Customer Service Excellence
Every organization has customers of some kind – whether they are internal or external, and in the last few decades much has been written about how to best offer service excellence to these customers as a core strategy to follow. Although there are inevitably many different models for how good performance in the customer service realm should be provided, in practical terms, providing service excellence has to involve every individual in every team in a given organization working together in positive ways to serve another team who is a customer for its services or outputs (until the ultimate customer is served well). If this relationship is well-understood and well-managed, it can then be argued that the whole organization will be service ‘aligned’ to the needs of the customer and will, therefore, be more successful.
In addition to each team serving another team across the organization, it is also a widely held view that the typical organizational pyramid, with the bosses at the apex and customers at the base is far from ideal if you want real service excellence. This is simply because if the majority of employees (starting with the majority at the base of the pyramid in the front line) are “looking upwards” to meet the needs of their bosses, then they cannot spend enough time focused on customer needs.
It is suggested instead that to be truly customer-focused, the organization needs to ‘invert the pyramid’. This means that if the supplier-to-customer chain from team to team runs across the organization, then those teams which are closest to the customer should be given as much empowerment and freedom as possible, and be supported by supervisors/leaders as in the role of coaches or mentors when problems occur, or the ‘chain’ breaks down. In other words, the output of front-line employees or teams is no longer meeting the needs of the boss, but meeting the needs of the customer – with the boss as a supporter or supplier to the team.
There are six specific steps that are common, in varying degrees, to what are often regarded as the excellent service providers. These steps are seen to be the foundation in building and managing extraordinary levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty. In brief these steps suggest:
- That a clear vision of what constitutes superior service should be communicated to all employees at every level, and ensure that service quality is personally and positively important to everyone in the organization.
- That the customer’s voice must be heard, understood, and the organization should respond – often in unique and creative ways – to their evolving needs and constantly shifting expectations.
- That concrete standards of excellent service quality should be established and regularly measured.
- That good people should be hired (particularly those in the front line), they should be coached carefully and extensively so that they have the knowledge and skills to achieve the service standards and are empowered to work on behalf of customers, whether inside or outside the organization.
- That customer serving processes should be widely understood and consistently improved by motivated and enthusiastic teams of employees across the organization.
- That employees are trained in what it takes to give excellent customer service, and that recognition and reward for service accomplishments are in place sometimes individually, sometimes as a group effort, in particular celebrating the success of employees who go “one step beyond” for their customers.