August 19, 2013
This post is the fifth 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 fifth element contained in this definition that we’ll explore further is that exceptional customer service requires desire.
Employees must want to provide exceptional customer service. Unfortunately, most service providers only want their shifts to end so they can do something more interesting and go someplace they feel appreciated.
Years ago, I read the outstanding book, The Enthusiastic Employee by David Sirota. In it, an enthusiastic workforce is defined as one whose needs are met for equity, achievement, and camaraderie. This definition emerged from years of research with millions of employees and provides insight into the levers that will influence an employee’s desire to perform.
Essentially, when management treats workers in a respectful and dignified manner (equity), encourages employees to find innovative ways to do things (achievement), and creates a work environment where employees have a sense of belonging (camaraderie), the conditions are right to influence one’s desire to provide exceptional customer service.
I once worked for a highly successful hotel general manager who made it a point to learn every one of his 200+ employees’ names, sending each a handwritten birthday card (equity), encouraged employee innovation that lead to a housekeeper modifying her vacuum by placing a magnetic strip on the front of the unit to capture metal debris, like paper clips and earring stoppers, before it could damage the machine (achievement), and displayed every employee’s framed photo, along with their name and department, in the cafeteria in order to foster a sense of “All one team” (camaraderie). And this was 15 years before Mr. Sirota wrote his book!
You can’t force employees to want to deliver exceptional customer service any more than you can coerce customers to be loyal. But you can shape an environment that fosters both.
And knowing this truth about exceptional customer service provides the fifth 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.