If transparency has made it more challenging to differentiate the what, and the focus is on the how, then how do we deliver the how? Confused? Let me translate…..
By “the what” I mean products and services.
Technology has changed how we receive information. Mobility through multiple devices has changed when we receive information. As a result, we can receive high quality information anywhere at any time. And because this data is so transparent, a benchmark of information can not only be seen, it can be immediately matched. So information from competing companies selling similar products or services (their what) looks the same to the customer. And when everything looks the same, you can’t differentiate.
By “the how” I mean the customer experience.
As a result of everything looking the same, companies realise that differentiation comes from how they deliver their product (or service). They are focusing on customer service and they are changing processes in order to deliver new levels of service that is required in the digital age. With customer expectations at unprecedented heights, customer satisfaction is more important now than ever.
So how do companies deliver a genuine customer experience that allows them to differentiate?
Companies need to appreciate that their people are their brand ambassadors and their people are the ones responsible for delivering great customer service.
Customer service that stands out from the rest is customer service that makes the customer feel important. Customer service that stands out from the rest is personalised and genuine. Customer service that stands out from the rest requires people going above and beyond and having a genuine concern for their customer.
Unless those people are motivated, engaged and positively committed to their company’s brand promise, then customer service won’t be achieved and that company will struggle to differentiate in the right way.
So how can leaders create a workforce of engaged and happy staff who love their role in delighting customers?
It starts with the leaders and their ability to create and maintain a service orientated culture. Leaders need to champion the vision of delivering exceptional customer service and creating the internal value systems to support it. But more than that, it starts with leaders thinking of their people as their internal customers who also have high expectations of experience and service.
Cultivating a happy workforce where people feel important and valued starts by recruiting people whose personal values align to the company’s brand promise and corporate values. Recruiting the right skill set for the role is important, but in cases where the role isn’t rocket science, the skills for the role can largely be taught. What can’t be taught is someone’s attitudes and behaviour (because that stems from deep rooted beliefs, experiences and values). So don’t spend too much time in the detail of their CV but concentrate on ensuring cultural alignment and making sure that the person potentially joining the company is a good fit emotionally.
Transparency is expected today. Be clear with all people what they are there to do and how their role aligns to the overall company objective. Be open with how they are performing and how their performance is being measured and when. Managers must ensure that there are no surprises during performance reviews.
Recognise your people. Acknowledge, praise, reward and congratulate your people. Not only for their results but for their attempts and efforts. On top of remuneration and monetary rewards, it’s fundamental to tap onto people’s emotional side and make them feel valued. Also, recognise them in the way that makes them feel good and which aligns to their own personal style (which may be in a one on one meeting or may be recognition in front of the whole company).
Companies should give their people the tools they need to perform their role and be happy in their role. This includes learning and development but it should also include the leaders’ time. Leaders should be available to listen to their people and hear their challenges and also their ideas. This will foster an innovative environment by creating the freedom to challenge the status quo. But it also creates the opportunity for emotional connections which strengthens the feeling of being valued.
So before focusing on customer-centric processes that will deliver great customer service, company leaders should first look at their people when addressing how to deliver great customer service. Because their people are no longer there to talk about the ‘what’ (that is already known through the internet of everything) but they are there to deliver the what in a way that is better than anyone else. And who is going to care enough to delight your customers? Only people who really love their job.