’ experience?
1. Where is the service you promise getting delayed?
I had an “urgent” call from a financial provider. I returned the call immediately, but was put on hold for nearly 10 minutes. Standing in queues, waiting on hold, late shipments, postponed meetings, and slow downloads.
These are a few examples of delays your customers may experience. How do your customers feel when delayed? Where can you reduce delays in your transactions?
2. Where can you eliminate duplication for your customers and colleagues?
Having to repeat information or actions may be required for your internal process, but it’s frustrating for customers and colleagues. Filling out multiple forms, providing account numbers twice, giving your name over and over, returning when the manager is in, or being transferred to yet another person to explain the same issue.
Have you ever used an online service site only to be told you must call the service center? Where can you streamline access and information to make your customers’ experience easier and faster? How will this change your customers’ perceptions?
3. How can you reduce the movements needed to receive your service?
I was recently in a government office. I walked back and forth between various offices to complete my transaction. Do your people waste time going back and forth between departments? Office locations? Meetings? Does frustration build with each move?
How can you move people closer to service – creating a “path of least resistance?” How will your customers react?
4. Unclear Communication. Where can you make communication easier?
Written proposals, instructions, agreements, social media and visual signage are a few places to look. Speaking clearly, respecting language differences, and non-verbal communication are just as important as the accuracy of your content.
Where can you provide more clarity for your customers? How will this change their evaluation of your service?
5. Incorrect Inventory (and Incorrect Information). How can you ensure we have the right products and the right information for customers when they need it?
Out of stock products, expired offers, outdated information, or not knowing answers to common questions. Items on the menu at your favorite restaurant consistently not available. Your order from an online grocery has substituted items.
How can you keep an up-to-date supply of the right products and the right information to exceed customer expectations? How do your customers react when you are ready with what they need?
6. Where are we making mistakes? Are we making the same mistakes?
Bugs in our soup, or bugs in our software. Inaccurate treatments or prescriptions. I received an order of broken glasses because they were not packed properly. The return form was missing.
Not getting what is promised won’t delight a customer. Nor will incorrect information.
How can you reduce errors in your service transactions? Will this increase customer satisfaction and retention?
7. Lost Opportunity. When do customers walk away because service behavior is poor?
A service rep told me how awful his job and his manager was. I won’t go back. Call center staff can be apathetic or even rude. Employees complaining to each other and not paying attention to their customers. These behaviors will lose clients forever.
Are you paying enough attention to your customer interactions? How do you hire, enable, and encourage your team members to deliver exceptional service? What is the ROI for such employees?
8. Human Potential. Are you developing and empowering your people to delight customers?
Wasting your people’s potential undermines all other efforts to create value. If every employee understands customers and can make decisions to add value, you can deliver a streamlined and uplifting service experience.
Command and control management does not work here. Do your managers make all the decisions, even simple ones? Or are your staff members truly empowered to respond to customer requests and create valuable outcomes?
Studying the 8 Wastes of Service is powerful way to improve your service to customers and to colleagues.
The world of work has changed. Every person must continuously add value, not only to the work itself, but to the experience our customers have with our work. How well we do at creating and increasing this value this makes the difference between future success and failure.
Today, everyone must respond to problems not yet defined or even understood. Everyone must think beyond process and efficiency to creativity and successful innovation. Everyone must improve the customer experience, and not just fine-tune the delivery process.
If you think this applies only to leaders or white-collar knowledge workers, you should meet the hotel housekeeping employee who recently “jerry-rigged” my room to create a temporary office with a standing desk (two empty boxes and a large room service tray), some meeting space (replacing the couch with two swivel chairs), and extra power and lights.
Everyone, in every department and at every level, needs certain abilities to thrive at work, and to propel your organization to success. Do you have these vital perspectives, skills, and sensibilities? Do your people?
The 10 Essential Abilities of a Service Excellence Workforce
1. Awareness. I can see my work from my perspective and from the perspective of others. I pay attention to the experience others have in working with me. I am aware of how I can contribute to the organization and the impact of my actions.
2. Curiosity. I wonder about people, products, services, and processes. I ask questions of myself and others to learn and understand. What do other people want, need, value, and appreciate? Why do we do things the way we do now? What would happen if we do something differently?
3. Analysis. I pay attention to what works and what needs to be improved. I gather information to better understand problems and opportunities. I compare my thoughts and ideas with others.
4. Empathy. I try to understand the concerns and feelings of other people. Even if I do not share those feelings, I seek respect them and respond with genuine care.
5. Initiative. I proactively take actions to make offers, meet requests, solve problems, and create new possibilities. I invite others to get involved when needed. I do more than required to create more value.
6. Collaboration. I work well with others to get the job done and creatively solve problems. I maintain positive relationships with my colleagues, customers, and community.
7. Flexibility. I use different styles of behavior and communication to create the most effective experience for everyone in each situation. I adjust my approach whenever possible to add more value.
8. Resilience. I bounce back from problems, complaints, and mistakes. I see breakdowns as opportunities to solve problems, build strengths, and increase loyalty. I seek to create something better whenever something goes wrong.
9. Responsibility. Service excellence is my job. I take personal responsibility for my words and actions. I look back to learn from what happened, and lean forward to create what will be.
10. Communication. I listen with sincere attention. I ask questions to learn and understand. I share my views effectively for others in speaking and in writing. I make clear requests and promises.
What is the result of these 10 Essential Abilities?
Trust. By developing these abilities, I earn the trust of others in my promises and my communications.
Which of these 10 Essential Abilities are strongest for you today? Which can you improve? Which are most prominent, or most in need of improvement, where you work?