In order to distinguish you and your business from your competitors, John Tschohl, president and founder of the Service Quality Institute said it is imperative that you create a service culture that runs throughout your company, from frontline employees to the CEO.
Never has customer service been as critical as it is today. That became apparent during the pandemic, when millions of people around the globe relied on businesses that could provide what they needed to survive — personally and professionally — and as quickly as possible.
Tschohl has developed the ‘nine principles of creating a service culture.’ A service culture, he said, focuses on doing whatever it takes to satisfy the customer in order to attract new customers and retain current customers.
To create a service culture, you must take the following steps:
1. Create a relentless strategy. This is a lifetime commitment to customer service. ‘It is a propulsive, self-directed passion to continue to learn, improve and exceed expectations in everything you do,’ Tschohl said. ‘You have to be relentless in serving your customers; it has to be a way of life.’
2. Reduce friction. ‘Remove stupid rules, policies and procedures,’ Tschohl said. Most rules are put in place to prevent customers from ‘taking advantage’ of a company, he added. What most managers and executives do not understand is that those rules actually reduce the chance a customer will do business with you. Advertising and prices might get customers through the doors of your business once, but if they have a problem with a product or service — and if your rules do not allow you to quickly solve it for them — they will not be back. Make it easy for customers to do business with you.
3. Empower employees. ‘Empowerment is the backbone of great service,’ Tschohl said. ‘Everyone must be empowered.’ If a frontline employee — your most important employee — does not have the power to satisfy a customer on the spot, and to the customer’s satisfaction, that customer will be forced to do one of two things: move his/her complaint up the ladder, often all the way to the CEO, which costs a lot in terms of time and money, or he/she will simply never do business with you again.
4. Do everything with speed. ‘People today expect and want speed. You must drastically reduce the time for everything you do.’ That includes everything from answering the phone within the first ring or two to meeting or exceeding the deadline for a customer’s project. If something normally takes three weeks, do it in two. If you say you’ll get back to a customer within a week, do it within days. To focus on speed, all employees must organise, prioritise, manage their time and look for efficiencies.
5. Train your employees. ‘Employees at every level of your business must be trained on customer service every few months,’ Tschohl said. Ninety nine percent of customer interaction takes place with your frontline employees and yet they are the least trained, least empowered and least valued. When you spend the time and money to train your employees, and do it continuously, you will realise a return on that investment that will drive your business to new heights.
6. Remember customers’ names. ‘The most precious things customers have are their names. Our names are precious to us. Call your customers by name whenever you interact with them.’ Doing so lets the customer know that you value them and their business, that you acknowledge and respect them and that they are important to you.
7. Practice service recovery. ‘When you make a mistake, admit it and do whatever it takes to correct it,’ Tschohl said. ‘All employees must practise the four skills of service recovery: act quickly, take responsibility, make an empowered decision and compensate fairly.
8. Reduce costs. ‘Price is critical to all customers,’ Tschohl said. ‘Service leaders are frugal and are always looking for ways to reduce costs. My research shows that service leaders are aggressive at eliminating waste and costs.’ When you reduce costs, you improve your bottom line. To realise even greater benefits, pass at least a portion of those savings on to your customers. It will give you an edge over your competitors.
9. Measure results. ‘In order to keep management passionate about the process of creating a service culture and the financial investment and time required to do so, you must measure the results of your efforts,’ Tschohl said. It is critical that you know where you came from and where you are now. When you can prove that what you are doing is having a positive impact, you will gain support throughout the company. ‘Serving the customer builds the bottom line and long-term growth prospects of an organisation,’ Tschohl said.
John Tschohl is a professional speaker, trainer, and consultant. He is the President and founder of Service Quality Institute with operations in over 40 countries. He is considered to be one of the foremost authorities on service strategy, success, empowerment and customer service.