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Improving Customer Service

In order to “change the paradigm for customer service” in your organization, we suggest a multi-pronged approach that transforms all parts of the organization in parallel: customers, employees, management and alignment.

August 8, 2013

Dear Stepping Stones:

In order to “change the paradigm for customer service” in your organization, we suggest a multi-pronged approach that transforms all parts of the organization in parallel: customers, employees, management and alignment.

Customer Service: Nurturing Relationships

Customer service is about building relationships with customers. A critical aspect of relationships is trust. There is a bicycle shop in New England that offers test rides to potential customers. When a customer offers to leave a deposit or ID as surety for the bicycle, he is politely turned down. The company is demonstrating that it trusts the customer and finds that the customer is more inclined to reciprocate. Sales are brisk and there are very few instances when a bicycle is not returned.

In the long run, this type of trust breeds loyalty, which in turn fosters the perception of a positive customer service experience. Is there similar low-hanging fruit in your business in which a simple yet meaningful change in approach might breed trust with your customer? 

Employees in the Value Zone

In his book Employees First, Customers Second, Vineet Nayar, vice chairman of HCL Technologies, writes that customer service falls into the “value zone.” Nayar describes how he changed his company’s culture and dramatically improved customer service by turning the traditional management pyramid on its head. Nayar made managers and the enabling functions (human resources, finance, training) accountable to those who create value. He implemented a system for tracking the support given to workers in the “value zone. As the support from the organization increased, so did customer satisfaction. The principle behind Nayar’s philosophy is that the customer experience will mirror the employee experience.

Management Sets the Tone

A positive work experience will encourage employees to demonstrate the desired values and behaviours. However, this experience will only be felt if, and only if, those values are clearly communicated by management and then interpreted, rewarded and consistently modeled by senior management – consistently being the operative term. Management will also need the courage to be intolerant of behaviors that fall outside of the values.

Alignment

Before proceeding with the above tactics, you will want to verify that the values you have chosen are the right ones for your organization. Are they aligned with your vision? Are they core values, aspirational values or merely “permission-to-play” values that do not provide the necessary clarity your employees need. You should then measure the alignment between those values, the behaviors demonstrated today, and the culture embedded in your existing people systems: recruitment, orientation, development, performance management and rewards. Your plan of action will become very clear with this type of assessment. We recommend two books that should help: “Building A Values-Driven Organization,” by RichardBarrett and “The Advantage” by Patrick Lencioni. Both have accessible tools to help you in this regard.

If you intend to develop a high-performing organization that excels at customer service, looking at your values is an excellent starting point. This approach is not for the faint of heart because it only works if everyone goes all in. The rewards, however, are worth it.

Source: Dominique Giguère and Jed DeCory, Currents Group, Toronto, Ontario, Aug. 6, 2013

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.