Updated: May 18
Oftentimes I think how easy things would be if we simply did what we say. This thought applies to every single area in our lives, and also when it comes to how we approach the way we deal with Customers.
How many times did you hear “The Customer is who pays our bills”, or “We put Customers first”, or “The Customer is always right”? I bet you have seen different variations of this concept hanging on the walls of many Companies and, chances are, also in yours.
But, if we think about it, do we believe on this idea? Are our actions aligned with this clear concept? If we are honest with ourselves we will find the real, deceiving answer.
We all deal with Customers (external and internal) and, if we would ‘do what we say’ our main focus would be to serve our Customers, treat them well and make sure they are satisfied with our performance, so they could not think of not doing business with us.
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos calls it ‘Customer obsession’.
This is valid for you, no matter whether you are the responsible for the Customer Satisfaction in your organization, or you lead a team providing internal services. Remember, we all deal with Customers, external or internal.
But this is easier said than done and, therefore, we do not follow it as we should.
If we want to (re)focus our Team’s activities and behaviors to get closer to the ‘doing what we say’ related to our Customers, I’m providing below three ideas that can help.
Idea #1: Personal relationships is everything.
There is a fundamental rule in business: “People do business with people they know, like and trust”. The question is: how are we applying it to our specific organization?
Good personal relationships make wonders in business.
I have seen situations where with a good relationship with the Customer (the person) made all the difference on how a big problem was managed and addressed. And, the polar opposite, seemingly insignificant details on our commercial relationship with one Customer were constantly hitting the senior management’s attention.
How are the personal relationships between our employees (and ourselves) and our Customers’ counterparts? Are we being perceived by our Customers as people they know, like and trust?
Here are some actions we can take to improve our Customer relationships:
1. Identify who in our organization is (are) the only people who will be in touch with the external Customers.
When a Customer calls (or writes, or steps in) we usually see that the first available employee interacts with her. And that employee may not be skilled, trained, or senior enough to make that Customer interaction. He will only ‘do his best’ to handle the situation.
We are, then, sometimes surprised when a Customer escalates a seemingly unimportant issue.
2. Ensure appropriate skill/training/seniority for the individuals facing the Customer.
I.e.: do they have Empathy, Commitment, Accountability?.
3. Standardize the answer.
Every Customer-facing person should have similar approach aligned with
the Company culture.
4. Do not leave it to chance.
Specific Customer Relationship trainings pay off big time.
Consider it even if you are not a ‘call center’.
5. Align the Customer relationship with the values of the organization, and the type of business you’re in.
I.e.: difference between a Legal Consultancy vs. a fashion shop for teenagers.
Idea #2: Act with a real intention to help.
We all like to find a genuine person on the other side.
When we act as Customers, we seek for situations where the commercial transaction is done with someone who is really interested in us: someone who treat us as human beings who want something to improve our situation, being that a product, service, or help to readdress a problem.
And we are clearly able to identify the situations where we are treated as genuinely and sincerely as we deserve. So, our Customers.
How is our organization treating our Customers, the person who interact with us?
Are we treating them ‘call-center’ style, where our contact point for the Customer looks to follow a ‘procedure’, and they are not responsible to fix the problem?
Or, on the contrary, they:
Take ownership of the problem and accountability to come back with the solution.
Commit and over deliver.
Follow up until the issue is closed and the Customer is satisfied?
The employees facing the Customer are an undervalued asset for the organization.
Let’s give them all our attention, support and skills to make sure they treat our Customers as we would like to be treated (or better).
Idea #3. Take Customer complaints as priorities for every single department.
Do you hear individuals in your organization saying
Employee turn-over is HR responsibility, or
Customer delivered quality is not good because of the Quality department?
In this case, they may be saying that Customer satisfaction is responsibility of the Customer-facing department (Customer Office, Program Manager, Sales rep. or alike).
And this is absolutely wrong.
We all have our part of responsibility, so we all have to work for our Customers, as many Company’s values state.
Everybody is responsible for Customer satisfaction, not only the Customer Office; as everyone is responsible for Quality, not only the Quality department.
This has to be reflected in internal action plans, objectives and reward system.
I’m sure these ideas are not new for you, and they are working, up to some extent, in your organization. But, as always, there is room to improve what we have.
Your commitment to review and refine these ideas in your organization will determine the level of the Customer satisfaction you will have, being either internal or external Customers.