Monthly Archives: November 2012

Accidental Excellence in Customer Service.

Accidental excellence in customer service is the curse of hiring great people. It’s not really a curse, of course. Great staff are awesome; a blessing for any organization. But you can’t take credit for their excellence—it’s not synonymous with the brand—if you didn’t train them to create an amazing experience by giving them the tools, systems, responsibilities and permission to deliver.

If you can’t tell me why all your staff are awesome, and prove it every time, it’s a wake up call for your brand strategy. Everything is at stake.

Most people would agree that some standard rules are the key to delivering a great customer experience: treat people nicely, listen to them and respond to their needs, deliver what you promise, and—pushing from good to great service—take a moment to exceed their expectations. It’s not rocket science—it’s simple, human behaviour.

As business leaders, we know it’s possible to have a standard of care that far exceeds what many people now expect as normal—routine, scripted, formulaic transactions. We also know that it’s important; very often the customer service experience is the thin line that separates us from our competitors. Very often it’s the only value we add.

What’s missing is the intention for an experience. For too many organizations, the idea of a great customer experience is expected to occur naturally, without a clear strategy defining what expectations makes a great customer experience for your brand, and without a clear plan to make sure it happens.

We hear and celebrate stories of fantastic customer experiences. This one about a barista at Starbucks is getting a lot of attention lately. It’s amazing what some people are capable of when on the stage of customer service. Some staff seem to thrive on the human interaction, and these people are gold. But our customer service strategy should set up all employees up for success.

I’ve done a rather unscientific study of great customer services experiences. I am willing to bet that most good customer service experiences are the result of a charming individual (staff) taking advantage of opportunities, rather than any staff member acting upon clear objectives, clear training, clear tools and clear strategies for delivering an experience that is consistent with your brand—and the flexibility to make it happen. Most excellent experiences are a happy accident; a symptom of a great employee, not a good system.

And if it’s not part of your systems, it’s not part of your brand.

Great staff are a curse because they give weak managers the impression that the brand is responsible for inspiring great experiences. They are a curse because they remind our customers what is possible, without the confidence that the experience will be repeated. They are a curse because they are not actually part of our brand.

Do you have a vision for a customer service experience? Do you have systems, standards and tools in place to make sure that your vision for excellent customer service is the rule and not the exception? Do you hire great people, train them well, and give them permission to build relationships that people can depend on?

Is a defined customer service experience an intentional part of your brand strategy?

Advertisements

Twitterchat, Exploring ROWE Leadership

On Friday, Nov 9th at 12 EST/9 PST I am co-hosting #kaizenbiz, a popular twitterchat community talking about businesses and organizations that embrace continuous and incremental improving. This week, our discussion focuses on the ROWE theory of management; Results Only Work Environment.

ROWE shattered the traditional expectations of some work environments—the place and style of work—and productivity, and the results have shown both success and failure. Is ROWE a viable management theory, or simply a passing fad? Please join us in the 1 hour discussion, and share your thoughts.

I am not an expert on the subject—more of a passionate advocate and self-imposed practitioner. From my framing post, Exploring the Value of ROWE Based Leadership, I summarize it like this:

[ROWE] is as much as reflection of your organization’s culture and processes as it is about value and competence. Are you truly giving each member of your team the best possible opportunities to deliver great work in the pursuit of shared goals, or does a shared environment override individual preferences in the pursuit of team goals? How does ‘workplace’ inspire and pull excellence from your team?

Following the chat I will update this post with what I learn. I hope you will share in the conversation.