I was recently working with a client in Toronto where one of the company’s salespeople was emphatic that a certain customer “belonged” to him, not to the organization.
The organization, on the other hand, tried to get the employee to see that while he did serve this particular customer, others in the organization did, too—not only other departments within the company (finance, project managers, shipping, etc) but also other salespeople in other geographic areas .
The bottom line is that a customer can “belong” to both the employee and the organization. Let me give you a perfect example of this. While staying at a hotel, I ordered room service for dinner. Upon entering my room and throughout the seven minutes he spent verifying my order and having me sign my bill, the hotel employee made small talk with me and made me feel welcome by asking if there was anything else he could do to make my stay more enjoyable. For those seven minutes, I was his customer—the customer he was serving and focusing on at that moment—and I was also still the customer of the hotel overall. He wasn’t responsible for taking care of everything I needed during my stay, but for those brief minutes, he understood that his full attention should be on me.
This is a very important concept to teach your employees—how to take ownership in serving “their” customers while recognizing that others in the organization will be serving them as well. Here are 3 ways to do it:
- Discuss with employees what their specific role is with their customers. Get them to identify ways they can build a unique relationship with the customer based on their role.
- Help your employees understand how the same customer can also “belong” to others in the company who serve the customer—the finance department that deals with billing questions; the project managers who may answer questions or provide information; the shipping department that may send materials to them; etc. Your employees need to see the big picture—customers are probably dealing with multiple touch points in your organization, not just them.
- Encourage your employees to partner and communicate with others in the organization who interact with the customer to make sure there is consistency in service and nothing falls through the cracks.
Ideally, we want our employees to take ownership of their relationships with their customers but at the same time recognize that they share this customer with others in the organization. The better we can make the overall customer experience, the more likely we are to build customer loyalty.
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