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The Service Enigma

Customer service is the key to every organisation's success (or failure) … so how can we help improve and/or maintain a consistent service offering from everyone in the organisation?

As a household of ex-hospitality workers, who still need to deliver exceptional service every day in their current vocations; service, or the lack of, is a common conversation in our home. Some say 'service is dead', others that service levels haven't dropped, it is just that service expectations have increased; another suggests that it is a lack of investment in training that is the cause (I wonder who it was that held that view....?)

I wonder who it was that held that view....?

But just like with art, music and wine; opinions vary. Service is a subjective concept. I could tell many stories from my hospitality days where customers sharing the same experience (and sometimes the same food cooked in the same pan), will have different views as to whether the experience is good or bad.

Even for those of us who believe we have high service standards and consistently deliver great customer service, others (or even ourselves) may be able to find fault, or at least be able to identify opportunities for improvement.

For each of us, there will some areas of service which we consider vital, where for another this factor is less important. Some of these might include:

  1. Early acknowledgement

  2. Eye contact or undivided attention

  3. Listening, and taking in what is said

  4. Taking notes (where applicable)

  5. Providing unsolicited advice or information (taking initiative)

  6. Providing options, rather than a flat "no"

  7. Solutions-focus

  8. Referral to others who may know, or can assist

  9. Follow-up, follow-through; and

  10. Delivery of requested/required service.

Choosing which of these (or other factors) you believe are important components for your brand, and service type, will assist you to gain clarity of what service means to you and for your organisation.

Then there is consistency. Consistency between both the individual service experiences and the individuals delivering the service.

Consistency has always been and will always be a challenge. How many times have you been to a business and experienced exceptional service, only to return to find a different level of service delivered by a different worker, or even the same worker who just seems to be 'having a bad day'?

That's why if you look at the reviews for almost any business who has large-ish numbers of reviews (100+), [putting aside the mates 5* and trolls 1*], you will find a spread of ratings; and when you delve deeper into the comments you will see reviews that speak of a great service experience on one or more occasions, then a very disappointing experience on another.

While there is no silver bullet to consistently fantastic service, training will certainly help.

But in order to train your team, you need something to hang the training on. This is where documents like a Customer Charter, Customer Service Standards and/or Customer Rules of Engagement will provide the basis for your team's customer service development.

In creating this document, consulting with your team to get their input will assist when you are giving it back to them in the form of training - they will be more likely to connect with and embrace these standards. To do so, you could:

  • survey your team and ask them to rate the components of service in order of most vital to least. This will also give you insights into what your team might be focusing on in each service delivery situation; and

  • run a competition with your team asking for them to provide 1 to 3 'top' service requirements; and why they think each is important; and an example of how it would be used.

You can then provide a 'prize' to one (or all); and these responses will help form the basis for your Service Standards and start the team thinking about why service is important.

This process also allows you to tap into the frontline team members who are customer-facing on a daily basis and really should have the best ideas of what your customers are seeking in regard to 'good' service.

It is recommended that there be no more than 10 Service Standards that your team are required to recall and apply.

It is recommended that there be no more than 10 Service Standards that your team are required to recall and apply.

For example:

'No' is not a service solution.

Even if the specific solution cannot be delivered in the way the customer is requesting, your job is to find a way that you can give them what they are seeking in a different way.

Once your Service Standards are written, they should form the building blocks for training your team via an immersive means (e.g. a monthly service challenge), along with an acknowledgement of the Customer Service Standards and/or online training to relay the key concepts.

If you need assistance to engage in developing, rolling out, and training your team in your Customer Service Standards, you can contact us for some help*.

*Free online Customer Service training for the owner/leader of a business who makes contact, whether you use our services or not. This will help generate some ideas for your Customer Service Standards.


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