Growth Insights for CEOs

5 Steps to Building Customer Service into your Company's DNA

Posted by The Chief Outsider

This is an updated version of an article published in Yahoo Voices by Barbara Fowler, CMO and partner at Chief Outsiders

"Make new Friends but Keep the Old Ones" True for Customers too. 

DNA - How to maintain and gain strong relationships with old and new customers

Positive customer service experiences are the key to building and maintaining a business. Multiple studies have repeatedly concluded that gaining new customers is much more difficult than keeping your current customers. A delicate balance must be kept between actions that go above and beyond in retaining customers and actions that focus on immediate costs or promote profitability for an organization. Just as important as this balance is the integration of a high quality customer service approach or mindset throughout all departments of a business.

By encouraging your employees to strive for stellar service with customers and peers or colleagues alike, you raise the bar and promote integrity company-wide.

The Importance of Positive Service

Happy, satisfied customers stick with a business they trust. They also refer friends, family, and co-workers to your business if they’ve had positive experiences. Increased customer satisfaction leads to an increased number of customers and higher revenue for your business. You must plan intelligently to decide who your target customers are, what they need, and how you can work to meet their needs efficiently.

Keeping Commitments is Key

Positive service begins with understanding and honesty. If you can’t provide the world, then don’t offer it. Be direct in what your product or service can offer to aid your customers. In many situations, you cannot please every single customer. Some customers might have expectations of a company that are just not realistic. Reaching the balance of service that preserves your quality and offers great service to all can be challenging. However, with clear communication and expectations from the outset, this process and its outcomes become increasingly more successful. The same approach holds true for employee interactions and satisfaction.  It shouldn’t be difficult to persuade all your employees that they have a part to play in providing excellent customer service, but, at times, it is. With proper strategies, you can effectively motivate your employees to embrace the customer service mindset.

Five Strategies to Develop Global Customer Service

  • Ensure Employee Satisfaction. Happy, satisfied customers begin with happy, satisfied employees. Employees who are engaged with your business’s goals and vision go above and beyond. Employees who are unhappy and disgruntled reach mediocre levels of service at best. Work to implement employee incentive programs and recognition ceremonies if you have not done so already. Employees who feel they have no hope for advancement or professional development can quickly display a public lack of motivation and enthusiasm since they might feel they are just a cog in a machine. Actively work to seek employee feedback and take steps to provide a fulfilling and appreciative work environment. The payoff, in terms of engaged employees and dedicated customers, will be well worth it.
  • Communicate Effectively. Of course a vital part of employee satisfaction is regular and clear communication. Gather your team, and ask them, “Who is the customer?” You might be surprised by the answer. In some departments, employees might not be aware of all their potential customers. Individuals naturally become focused on their tasks or their clients instead of viewing the whole picture. Departments might misinterpret new guidelines or procedures. Administrators Is this clear as to what this is?? might try to establish “closed door” hours. All of these lead to ineffective communication and possible resentment. Remember Stephen Covey’s famous quote: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
  • Establish Employee Collaboration. All too often employees can be insular, focusing on their particular job.  Work to involve your employees in solving the organization’s problems instead of placing blame. Successful integration of customer service depends on cross-department cooperation. Bigger companies, at times, can have issues with organizing collaboration. Changes made in one department can impact another department but may not be recognized by those implementing the changes. Eventually, these oversights can lead to conflict. In smaller companies, employees oftentimes wear many hats. Integrating a customer service philosophy in every area may be easier, but there might be limited resources as well. Along with open communication lines, the solutions for these issues can be addressed in regular, interactive forums that encourage departments to understand the responsibilities and needs of other sectors of a business. Just as employees should work to serve their customers’ needs, they should also work to serve each other.
  • Set Clear Expectations. From the very beginning of employment, individuals need to understand the correlation between positive customer service and the success of the business. Encourage constructive and open lines of communication among team leaders or department heads. Everyone is on the same team and needs to assist that team in achieving victory, whether this is reaching a sales goal, gaining a certain number of positive referrals, or collectively recognizing a team’s efforts. Without a clear set of expectations, employees might have difficulty seeing the global vision of the organization and how each piece has a place in that vision.
  • Survey Your Customers. Honest feedback from your customers at regular intervals works to enhance your business as a whole. Often businesses assume everything is fine with customer or client relationships until that dreaded phone call, email, or meeting where they find out that is not the case. By being proactive through customer surveys, regular contact, and encouraging suggestions for smoother operations, you are working to include your customers in your vision. They become engaged and loyal to an organization that understands their importance and encourages their support.

Truly constructive customer service addresses customers’ needs and your organization’s needs. Clear communication, frequent collaboration, and reliable measures of employee and customer satisfaction are essential for implementing new strategies and smooth operations. By encouraging helpful interactions throughout each facet of your business, you can work to ensure quality, integrity, and success.

Topics: Customer Intimacy, Customer Satisfaction