How to Get Your Employees Obsessed with Customer Service
When the phone system went down at Rackspace, a lone support agent leapt into action. He tweeted his personal phone number and let customers know they could use it to call him for support. Other agents soon joined him and tweeted their numbers too.
Nobody told them to do it. It wasn't part of a scripted procedure. They didn't even ask permission. They just did it.
This story shows the type of service that's possible when you have a customer-focused culture. The kind where employees are absolutely obsessed with service.
Hi everyone! My name is Jeff Toister. I'm an author, consultant, and trainer who has appeared in ten customer service training videos on lynda.com. In 2016, I was named one of the Top 30 Customer Service Professionals in the World by Global Gurus, one of ICMI's Top 50 Thought Leaders to Follow on Twitter, and one of HDI's Top 25 Thought Leaders in Technical Support and Service Management.
Today, it's my pleasure to share some secrets that elite companies use to encourage employees to do amazing things.
These secrets are from my new book, The Service Culture Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Employees Obsessed with Customer Service. It's due out April 4, 2017, but you can read the rest of the Rackspace story by downloading the first chapter.
Over the next 60 minutes, I'm going to share three steps you can take to get your employees obsessed with customer service, too!
For now, I have a question for you. What is one company known for outstanding customer service? Please leave a comment with the first company that comes to mind and tell me why.
Part 1: Create a Customer Service Vision
The first step to getting your employees obsessed with customer service is to create a customer service vision. This is a shared definition of outstanding customer service that acts like a compass to point everyone in the same direction.
Let's look at the sporting goods retailer REI as an example.
REI's customer service vision does double duty as its mission statement: "We inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship."
When my wife and I went to REI to purchase camping equipment for a backpacking trip, we were assisted by an associate who was passionate about backpacking and was eager to share his knowledge. He understood he wasn't there to sell us camping gear; he was there to help us enjoy the outdoors!
Contrast this with another sporting goods retailer, where a disinterested employee had virtually no knowledge of camping equipment. All she did was point towards the camping equipment aisle and suggest "you might find something over there."
Do you see the difference?
REI's employees are obsessed with service in part because they have a customer service vision that gives them a shared purpose. To the employee at the other store, her job was just a paycheck.
You can develop a customer service vision for your organization, department, or team, too. This handy guide will take you through the process step-by-step, but the final product should have three characteristics:
- Simple and easily understood. (I prefer one sentence.)
- Reflects both who we are now and who we want to be.
Pro-Tip: Companies struggle to write a customer service vision because they overthink the process and create something that doesn't feel genuine. Think of the customer service vision as a clear and accurate description of the service you deliver on your best day. The vision can inspire employees to hit that mark more consistently.
Part 2: Engage Your Employees
Let's take a moment to define employee engagement. Here's my definition:
An engaged employee is someone who deliberately contributes to organizational success.
Notice there are two keys to getting an employee engaged under this definition:
- The employee must understand what makes the organization successful.
- The employee must be committed to helping.
The first key starts with creating the customer service vision we discussed in Part 1. But it's not enough just to have one — employees need to know about it!
JetBlue has a great customer service vision: Inspire Humanity. They've led the J.D. Power North American Airline rankings for 12 consecutive years in part because of their highly engaged employees.
How do they do it?
They constantly talk about inspiring humanity with their crewmembers (i.e. employees). New crewmembers attend an orientation where they learn about the organizational culture. Each JetBlue location receives a quarterly visit from an executive who discusses the company culture with crewmembers. Leaders are expected to talk about inspiring humanity in team and one-on-one meetings.
Customer-focused companies get their employees obsessed with service because they talk about it all the time.
You can do the same thing by building an employee engagement plan. This step-by-step guide can help you, but the goal should be to ensure that every single employee can give a consistent answer to these three questions:
- What is our customer service vision?
- What does it mean?
- How do I personally contribute?
The first two questions get at organizational success. An engaged employee knows what it takes to make the organization succeed.
The last question gets at commitment. Employees who can answer question three understand the link between their job and the overall customer service vision.
Pro-Tip: Many leaders struggle with employee engagement because they mistake it for a rewards and incentives plan. Unfortunately, rewards and incentives don't help employees make a deep commitment to service. I've spoken with thousands of customer service employees, and one of the most consistent themes I hear is customer service professionals want to help their customers. You'll find they're very motivated if you can help them do just that.
Part 3: Set Good Goals
Companies often use goals and metrics to drive employee behavior. Unfortunately, some goals wind up encouraging the wrong behavior.
Here's an example from a technical support team:
Anyone who averages a 95 percent rating on the customer satisfaction survey will receive a $100 bonus at the end of the month.
Can you guess what happened?
Support agents stopped worrying about helping customers and started focusing on earning the cash! One common trick was cherry picking easy cases while transferring upset customers to the company's Tier 2 support team so they didn't risk getting a low survey score.
Another support team approached it much differently. The team had an average customer satisfaction rating of 80 percent across all support tiers, so they set this goal that was shared by the entire team:
We will achieve an 85 percent average rating on the customer satisfaction survey by the end of the month.
This team easily achieved their goal by working together to solve customer issues as quickly as possible.
These two teams highlight the difference between good and bad goals. Here are three keys:
- Good goals focus attention on the customer. Bad goals divert attention.
- Good goals promote teamwork. Bad goals reward selfishness.
- Good goals rely on internal motivation. Bad goals rely on rewards.
Employees at customer-focused companies are obsessed with service in part because they have goals that point them in the right direction, rather than distract them from customer-focus.
You can use this approach to create your own goals by following the same three good goal criteria.
Pro-Tip: Just like the wheels on your car need to be aligned to keep it pointed in the right direction, your customer service operation needs to be aligned, too! Setting good goals is just one point of alignment. The others are hiring, training, empowerment, and leadership. You can use this short assessment to test your organization's customer service alignment.
Sometimes, people look at these steps and feel there's something missing. To many customer service leaders, it just seems too simple:
- Create a customer service vision
- Engage your employees
- Set good goals
There's got to be something more, right?
Yes, there's always more to do. For example, many customer service leaders get everyone on their team to sign up for the Customer Service Tip of the Week email. It's one tip, via one email, once per week. I created it because a client asked me for an easy way to help her continuously reinforce outstanding service with her employees.
That's the real secret that leaders in customer-focused companies understand. Getting your employees obsessed with customer service isn't a one-time project. It's a never-ending journey that you're always working on.
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