Yesterday marked the start of Customer Service Week globally. In challenging economic times, service is one aspect of an organization’s operation which will help it to differentiate it from competitors. This is especially true in the Tourism industry, where I have spent most of my working life. ‘Service before self’ is a mantra which we had to keep in focus daily.
What are you doing to celebrate Customer Service Week?
Entrepreneur magazine published this article by Lindsay Broder which discusses 7 things you should never say to your employees. Be honest. Have you ever said any of them in the heat of an interaction with your employees? I have heard many mangers say #1 “I’m the boss. Do as I say.” Perhaps early in my managerial career, I might have been guilty of that too. However, as I focussed on my personal development, I realized that I had to find other ways to influence the employees I managed to do their assigned tasks….and willingly, so that customer service could be at the desired standard.
I recall having success where I managed a team, most of whom were much older than me, were unionized and were generally seen by others as the ‘bad eggs’ in the company. Treating each as a human and an individual, I set out to find what made them tick, what their hot buttons were and ways which made them shine. I guess I realized I was successful, mostly, when I received an award for my leadership of that team.
My feeling is that if managers have to resort to any of these 7 phrases or retorts, then they themselves have some work to do on their skills. I am not saying that all managers have to be perfect, however, they should certainly try to better tomorrow, than they were yesterday. Read more, try new things, hire professionals like us to help identify the issues and suggest solutions.
Commit to avoid saying any of these phrases to your employees. They will appreciate you for it and your customer service delivery will improve.
Business owners, especially those who are in a manufacturing type company, may focus all their energies on the product, from design specifications to manufacturing processes. How much time is spent designing the service they would like their employees to deliver to customers who will buy those products?
I feel that the starting point is to define what the vision for your company’s service is. What would you like to measure your service against? What key performance indicators will you use? What kind of training will be necessary? How often will you test the service anonymously to see if the end result you envisioned is being delivered to the customer?
If you have been in business for many years, it is not too late to do this exercise. Gather your key employees together and you should also try and include those who have served customers directly as they may have valuable contributions. Brainstorm and see what you define as the draft vision for your service. Although you would be working from ‘front to back’, you will be able to use the vision statement as the starting point to make changes throughout the company.
To complement that exercise, you will also need to have the necessary training sessions to ensure that it permeates throughout the entire organization and is infused in all your processes.
I was on foot for part of today while my car’s air conditioning system got a check up. In the Caribbean, it is ESSENTIAL to have a proper working air conditioning system in one’s car. Walking the island’s streets certainly confirmed that!
As I walked along, I noticed things that I wouldn’t normally have seen while driving. And I also saw many persons who I haven’t seen in some time. Since this is a new venture, I have decided that I will tell everyone I meet that I am now freelancing, providing training and human resource development services to small and medium sized companies in the Caribbean.
I stopped in by office of the sister of a friend. She works in Accounting and so has to visit several companies on the island each year. As I normally do, I ended my spiel with “so if you know any company which would benefit from my services, please think about me.”. Her response? “All of them!”
Seriously though, I am sure there are lots of them who are doing a good job in customer service and human resource development and when I see those examples, I will be sure to get the word out.
When the West Indies was preparing to host the Cricket World Cup, I travelled around the region as a correspondent for the website CaribbeanCricket.com. On one such trip, my bag and I separated. Naturally, I wrote about it.
There are varying thoughts about the quality of customer service in the Caribbean. As a frequent traveller in the Caribbean, I have had very good and very bad. Fortunately, having worked in Customer Service all my life, with companies which have been recognized for excellent service, I am able to recognize what is and what isn’t.
Even though most people curse LIAT (and I have, on the odd occasion), one event stood out as excellent. The young man about whom I wrote the Chairman, is still working there and I make sure and say hello whenever I am passing through Barbados, where the encounter happened.