Simon Burrow on customer centric culture
A guest blog from Simon Burrow on the three key steps to creating a customer centric culture.
No matter what industry you operate in, whether you are a trading organisation, a dental practice, a service provider or anything in-between, your ability to provide exceptional customer service will be the final deciding factor in any purchase decision.
Put simply, when all other things are equal, a customer will choose to spend their money with the supplier who they trust to understand and satisfy their needs and make them feel valued.
This is hardly rocket science (after all, we are all someone’s customer and know just how much great service really matters); I am amazed at just how few organisations actually understand it, or know what to do about it.
Putting the customer at the heart of your business is not difficult so long as you understand three basic factors:
- People do business with people - every member of staff has their part to play in creating the customer experience
- Systems and processes - these are the vehicles that enable you to deliver and exceed your promises
- Customer feedback - your ears and eyes that tell you whether or not you are getting it right and how you can improve
Customer service is an attitude that needs to be shared by everyone from apprentice to CEO - every employee needs to know just how important their role is to the success of the business and feel that their contribution is valued. It is therefore vital that the culture of the organisation supports this and that the individual has the authority and flexibility to serve the customer to the best of their ability.
Cultural change doesn’t happen quickly but there are a few simple steps that you can take immediately to start the process of involving your staff and becoming more customer centric. With some basic foundations in place, you can then focus on improvement for the future.
- Lead from the front. The CEO must put customer service at the centre of every agenda; only with such a clear mandate will the rank and file feel that they have the authority to put the customer at the heart of everything they do.
- Engage the team. Respect your people, ask those on the shop floor their views on how best to do things, involve them in decision making and recognise their contribution. Make coming to work enjoyable, allow people the flexibility to add their own personal touch when applying the rules you have set for delivering Customer Service.
- Reward and Recognition. Focus on how people have improved the customer experience rather than the number of units they have sold; recognise those who have gone the extra mile or come up with a great idea that will help you better meet the customers needs
Systems and Processes
Having the right attitude is of little value if you are unable to deliver your promises. Let’s face it, it’s no good accepting the return of faulty goods if you can’t process the claim effectively!
Delivering and exceeding your promises is of paramount importance and this cannot be left to chance. It is therefore imperative that you have the systems and processes that adequately support your business model and which are implemented ruthlessly by everyone in the organisation.
- Be clear on what good looks like. It is imperative that you have a clear understanding of your Customer Service Vision. You need to tell customers what to expect from you and tell your employees what is expected of them. This is the standard by which you will measure yourself and by which you will be measured.
- Design your systems and processes to meet the needs of the customer, not yours; only by doing this will the customer truly sit at the heart of your business.
- Continuously improve. Challenge what you are doing, look for opportunities to improve or to take waste out of the system. Ask yourself the question “if the customer knew what I was doing, would they be prepared to pay for it?” Because they are!
- Measure everything. From staff turnover and sick days to financial performance and customer satisfaction, you have to measure it if you want to improve it.
It’s all very well trying to deliver great service, but are you actually delighting your customers to the point that they prefer to buy from you rather than your competitor? There is only one way to find this out and that is to ask them, directly.
Getting it right all the time is a utopia that does not exist, you will mess up and you will upset a customer from time to time. These moments represent the best opportunities to impress - it is not the mistake that will be remembered, but the way in which you put it right. For this reason alone you have to solicit regular customer feedback, make it easy for the customer to give it, and then act on it.
Given Willingly, Delivered Passionately and Received Gracefully with Thanks
Great Customer Service is given willingly by engaged and motivated people, delivered passionately through effective systems and processes and received gracefully by thankful customers who are prepared to tell you how you could improve. Satisfied customers will come back to you time and time again, be prepared to pay slightly more for your goods and services and will spread the word about just how good you are at what you do.
We all know that more higher paying customers are key drivers to increased sales and profits. You can see why I am amazed at just how few organisations understand the importance of delivering good customer service.