This guest post is from Ian Beeson, managing director of Blanchard International, Australia.
Every interaction we have with a service provider leaves us with some sort of emotional response, from neutral and bland to deep anger and frustration at one extreme, joy and delight at the other.
We’ve all felt the stress associated with a provider whose customer experience is unresponsive and sometimes downright antagonistic—and the health effects of stress are well documented.
So are you killing your customers with stress and hostility? What are some straightforward steps you can take to nurture their long-term well-being? And why should you care?
Much has been written on the profit impact of customer service. Ken Blanchard sometimes describes profit as “the applause you get for delivering Legendary Service to your customers.” But there is a more simple, subtle, and powerful aspect to customer care. Customers will naturally move toward experiences that meet their needs and align with their values (see Susan Fowler’s book Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work—and What Does for more on this). Consistently creating these experiences—and building a reputation for service so good that it’s legendary—is just a matter of a little CARE:
Culture of Service
Your customers and their needs should be at the heart of your organisation’s values, rituals, stories, and celebrations. Ensure that your people are focused on customer well-being first and foremost and eliminate processes that don’t serve your customers. Celebrate and reward behavior that is service oriented and redirect any behaviour that detracts from it.
Listen to your customers. Take the time and interest to really get to know them, what they need, how they prefer to communicate, and so on. But more than this—you can help build their competence by asking yourself What do I know that would be valuable if I shared it? And remember that in order to be able to serve your customers, you must be in good physical and mental shape—your customers are depending on it!
Once you understand your customers’ needs, you need to respond to them in a way that demonstrates a consistent, genuine interest in serving them. This is best demonstrated when a situation arises that has the potential to disappoint the customer—if you keep a positive attitude, you will have a better chance of resolving the issue. When necessary, apologise sincerely for the problem. Remember, from the customer’s perspective you are the company. Listen to their concerns and work with them to develop a resolution strategy. Most customers will return if a challenge can be addressed promptly.
If you are in a service delivery role—and nearly everyone is—you probably have more control over the customer service experience than you realise! Blanchard’s EDGE assessment instrument, which compares individuals’ perceptions of their level of empowerment with the perceptions of their supervisor, routinely reports that people could be taking far more initiative and ownership than they do currently. Stay true to your organisation’s vision, mission, and values, and you can do a lot to build customer loyalty by delighting your customers just a little more with each interaction.
In their book Legendary Service: The Key is to CARE, coauthors Ken Blanchard, Kathy Cuff, and Vicki Halsey write, “Legendary Service means consistently delivering ideal service that keeps customers coming back and results in a competitive edge for your organization.” We experience amazing turnarounds when we help clients implement these practices in their companies.
Try it yourself—add a little more CARE for your customers today and see the difference it can make!
About the Author
Ian Beeson is the managing director of Blanchard International, Australia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org