Marjan Steneker posted a comment to my last post, Exceed The Need, and asked me how I thought the dilemma between limited cash flow and legendary customer service could be reconciled. Here´s how I would go about it.First, I assess my business environment. Who are my competitors? What level of customer service do they offer? If I´m starting a plumbing business and the standard in my community is that customers will be given a four-hour window when my plumbers show up, can I cut that to three hours? Two hours?
Once I´ve assessed both the external environment and my resources, then I´m going to create my customer service plan. I´m going to seek input from my employees, from my friends, my minister, anyone else who´s been a customer.
Third, once I´ve created the plan and shared it with my employees, then I´m going to implement it.
I will have built in some feedback mechanism so that I can hear from my customers as to how well (or not) it´s working. Restaurants use comment cards, retailers use secret shoppers, car dealers use telephone surveys.
On a regular basis, perhaps quarterly, I´m going to evaluate how the plan is working. I´m going to involve my employees and perhaps some of my customers in helping me to do that. We´re going to attempt to discover what we´re doing right, what needs to be changed, what challenges we face in delivering great customer service, and what additional resources we need.
But Glenn, you haven´t answered the question yet! Marjan mentioned a limited cash flow. My answer is, I can usually do the entire process above for the cost of a few pizzas, some long-distance telephone calls (if I have employees and customers in distant locations) and perhaps some printing. The resource I´ll need the most is time, not money, because I need to think through each step of the process.
For example, I can invite my employees to stick around after work and have a meeting limited to one hour. I´ll bring the pizza or other snacks and I´ll also bring my vision for my business. I´ll share that vision with them and ask them for their input. I´ll modify my vision based on their input because then it will be their vision too. I may make assignments asking them to each talk to three people and get their opinion on customer service. I may ask several to research our competition. (This is the first step, "assess"??, above.)
Perhaps we´ll have a second meeting a week later to report back. Even though I´m the owner or CEO, I´ll facilitate the meeting, but I´ll do more listening than talking. Future meetings move through the remaining steps above.
If I run a business of 150 employees spread around the world, I´ll rely more on the telephone, e-mail, and face-to-face meetings when they occur. I may even start an internal blog for a small group of staff who are interested in superlative customer service.
Finally, how much does it cost to insist that your employees greet each customer with a smile? How much does it cost to insist that your employees treat each customer courteously? Even though I´m limited on cash flow, I´ll bet I can design a recognition system that rewards employees who go above and beyond the call of duty.
Bottom line, if you don´t offer legendary customer service, as Marjan calls it, you lose more customers than if you did offer it. Acquiring new customers is three to five times more expensive than selling to your existing customers. Now that´ll limit your cash flow!
Here is a simple but powerful rule – always give people
more than what they expect to get.
–NELSON BOSWELL (quoted from Marjan´s Web site, Customerservicepoint.com/)