Improving customer service
Practically every organization in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace claims that it “puts the customer first,” and every year we hear more slogans from companies trying to convince their customers – and themselves – that they really do believe in service.
But the reality is that few companies have a clear, comprehensive plan to achieve a high level of service quality in their organizations. Most are long on platitudes, short on practical solutions. And those with specific plans tend to focus on compliance – requiring employees to adhere to specific standards and policies – rather than developing an organization-wide attitude of service.
The companies that really put service at the top of the list of operational priorities do both: They establish and clearly communicate the ground rules for good service while also working to build a genuine customer-friendly “spirit” in all employees.
This is why companies like IBM, Marriott Hotels, Disney and Federal Express are so profoundly better at customer service than their competitors: They understand that customer service skill development is useless if there isn’t also a general customer-friendly attitude throughout the organization.
A company-wide customer service attitude begins with the organization’s attitude toward its own people.
Unfortunately many managers, consciously or unconsciously, treat frontline service people as if they were insignificant to the overall operations of the organization. They typically don’t see service workers as critical to success or in need of support and development. They tend to accept high turnover as a fact of life.
But in truly service-oriented companies there is a deep understanding that these people have the most impact on the perceptions of the customer. And this emphasis on the people of the organization doesn’t start or stop at the front line.
Service-oriented companies create a service attitude that prevails throughout the company and says, “Whether you serve the customer directly or not, we’re here to help you.” The service culture is locked into the environment of the organization. Even people who never see a customer can do everything they can to help those who do. The clerical worker in the Shipping Department may never talk to a single customer, but he or she should know that the salesperson looks bad if the order doesn’t get out on time.
There are also practical, operational aspects of developing a culture of service. Everything from physical factors like building lay-outs, traffic flows, waiting areas, and facilities to procedural systems and processes the customer has to go through.
There are also the systems that work unseen, but which can affect the customer’s perception of service.
What happens to the dishes after they are taken back to the kitchen is of little concern to the customer because he doesn’t see them anymore. Yet, how they are cleaned and readied for new customers is of critical importance if you are to provide good service at your restaurant. These unseen parts to the service system are just as essential as those that the customer sees.