Exceptional customer service demonstrates job essence

August 15, 2013

Assembly Line Color copyThis post is the third in a series that will fully explore the definition of customer service offered in an earlier post.

Too often, customer service is viewed as a department, a designated employee’s job role or, someone else’s responsibility. Because of this limited view of customer service, many employees are content to simply execute a series of mandatory job functions until the end of their shifts—blissfully unaware of the myriad opportunities forfeited to make lasting positive impressions on their customers.

To expand on this narrow definition of customer service, I’d like to submit my own definition for consideration: Customer service is a voluntary act that demonstrates a genuine desire to satisfy, if not delight, a customer.

The third element contained in this definition that we’ll explore further is that exceptional customer service demonstrates job essence.

All job roles are made up of two parts: job function (the duties and tasks associated with one’s job role) and job essence (an employee’s purpose or highest priority at work). For most service industry employees, their highest priority at work is to create delighted customers who are less price sensitive, have higher repurchase rates, and are responsible for 80-90 percent of the positive word-of-mouth about a company or brand.

A great majority of employees (and the managers who oversee their work) acknowledge only the first part: job function (knowing what to do and how to do it). As a result, job essence (knowing why they are doing it) is often left to chance. This explains why so many employees describe their jobs as “boring” and “monotonous” and why so many customers describe the service they receive as “lifeless” and “transactional.”

Rather than only displaying competency (job knowledge and skills) while executing their job functions at work, in order to make lasting positive impressions on customers, employees must demonstrate a connection to the organization’s mission (job purpose) by reflecting job essence—their highest priority at work: to create delighted customers.

It doesn’t have to be a big thing. The other day, as a local coffee shop barista served my espresso, she pleasantly surprised me by pairing it with a complimentary 4 oz. glass of chilled sparkling water, saying with a smile, “Here. This will cleanse your palate.”

Preparing and serving the espresso are examples of executing job function, but offering the sparkling water demonstrates job essence. And the gesture didn’t go unnoticed. To me, it made the difference between an ordinary transaction (that I could get anywhere) and an extraordinary experience (that I can only get at the Coffee Place Neighborhood Café) that resulted in a lasting positive impression.

And knowing this truth about exceptional customer service provides the third piece to an elusive 7-piece puzzle that, when assembled, provides employees with a very clear image of what exceptional customer service is and what’s required of them to consistently deliver it.

Don’t settle for ordinary. Choose extraordinary. (It’s always a choice.) Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.

Watch the 90-second book trailer.

Illustration by Aaron McKissen.

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