Customer service will always be a key aspect of any company.
The causality dilemma “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”, which you’ve probably heard, has been going on for generations. It has many different interpretations and goes from being just a simple question to a discussion on how life and the universe in general began.
Now think about daily business life. Conversations are often related to what makes a business succeed, and what companies’ core values are that make them stand out among their competition and earn a solid market position. You are often taught that the “Customer is always right” or “Customer comes first”; At other times, you are told that “employees come first”, or that “without happy, loyal employees, there will not be any customers to attract or retain”. Everything leads to the dilemma of “Which comes first, Employees or Customers?”
We started our quest to find the best answer to this, and wound up with an interview with Shep Hyken, Best Selling Author, Conference Speaker and Customer Service Expert. What we could learn from him is the following: Employees come first, but it if you do not train them well enough, no matter how engaged or loyal your staff might be, you will not succeed at gaining or retaining customers anyway.
Loyalty is what counts
Here’s what we know so far: every company wants to have satisfied and loyal customers, but to do so, you need employees that are engaged and loyal to your company—This will reflect on the service they provide to the clients. So how do we actually turn employees into advocates and ambassadors for your company?
First of all, do not make hires based only on skills. Take certain aspects into account before making a decision. “You don’t hire somebody and hope they fit in the company. You hire somebody because they do fit into the company culture and values”, says Hyken.
Zappos is a role model when it comes to employer branding, and when it comes to recruiting, they base their decision on 10 core values, and if the applicant does not match even one value, they are out.
The person who becomes part of your company must have the skills, attitude and service mind-set aligned with the organization, and if they don’t – no matter how good they are – they can hurt not only the environment where they work, but also customer relations.
You’ve got the right people, now how to retain them?
Every survey will tell you that the usual reason people leave your company is not related to money, but actually appreciation and the feeling of being valued. As Shep points out, it is very important to nurture relations not only amongst employees, but also between employees and management.
Also, as a leader, you should always lead by example. Insert a contagious attitude of positivity to your workplace, as if you are truly happy to go to work every day, so that when your colleagues look at you, they will want to say “hey, I want to be like that person”.
Take for example Walt Disney, who used to walk through his theme park. Everyone knew who Walt Disney was. Every time he saw a piece of paper on the ground, he picked it up and threw it away. People started to think “if Walt Disney does it, then I should do it”. The same would have happened the other way around; if he would have ignored those pieces of paper, people would have had thought: “well, Walt Disney doesn’t do it so why should I?”.
As a leader, you should demonstrate how people should act, what you want them to do and how they will do it.
The Customer Perception is the Only One that Counts
Now that you have recognized the good path, the moment comes when you must train your employees to project their passion for your company into the customer service they provide.
Based on his expertise, Shep Hyken has described some very important steps to consider in order to deliver an outstanding Customer Service experience.
Shep Hyken is a member of the CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame®.
Define What Customer Service is Supposed to Be
Think about a solid vision for your company in no longer than one sentence. Shep quoted a great example from one of his clients, where he is currently working on a campaign called “Yes I Can”. This includes him teaching them 12 very specific lessons on how they can take charge of their customer situation, and when the customer sees that “Yes I Can” logo, they realize the situation in the following way: “I am here to care for you and the company has given me the authority to describe what experience I want you as a customer to have, without having to go back to the manager and ask about it”. You can’t go out there and say “hey, be nice”, without explaining what nice even means. So define what you want the service to look like.
When you tell employees to do something, you have to tell them how to do it properly. Shep mentions one clear example from his experience with one of his clients. First, start big, spend several hours training decision makers, leaders or different stores, depending on the industry you work in. Then go smaller, a do a small 10-minute-long, shorter version of the same training to remind them what to do. Then do it again three weeks after. Four weeks later, do the same training to remind them of the core values of what are they doing and why. Training needs to be done on ongoing basis, which is a major principle to getting employees and customers engaged in the way you want them to.
Time to Celebrate!
If something is working, let employees know: “Customers are loving us”, “our satisfaction score is really high”, “keep it up!”. Mention specifically what they are doing that is working so well and what they can do to keep up the good work.
Delivering Excellence in the Digital Era
Never underestimate your customer. They are smart people, capable of finding information anywhere. When it comes to social media, and all things being digital, it is vital for your business to build a website that is way more than just a place where you can insert your credit card information.
Let us return to Zappos. While they may not offer a very competitive price, they give you an amazing customer experience. They trust their customers. If you are not sure what size of shoe you are, they send you three pairs and you return the two that don’t fit; in addition to making returns extremely easy and not charging for shipping.
The point is, when you offer a unique product, you may be able to afford to set up a bit of a higher price. When selling a competitive product, you must always innovate or someone else will come and cut you by making the process or customer experience easier than yours.
The best companies in the world are at the top because they have been able to find a way to engage, attract and retain their customers. These days, people do not engage with a product advertisement, but to how that product or service will make their lives better, and when you have the right people behind your brand, your brand will have all the elements to evolve into something great. Remember that chicken and egg? Happy employees and good customer service are just as much intertwined as the two. And by the way, the egg came first.