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Myriad Avenues to Stellar Service

August 13, 2010
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Related Topics: Career Development, Basic Skills Training, Employee Career Development, Featured Article
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Customer service leaders and experts agree that people management is crucial to standout service. But there are multiple ways to marshal employees in the service of great service.

Retailer Zappos.com, for example, insists that workers embody its zany, performance-oriented culture. Although it became a unit of Amazon.com Inc. last year, leaders of both Zappos and Amazon pledged to preserve the Zappos ethos.

About half of a Zappos employee’s performance review is based on how well he or she embodies the culture’s 10 values, such as “Create fun and a little weirdness,” “Deliver WOW through service” and “Do more with less.” Zappos also tries to weed out less-than-devoted service reps at the outset by offering new employees $2,000 to leave. And it gives its agents great latitude in handling customer calls.

A management training program is a cornerstone for superior service at companies like Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which ranks highest in customer satisfaction among rental car providers, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. Nearly all full-time Enterprise employees start out in the program, which lasts roughly a year and covers such topics as sales and marketing, customer service and finance.

The company has tinkered with the training program to cater to Millennials, says Marie Artim, assistant vice president for recruiting. Enterprise is taking informal, on-the-job lessons and making them more formal to help young employees deal with upset customers and handle other aspects of the service experience. “It’s so important to this generation to feel that they’re constantly learning,” she says.

Some companies are combining training and recognition programs to improve their service record. Capital One, for instance, has scored poorly in customer satisfaction among credit card issuers in recent years, according to J.D. Power & Associates. But the company has been working to improve its service, especially for its “highest value” customers. These include customers who spend the most on their credit cards. About 20 months ago, Capital One opened a High Value Servicing Call Center in Richmond, Virginia, that houses roughly 300 agents. They get customized training and can receive honors through a quarterly recognition program for frontline employees. The program honors the top 10 percent in performance and recognizes agents with outstanding performance improvements.

Recognition also is a priority at InterContinental Hotels Group, whose brands include Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza. In July, the company held a weeklong event called “Celebrate Service” to thank frontline service employees through events such as barbecues, staff parties and prize drawings.

Hospitality is one of the fields where customer service comes more naturally to employees. Matt Schuyler, chief human resources officer at Hilton Worldwide, says his industry tends to attract people who love working with others. Hilton tries to build on that intrinsic motivation by sharing stories of outstanding service from years past. The company also encourages employees to use an internal social network to share their experiences, such as tracking down lost bags. Simply doing the job can spur employees to provide excellent service, in much the same way that a golfer lives for the occasional great shot, Schuyler says. “You have one customer-delight moment, and you are just absolutely insatiable for more.”

Workforce Management, August 2010, p. 18 -- Subscribe Now!

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