Are your customers being served? (part 2 of 2)
How customer service impacts your business value
by Chia-Li Chien | Aug. 05, 2013
Is it time to take a fresh look at how you go about creating value in your business? Bob Petruska, part of the Value Growth team and author of Gemba Walks for Service Excellence, has a philosophy that when you set up your internal people to be successful in customer service, there is no excessive work and re-work to do.
In a hierarchical organization, which is found in most companies, the employees are wired to ask, “What is best for me or my department?” As a result, corporate goals are centered around departmental objectives and needs because it is traditionally easier to manage and optimize in pieces.
But Bob wants business owners to ask, “What does the customer want?”
Yes, that’s right. What is best for your customer?
It’s counter-intuitive to most organizational thinking. It may be, if you wanted to admit it, the last thing on your mind.
However, you shouldn’t hesitate to question the way things are in your company. It is up to you to change the point of view and company culture and strive get your people to thinking with more of an enterprise mindset.
You might start strategically and tactically by simply asking yourself who is the face of your company. Is it the least paid, least trained, least educated (in some cases) person on your team? Often it is, as these are the people who answer your calls, greet your customers, conduct online chats and deliver your products and services. Are they held accountable? How?
The company with best customer service will dominate the market. So what does that mean to you? Could it be you are measuring the wrong things in customer service? Could it be that you measure best call center times in dealing with customers by the shortest amount of time it takes to end the conversation?
Bob recounts a business that was having challenges because their customers were not being billed what they were quoted. This business was losing $500,000 a year due to the fact they undercharged customers because their market, the commodity market, was volatile. Bob came in and was able to lead this organization to find the root cause and within three days, they resolved the problem.
Then, there was another issue. Identifying the problem freed up 40 hours of work per day, which meant freeing up 5 or 6 people. The company thought they would have to let those people go. “No,” Bob told them. “No one is getting laid off. How about, instead, we ask those people to start staying on the phone with the customers longer to increase sales? What if they simply demonstrated great customer service, offered up what the customer actually needed and talked through any issues and problems?”
The company leadership agreed, and soon found order errors reduced by 99% and increased sales in their top line.
Customers value companies that sit with them and solve the problems they have. Employees value a company that helps them do his or her job and do it well through:
• Work tools to be successful
It’s up to you to equip your employees for success in customer service.
First, know who your customer is and then give your employees that information. Business owners often do not take the time to look at the data and research that indicates who the customer is, what that customer needs in terms of service, information and digital content. What does that customer expect from you and how will you meet or manage those expectations? In other words, back to our original question—What is best for your customer?
How is the customer influenced? How much of an influencer is your customer? Your customer is more than a demographic or someone with a problem. Your customer is a complex part of your business value.
Secondly, ACT on customer feedback. Bob cites Ed’s Oil Shoppe as a great example of a company built around the customer and service to that customer. Every person working at an Ed’s location is striving for a perfect score on customer surveys (which are taken very seriously by the staff and customers). One look through Yelp and you get an idea of the enthusiasm shared by patrons of Ed’s Oil Shoppe.
As the business owner, the strategy must start with you. Change your work environment where necessary, set the tone and change your corporate culture. Build a positive work environment that translates to a positive outward facing brand. As the senior leader, you are the rewarder; not the punisher.
So, how will you make customer service excellence part of your company DNA, and begin to build value through each and every customer who comes in contact with your business?
Bob and I would love to hear your feedback on customer service excellence. Please send an email, tweet or Facebook comment with your recent successes or lessons learned. Thanks!
About Chia-Li Chien
Chia-Li Chien, CFP®, CRPC, PMP; Chia-Li “like JOLLY,” Succession Strategist of Value Growth Institute, dedicated to helping private business owners increase their company equity value. She is the award-winning author of the books Show Me The Money and Work toward Reward and a faculty of the American Management Association. Her blog and newsletter was named a Top Small Business Resource by the New York Times You’re the Boss blog. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (704) 268-9378 .