Five Steps to Five Stars focuses on the individual leadership steps necessary to achieve excellence in customer service. All the steps outline the required intentional and deliberate actions to succeed. Leaders who follow these steps will be able to improve their existing organizational policies by becoming better customer service focused leaders. Five Steps to Five Stars is a leader's guide to improving the overall customer service environment. The steps will help leaders and managers build, promote, and create working environments which produce 5-Star customer service!
Before we start, let me first say that there are some great customer service providers out there, and though the example I provided was based on my experience with a fast food restaurant, I could have just as easily shared a similar story with a range of other types of customer service providers.
Failure in delivering excellent customer service is an all too common occurrence in today's service industry. In my experience mentioned in the prologue, should I have simply complained to the manager and walked out rather than taking the order? Perhaps, the best way to answer this is to actually to ask another question. Why should I (we) have to ask any of these questions at all?
As customers, what level of service should we really expect? What level of service should a service provider be responsible to provide? These are very simple questions which can be answered as easily with both individual and corporate responses like-excellent, outstanding, top-notch, or the answer most surveys strive for, the coveted 5-stars, which in itself is very subjective based on the individual customer's needs.
However, I believe for the most part, every customer has a very simple expectation when it comes to the kind of service they expect. It's not complicated at all. The customer has a reasonable expectation to get the kind of service they're paying for. No one enters a customer service exchange process without expecting this. In fact, this should be the expectation for both the customer and the customer service provider and anything less than this has to be viewed as a failure in the customer service process.
Is it really too much to expect fresh-hot fries, or an organized and clean facility? What about a delivery time that actually meets or exceeds what was scheduled or guaranteed? How about a customer service representative who even remotely appears to like people, let alone want to address a customer's needs?
All too common today are shared customer service experiences which leave the customer with a less than positive impression of service providers. Reflect back on your last unfriendly cashier, rude telemarketer, disorderly lobby, or restroom. Or perhaps the instance where there was a complete failure in the communication process because of the inability to understand what you wanted, needed, or asked for.
In today's fast-paced digital world, the question must be asked-has technology simply taken us beyond the superficial expectations of human interaction due to the increasingly limited exchanges we have? You can preorder food and coffee with the use of a smartphone and walk in to pick it up at the counter without ever speaking to the person behind the counter. You can order and pay for your dinner through kiosk on the table in the restaurant, limiting the exchanges between you and the wait staff. Online ordering has become so popular that there is a decline in many of the typical brick and mortar stores. When was the last time you actually went inside of a bank to make a transaction? Technology continues to simplify methods for the production and delivery of services and products to the customer.
Have we really reached a level of product-service exchange where our only concern is how much and how fast we can deliver? Has the idea of human interaction and relational pleasantries become so insignificant and unnecessary? Ironically, now it appears as if the focus has somehow shifted from the customer being served to the customer becoming the server to the needs of the businesses.
I have actually had a customer service experience where, after I identified that I was not charged according to the advertised sale price, I was instructed to (a) go back over to the item, (b) take a picture of the display with my cellphone, (c) take the picture and the item over to the customer service area, (d) speak with the customer service representative and explain what happened, (e) show them my receipt and the picture as proof, and, (f) if they had any questions, have them call back over to their department.
Needless to say, I was speechless! Now, though I was able to positively resolve this situation, it was not a positive customer service experience. I will share the outcome of this experience in a later chapter as it relates to one of the steps we'll cover.
So why have we gotten to the point where customers have to compromise their individual needs and continue the cycle of coming back hoping for a better experience the next time?
Companies are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on employee training and customer service education programs. And yet, with all these resources being directed to ensure that the customer service experience is positive, there is still a disconnection. Why?
This question really comes down to three possibilities-first, there are issues with the customers themselves; second, there are issues with the employees; or third, there are issues with the leadership (managers). This ultimately presents three possible answers:
- No matter what you do, customers have unrealistic expectations and will never be satisfied.
- The employees are either not properly trained or simply fail to perform in accordance with their training.
- Leaders and managers are not actively creating an atmosphere that promotes and encourages excellent customer service performance.
I believe every service providing organization should ask these three questions regardless of what service they provide. The small 'mom and pop' neighborhood store, the big chain restaurant/department store, automotive repair shop, gym, church, or a large multi-billion dollar company servicing thousands of customers a day. If you serve someone, you should be able to decide whether or not you will do it with excellence. It's simply a choice.
Let me stop here for a very important point. The attitude of excellence must be applied no matter what your current service or profit levels are. When it comes to choice, a successful product can sometimes outlive a poor customer service environment. Comments like 'the service sucks but they have best.' can be an indication of this type of environment. Remember, huge profit margins and excellent customer service are not as indicative of one another as much as poor profit margins and poor customer services are.
What you will find at the core of each of these questions, is someone who is in charge-the leader. The leader represents the center spoke that turns the customer service wheel. The leader must be responsible for spinning the wheel at all times. The leader determines how fast, how slow, and in what direction the wheel will turn. It's simple, great customer service means great leadership. There is an oversight and involvement in the complete customer service experience. Poor customer service means poor leadership, and poor leadership involvement in the customer service experience. This may seem unfair to some leaders, because as a leader you can't be expected to be everywhere all the times. Though there is some truth to this, the leader is always the leader, and must always be responsible and accountable for the results, both good and bad, at all times.
All these questions are what compelled me to write this book. This book is for leaders who really want to create an excellent customer service environment. The words on these pages are a combination of my personal experiences, my passion as a leader, my goals as a service provider, my personal desires as a customer, and my strong belief that excellent customer service is achievable and attainable if you are willing to undertake the necessary steps toward it.
The reality is that excellent customer service cannot simply be defined in terms of a single objective, but is a combination of individual efforts directed toward producing an atmosphere of excellence. This is often confused with a specific action or act, when in fact, it's really a part of a larger combination of deliberate individual acts which creates an emotional experience. This experience should produce a feeling of great satisfaction after the customer service exchange process is completed. It's simple, the customer leaves feeling good about the exchange that has taken place. This can be achieved in a variety of ways depending on the needs of your customer. For one person it's a smile, for another it's a professional environment, and then for some others it might be the fact that you simply remembered them from their previous visit and made them feel special.
I have been at a restaurant where they'd completely gotten my order wrong, but the customer service experience was excellent. Remember, it is not a specific act, it is a positive emotional exchange between the parties, controlled by the customer service provider.
Unfortunately, for many leaders there is a minor distinction that separates their organization's current performance standards with what they believe to be the standards of excellence. Some leaders question the value, if any, in these additional efforts. They're okay with the idea of where they are as an organization, 'it's good enough, no one will know, that's not my responsibility, and it's the way we've always done it', are all common themes.
This is the perfect place to make another important point. In business, there is a saying that perfection is the...