People complain that business is getting tougher, well, in many ways, yes it is. Ten years ago the internet and especially eCommerce was not such a ubiquitous entity. We were in a boom rather than the current changeable financial environment and customers often had less choice.
Today I can go online, order and have a product delivered within an hour. I think nothing of having groceries delivered to my door, books telegraphed to my eReader by Wi-Fi and even food cooked and delivered at the touch of an app button. It really means that the number of human interactions I make when I am a customer is reducing.
In another ten years time we may not see anyone (what a lonely place). Customers now use bricks and mortar shops for ‘showrooming’ (see the product and then find it online). This means that, as customer service professionals we need to ‘up our game’ considerably. Good customer service is just not good enough. Just being good may have been okay when we were the only show in town, but in a world where a drone could delivering my shopping autonomously, we have to be provide great customer service!
Lessons from London 2012
I was immensely lucky to have spent a year working for the organising committee for the London 2012 Olympics. This was an amazing opportunity to undertake as a customer service professional. However most of the workforce would be volunteers. As a team we had a common aim, to deliver the very best games experience we could, but this would require immensely long hours, hard work and some tough times. I was salaried, however that was not a motivator for me to deliver excellence and certainly wasn’t for my volunteer colleagues who worked alongside me.
Lesson one is that money is a motivator, but it cannot be the sole reason for people to deliver great service. Your team needs to:
- believe in the organisation and what they are offering
- feel their place in the organisation and the empowerment to really deliver in their job
- be supported, they need to feel loved by management and their colleagues
You will not be running something as big as an Olympic games, however you still need to embody belief within your team. Do your staff feel that they belong to the organisation? Do they feel listened to? If they make suggestions, are they taken seriously and acted upon?
Building a better working environment
It is important for management to nurture their colleagues and make them feel that the organisation is as much theirs as it is the management’s. Do your staff know their place and more significantly their importance in the organisation? A colleague should not feel that he is ‘just’ a checkout operator, instead he should feel he is a vital part of the customer facing team. You need to ensure everyone uses language which develops responsibility and does not belittle individual roles. Every member of the team is a vital piece of the organisation and they need to know that. If they are not, you need to re-evaluate why you have as many staff as you do.
Once they know their worth to to the organisation you need to empower them. Consider valid decisions they make to support good service. One of the worst things you can do to a colleague is overturn a decision they make, which they feel is for the good of customer service. No, don’t let them hand over the contents of the till, but if they accept a refund in good faith to appease a long standing customer, don’t overturn the decision. The staff needs to feel that they have responsibility and that you, as management, trust their intelligence and decision making.
Engage and create trust
Finally there needs to be love (not too physical of course!) – but you need to engage and create trust and friendship within your staff. Simple things will help: speak with staff, say good morning to everyone you see, listen to people. As a manager, a good proportion of your time should be reserved for your staff, to support them. Never be aloof or unavailable when they need your support. During London 2012, we looked to ensure that we supported our volunteers and other colleagues. We were available and supportive and we all greeted each other. It became fun, despite the hard work and we felt like a real team who had a common purpose and a real role to play in the bigger picture.
We need to ensure that we make an impact on a customer, reinforcing the joy of human interaction – this can be as simple as each staff member greeting and acknowledging customers, smiling and being genuinely helpful. Remember to lead this by example, as managers if you smile and greet, you will find your staff will also do the same. It is really driven by wow! moments where we go the extra mile to deliver service which just does not and cannot exist in an online environment. In London this changed the whole city! The Games-Makers were an amazing team of hardworking people who smiled, greeted people and were just amazing.
Delivering Wow! moments
Think to yourself, are you delivering wow! moments? Am I adding value? And especially would I bother to shop here? An example from everyday shopping, my wife bought a tablet from a well known chain store. It was more expensive than online, but she wanted the advice and service. What she got was pestering to buy additional insurance (the sales person would not let her leave the till she did!) and she got a product where the security seals had been broken. The result, the next day we went back, returned the item where it was grudgingly refunded (but not without some retraining on the rights of customers) and we bought the product online cheaper. The shop experience was:
- more expensive
- we still had to wait until the next day to get a working unit
No customer service wow! moments there. Now one customer will not change the world, but they can tweet and they can start to reinforce the trend to shop solely online… The time is right to up your game…