From a viral video to a positive review, a customer’s motivation to share their experience with your product or service usually comes down to remarkability. By remarkable we mean something that is worth commenting on and sharing with others.
Sharing can be in the form of ratings, reviews, comments, posts, and good old fashioned word-of-mouth. For small businesses, what your company offers must be remarkable, and the largest opportunity to make a guest’s experience notable lies within the domain of customer interaction. From the smallest details to the overall company culture, the customer’s experience is what makes or breaks continued client attraction and retention.
How do you instill a culture in your small business that motivates your staff to deliver consistently remarkable customer service, resulting in increased customer loyalty and revenues?
Here are six steps to delivering consistently on your customer promise and improving your business.
It Starts and Ends at the Top
Customer service begins and ends with YOU, the owner. Nothing else really matters, and all other efforts are pointless, unless the owners truly believe in the value of delivering remarkable customer service.
Do you believe your customers are looking to take advantage of you, or do you realize that the vast majority of them are honest and will reward you with their loyalty if you treat them right? Are your employee policies all about control and avoiding theft, or is your staff truly empowered to take care of the customer? The “Employee of the Month” plaque on the wall is meaningless if the owners and management of the company don’t truly believe in delivering remarkable customer service, and the investment it requires.
The investment from the top includes believing in and instilling a persistent culture of superior service. It should include a shared manifesto which serves as a foundation for your company’s culture. It’s not just the cliché posters about leadership and team work, but your true conviction about running your company in a way that proudly represents you and your staff. It’s about delivering the service you enjoy experiencing when you visit your favorite establishments – the places you go back to again and again because they make you feel great, and which you share with others!
The interaction between customer and company has become increasingly transparent, thanks in part to technology. Company brands are no longer static entities, but rather dynamic and personified. Culture is everything in today’s business environment, and customers can smell insincerity from a mile away. Part of a brand’s culture must be built from the values and core beliefs of the company’s owners. Your company should foster an environment where a passion for remarkable customer service can thrive. Like much in life, it all comes down to balance. If you believe in your core values and have faith in the ability and training of your employees to deliver, it will be easier to develop an environment of empowerment and trust.
Culture is a living, breathing organism that needs to be supported and nurtured. It evolves over time, but the core tenets should never waiver. One way to measure if you have successfully instilled a strong culture is to observe how your team handles a new member. Does the team automatically correct and guide the new member’s behavior and actions if they vary from the accepted norms of your culture without being told? Are they quick to tell managers that this new employee is not a fit? Does the new employee stand out from the other employees and feel as if they are a “fish out of water”? These are good signs that your team embodies the culture of your business and leads to consistently delivering on your customer promise, even when you are not watching.
Systems are the ways in which a company’s culture is carried out consistently and repeatedly. Without the infrastructure of systems (including software, manuals, forms, training, and checklists), remarkable customer service deteriorates quickly. Systems are the key to executing consistently in every aspect of your business.
As it relates to customer service, your employee training and development systems are critical. Well trained employees that have access to protocols and procedures which foster good client relationships are a key to the success of any business. Your focus should be to develop systems as if you are a multi-unit operation, even if you are running a single-location company. This approach supports the repeatability of your process which should ensure that every new employee is hired, trained and developed to the same productive and effective standard.
Your culture and systems mean nothing without the right team of highly motivated people to execute them. When it comes to your company’s team of workers, it’s important to take the time and focus on finding people that will make a good fit.
Always remember to hire slowly, and fire quickly. If a member of the staff is not a good fit, it is critical to sever ties quickly. Remember, just because an employee is unsuited for a particular position does not make them a bad person or poor worker, it’s just likely not a good fit.
When hiring customer-facing employees, personality and character are often more important than skills or experience. You can teach a person new skills, but it’s extremely difficult to teach someone how to enjoy working with and serving customers. It’s helpful to have a baseline of a great employee, and also use employee assessment tools like Kolbe’s RightFit™ solutions when possible to help you choose the right candidate for the position.
Listen and Measure
How do you know if you are delivering consistently remarkable customer experiences? How do you measure customer service and satisfaction? It’s imperative that you and your management team listen and measure to objectively assess your progress and execution. Your customers will tell you what they think about your product and service, but you have to listen and be receptive to their feedback. You must also measure, and reward or correct, how your staff is executing. Doing so keeps your focus on customer service top-of-mind throughout your entire organization.
From online reviews to mystery shoppers, the trick is to make sure to listen and take into account what your customers are saying. Try listening for broad themes that permeate from a variety of sources. Ask your employees what they think, or ask a friend to test out your business as a customer to get an unadulterated and trustworthy view of customer-facing interaction. Monitor social media platforms and use alert technologies to stay attuned to what people are saying about your business. Take reviews and feedback to heart, and take input from the loyal customers who love your company.
Consistency is the true test of your commitment to delivering remarkable customer experiences. Are you dedicated to delivering remarkable service for the life of your business, or was it just a fading phase?
An individual customer does not really care that you have executed flawlessly on the previous thousand customers – it’s their transaction and interaction that matters most. Furthermore, a high opinion from one customer can be cancelled out by a bad opinion from another. And people are more likely to share a poor experience than a positive one – a reality which is greatly amplified by the relative anonymity and ease of the internet to share with others and encourage everyone to become a critic.
Delivering consistently, with each customer and every interaction, is the most difficult thing to achieve, and it should be your ultimate goal. While it’s impossible to be perfect, your standard must be set extremely high so that you execute as closely to 100% as possible. And when you fail, as we all naturally do at times, your process should include a fast and genuine resolution for your customers. Most customers understand that we all make mistakes – what they don’t usually tolerate is indifference and lack of follow-up.
Being remarkable is often what sets us apart from the competition. Our products and services must be of high quality, but it’s the experiences our customers enjoy when they interact with us that they value and share the most.