A salutory tale of the joy to be had from a customer focused culture …and the pain where none exists.
Last week I celebrated my birthday and, in accordance with my advancing years, treated myself to a sedate outing to my local café for a coffee. I’m rather fond of a good old “Greasy Spoon” and so, sad as it may sound, I was quite excited about it.
After ten minutes patiently waiting for the solitary waitress to notice me amongst the deluge of other customers (an old man & 2 giggling school girls), she arrived at the table in a slo-mo worthy of Chariots of Fire and indignantly barked “waddya wan’?”. My strong black coffee without sugar did not go down well. D’ya wan’ milk? No thanks. D’ya wan’ Sugar? No thanks.
Five minutes later, a mug was thrust in front of me… accompanied by a coffee tidal wave that nearly had me reaching for the condiment sachets in order to fashion an emergency buoyancy device. Alas, the coffee had milk in it. After spending some time trying to alert the waitress by catching her eye (which was actually quite difficult, considering she was hanging out the door smoking a cigarette), I took my mug over to her and politely mentioned that I’d ordered it black. This too, did not go well. I can only compare her reaction to something I would have expected had I just come out of prison after a 15 year stint for kidnapping her granny. Ten minutes later I sat enjoying my now black coffee. Well, I say enjoying… at this point I was being stared at and was somewhat in fear of my life.
By way of comparison…two years ago, I enjoyed my first visit to America. One of the first things I did there was have breakfast in a Denny’s restaurant. If you’ve never visited a Denny’s, it should speak volumes that I went back for breakfast many, many times over the course of that fortnight.
The waiting staff couldn’t do enough to make my experience as positive as it could be. When my coffee looked in the slightest way depleted, along came the waitress like a psychic silent ninja carrying a coffee jug, to top it up – no need to ask. When my curiosity started to get the better of me and I ordered grits (I’ve watched too many films not to be intrigued), she helpfully arranged a free sample to taste; cheerfully explaining that people were often surprised by what they actually were. Not only was she right, but she saved me a few dollars in the process. When my boundless curiosity extended to biscuits and gravy, she again arranged with a smile for me to have a free tasting sample. She anticipated what I wanted before I even realised it myself. I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised if she’d ask to take in my ironing at the start of my breakfast and delivered it back to me freshly pressed as I left… free of charge. The woman should have been wearing a cape – she was a superhero.
I first wondered whether the exceptional service simply reflected the different approach to wages and tipping etc. But then I experienced exceptional service in places where tipping wasn’t required and/or wages were more reasonable. So, what was it? Intrigued, I spoke to a few of these service superheroes and without realising, they revealed the secret of their superpowers… each of these workplaces had a strong customer focused culture. All their goals, expectations and objectives were orientated towards customer service.
These things rarely happen organically and don’t happen overnight. So how do you enable the birth and facilitate the growth of a customer service focussed culture? Here are just a few thoughts:
- Everyone should use the valuable opportunity of experiencing what it’s like to be their customer – step into their shoes and experience what they experience. Wait in that queue, ring that helpline or make that purchase. What did it feel like and what would you change?
- Every workplace contains people who have a natural talent focussed toward customer service. Harness this ready-resource and utilise these individuals as customer service champions who share their best practices with their peers.
- Take the time to find out what your customers are saying about your service and share this with your people. Working with them, use that information as a platform to enhance their delivery and your service.
- Ensure customer service is reflected in your business drivers. Update those Key Performance Indicators and Objectives to include customer service expectations.
- Whether they know it or not, every business has core values. Make sure yours support and promote exceptional customer service.
- Ask yourself whether your focus on customer service is visible – is it transparent for your staff and is it discussed?
- When it comes to measuring and discussing both performance and behaviours, ensure this is done in parallel with customer orientated objectives.
- Ask yourself whether everyone in your organisation (from the very top to the least senior) is focussed towards customer service. That old adage about caterpillars comes to mind – it only gets anywhere when all legs are moving in the same direction.
- Make certain you reward and recognise exceptional customer service. As Bright4impact say: Beat them with those Carrots.
A culture focused on customer service produces employees who are passionate about delivering an exceptional service and proactive in improving the experience of their customers. It’s a culture that leads to 360 degree gain – improving the experience and enhancing the benefits for the customer, the employees and the business.
Perhaps I should share this thought with my local greasy spoon… I’ve got my safety goggles and gum shield ready, so who’s with me?