Celebrate customers more frequently and less formally

Enthusiasm new copyIt’s Customer Service Week (Oct. 5-9) and, since I work in the field, I suppose I should contribute to the conversation this week. Let me start by saying that celebrating the customer is a good thing – especially when you consider that, without customers, there wouldn’t be much else to celebrate.

The issue that I have with Customer Service Week is that, to me, it places a superficial focus on customers for one week in October that quickly returns to business as usual the following week as the helium balloons droop, the banners sag, and the buttons are relegated to desk drawers. Wouldn’t it be better to run your business as if every week was Customer Service Week?

Rather than pass out logoed pens and koozies to call attention to customer service for one week in October, why not place the spotlight on customer service daily?

Here are some ways to do it:

  • As a team, develop your very own definition of customer service. Then, post it and revisit the definition often to verify its continued relevance. (Here’s mine: customer service is a voluntary act that demonstrates a genuine desire to satisfy, if not delight, a customer)
  • Provide timely feedback, positive and corrective, to team members on their ability to practice the service behaviors contained in the definition of customer service developed by your team.
  • Gather customer feedback via pithy satisfaction and/or intercept surveys that request meaningful input pertaining to criteria such as: ease of doing business, willingness to recommend, intent to return, etc.
  • Track your progress and “plot the dots” during each feedback cycle and display the results prominently to increase team awareness of customers’ perceptions of service quality.
  • Talk about customers daily.
  • Discuss your customers’ perceptions of service quality daily.
  • Seek ways to improve product and service quality daily. Consider these sources: customers, employees, competitors, companies outside your industry, books on the topic, relevant articles, etc.
  • Tweak processes and service models regularly based on customer and employee feedback, competitive analysis, personal observations, etc.
  • Celebrate successes often. (If you tend to the above list, there will be successes.)

Years ago, I read a book by Harry Woodward titled, Navigating Through Change. In it, Dr. Woodward advocates “more frequent and less formal” as it applies to communicating organizational change. However, it also applies to communicating more than change (e.g., daily pre-shift meetings vs. monthly department meetings to convey operational information). It also applies to training (e.g., just-in-time training “shorts” of even 15 min. per day vs. annual or semi-annual classroom training for one or more days at a time), feedback [e.g., in-the-moment feedback, positive and corrective (as appropriate), vs. reliance on annual performance appraisals], and recognition (e.g., a $5 Starbucks gift card to recognize outstanding performance as it occurs vs. a flat screen television set to recognize an “Employee of the Year” once a year).

In the same way, Dr. Woodward’s counsel applies to celebrating customers: let’s practice celebrating customers more frequently (daily) and less formally (a single week in October during Customer Service Week).

What are some ways that you place the spotlight on customers daily?

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Watch the 90-second book trailer.

Illustration by Aaron McKissen.

  • DenverBrian

    I too find it a little odd to have a dedicated “Customer Service Week,” since it does seem to imply that one can turn on the celebration…and then turn it off when next Monday comes. There’s a lot of movement within the service industry away from formal/less often to informal/more often – coaching, performance appraisals, and training come to mind. It sure seems to make sense to me that we would want to celebrate delighting our customers in a less formal/more often approach as well. Customer delight isn’t a single big act; it’s the accretion of hundreds or thousands of individual, one-on-one, organic interactions between a customer and a service provider.

  • Thanks, Brian. The same principle applies to relationships outside of work. As you know, I often say that service is a verb. When speaking to groups, I follow that up with “…friendship is a verb, parenting is a verb, love is a verb.” The point being that treating others with indifference by going through the motions in the relationship and/or taking them for granted, whether at work or at home, often leads to damaged relationships that wither over time, dying a slow death… Just as customer delight is not a single big act, but the accretion (great word) of many individual interactions, love (for instance) cannot be sustained by a piece of jewelry, bouquet of flowers, or night on the town once a year to celebrate an anniversary. In a relationship, love is sustained by a myriad of “little things” throughout the year that demonstrate one’s love/appreciation/admiration for another just as customer delight is sustained by an array of “little extras”, delivered consistently, that reflect an organization’s/employee’s appreciation/respect/gratitude for customers.

  • Thanks, Brian. The same principle applies to relationships outside of work. As you know, I often say that service is a verb. When speaking to groups, I follow that up with “…friendship is a verb, parenting is a verb, love is a verb.” The point being that treating others with indifference by going through the motions in the relationship and/or taking them for granted, whether at work or at home, often leads to damaged relationships that wither over time, dying a slow death… Just as customer delight is not a single big act, but the accretion (great word) of many individual interactions, love (for instance) cannot be sustained by a piece of jewelry, bouquet of flowers, or night on the town once a year to celebrate an anniversary. In a relationship, love is sustained by a myriad of “little things” throughout the year that demonstrate one’s love/appreciation/admiration for another just as customer delight is sustained by an array of “little extras”, delivered consistently, that reflect an organization’s/employee’s appreciation/respect/gratitude for customers.

  • As I read this article (again) it is the end of National Customer Service Week. Customer service enthusiasts will love these ideas. And I think all will agree that these
    great ideas will work for the other 51 weeks of the year, too!