The ultimate expression of our Purpose is to serve –ourselves, family, friends and customers/clients and the wider community. In business, serving customers is the lifeblood of the organisation and successful businesses, small or large, make customers their central focus and a part of their team.
Having a customer service policy and a set of procedures is essential and helpful. But behavioural strategies will not lead to long term sustainable business. An integrated model upon which all of your CS is built is needed.
In this blog, I offer for your consideration, a fully integrated customer service strategy for your organisation. One that will be the basis for exceeding expectations, developing long term relationships, ensuring your customers become advocates and referral partners and that you are “first call” in their hearts and minds.
The model builds from the bottom up. It is heirachical and developmental and even cyclic. (I acknowledge the influence and work of Kevin W. McCarthy and his book The On-Purpose Business for the basis of this idea).
Strong alignment comes when each team member knows that they are significant and that their contribution is meaningful to the Purpose of the organisation. They understand how and why they are making a difference and why and how they are serving customers. When the Purpose of the Individual is aligned to the Purpose of the business/organisation (PI<->PB) all customer service functions from a position of shared interests, outcomes and solutions. Poor customer service is a result of non-alignment of Purpose, poor planning, an inadequately trained team, inefficient and ineffective systems and a lack of clear criteria from which to measure organisational and customer service performance.
Without a clear strategic plan and engagement of both internal and external customers to the plan, customer service will be ad hoc, situational and left to chance. Both staff and customers not only need to know why the business exists (Purpose), they also need to understand where the business is headed (Vision), how the Vision will be executed (Missions) and the “lived” values that will govern the behaviour and decision making in the business. Most often, the strategic planning is seen as the domain of the management team and any “sharing” of this is often top down without true engagement of the team. Everyone in the organisation, from the board room to the mail room needs to be engaged in the strategic direction of the business at some level. Ensure that you take time to communicate “what is going on” in the organisation. Importantly, every team member will need their own strategic plan including their professional and personal goals- all of which will be in alignment with the business.
Every organisation/business needs the right staff to implement the Purpose and the Strategy. For customer service to be effective, each staff member will need to know how their Purpose and Plan aligns with that of the organisation and with the customers they serve.
They will also have a mindset of ‘owning their own business’ within the business. Questions like “How is your business going?”or “What is happening is you business today?”will engender and encourage a sense of ownership, accountability and responsibility in each team member. In this way, each staff member will have a sense of high belonging and the potential for making a significant contribution to the job. Such engagement will result in high Mojo and high Mastery as they seek to add value to the both internal and external stakeholders.
At the end of the day, the staff are the major drivers of profit. Happy people make happy staff, make happy teams make happy customers, (make happy shareholders). Loyal and committed employees increase productivity and customer service performance.
Without effective and efficient customer service systems (processes and procedures) the positive impact of alignment of Purpose, engaging staff in the strategic direction of the business and having high peforming teams, will be lost. Effective systems help the organisation /business function by ensuring that work is done effeciently and effectively.
This will include customer service systems and processes. When was the last time you reviewed your customer service policy and procedures? Does each member of the team have clearly written down steps and do they know the standards by which quality CS is judged?
How have you addressed CS in your induction of new staff? What systems do you currently have that are working well and not working well? What needs to be changed or dropped? What new CS systems do you need to put in place where your business will be “first call” in the mind of your customers.
The previous four levels of Significance, Strategy, Staff and Systems position and support the business/organisation for success. This is the level where performance is measured and all direct customer contact takes place. Success is not measured by a singular KPI. (Other criteria will include Financials; CS; Staff morale; Quality of products and services; Market share; and Ability to compete with competitors).
When customers are being served and satisfied in alignment with the organisational Purpose, success is attributable to the ground work laid by the previous four levels. Poor customer service can be tracked back through each of the proceeding levels in the CS Strategy.
To what extent do all team members know what the needs and wants are of the customers they serve? How well do they understand how the products and services offered by the business meets their customers’ needs? Are the words customers used to describe the products and services offered in alignment with how the business wants to position itself in the minds of customers? As an organisation, are you clear about where to invest your resources for long term performance improvement? And finally, how well are all your staff trained (not just sales and marketing staff) to sell your products and services to ensure that you gain and maintain your customers/clients?
I will conclude by referring to my opening statement. The ultimate reason for any service model and HR strategy is to enhance service to customers/clients. Many organisations and the people within them become so focussed on the day-to-day operations that they forget this. All previous levels of the Purpose Centred Customer Service Model build to create the success and performance that serves customers. That means all staff will have a clear knowledge of their customers, a vision for who their future customers could be, knowledge of how their service benefits customers and a clear understanding of why customers do business with the business. Do you need to give more focus to your CS strategy?
© Dr Edward Gifford, November 2012