In this two-part blog series, I’ll provide tips on how you can strengthen your service team.
Here, in Part I, we’ll take a look at the steps you can take to make it easier for your employees to provide great service to your customers or clients. In Part II, I’ll explain what you can do to keep your employees motivated and inspired to deliver great service.
We love receiving great customer service. That’s no surprise. But did you know that great service can actually elicit a physical reaction? A recent American Express Service Study found that 63 percent of its 1,620 respondents said they felt an increased heart rate when they just thought about great service. And for 53 percent of those studied, great service caused them to have the same cerebral response that results from feeling loved. The trick, of course, is developing a customer service team that has the skills to provide such an overwhelming reaction amongst your customers.
The truth is, in many of today’s industries and many of the world’s biggest companies, service can be downright disappointing. We spend hours on hold when we just need an answer to a simple question. Store clerks seem angry with us when we tell them a mistake was made. The list could go on and on.
If you want to combat this at your business, you have to make providing great service a point of pride for your employees. Service is taking action to create value for someone else—and when understanding becomes the driving force for your staff and your organization, everyone can win.
Read on for five tips on how you can strengthen your team by making it easier for them to provide great service:
Eradicate cumbersome policies and procedures. One time I was dining at a luxury resort in California. The waiter explained that there was a special menu that night, spotlighting several of the chef’s signature dishes. But my guests were vegetarians and had nothing to choose from on the menu, and I had been craving a particular salmon salad. So we asked to order from the regular menu. Obviously uncomfortable, the waiter whispered, “If you go back to your room and order room service, then you can order the salmon salad or anything else on the [room service] menu, but I can’t serve you those choices here tonight.”
In trying to spotlight the chef’s menu, the restaurant had created a major roadblock—the waiter wasn’t given permission to serve! Like this waiter, most frontline staff members are taught to follow policies and procedures and are hesitant to “break the rules.” Yet some rules should be broken, changed, or at least seriously bent from time to time.
Teach them to solicit customer feedback at various points of contact. Asking, “Is there anything we can do better for you the next time?” accomplishes two important objectives. First,
you gather valuable ideas. Second, you get the customer thinking about doing repeat business…the next time.
Even if a customer doesn’t have a recommendation, trust that they’ll be glad your employee cared enough to ask. When an employee engages a customer in this way, it’s yet another way to say, “We value you. We want to provide you with the best possible service and we would be delighted to serve you again.”
When service drops, help them find ways to UP their service. At Deer Valley Ski Resort in Utah, the staff helps its patrons find items they’ve accidentally dropped from the ski lift and then gives them a coupon for a free hot chocolate. At a new Italian restaurant, the ovens broke down on opening night, so the restaurant served an elegant buffet of cold dishes and plenty of wine…all free!
Many years ago, I had a bad experience on an international airline. I wrote in to complain. They sent me back a very nice letter with an unexpected $100 voucher attached. Years later, I am still a frequent flyer.
These are great examples of businesses going the extra mile for their customers, and it’s important that you help your employees develop this kind of thinking. In your next staff meeting, review a few customer service recovery interactions, even those that went well. Then, have your staff brainstorm ways the recovery could have been improved.
Train them to tell customers what they will do. Of course, the first step when a mistake has been made, or even just when a customer perceives that a mistake was made, is to apologize. Once you’ve apologized, provide any useful information you can about what will happen next. Ask them if they have any questions and answer them to the best of your ability. If you don’t have an answer, let them know what steps you’re going to take to find it.
And finally, show you are sincere about your commitment to do well in the areas the customer values. At the very least, you can say, “I’m going to make sure everyone in the company hears your story. We don’t want this to happen again.” When you express the company’s desire to improve, you start on the path to rebuilding its credibility with the customer.
Emphasize service with new hires. Unfortunately, many company orientation programs are far from uplifting. There are usually basic introductions and inductions, but they don’t connect new employees to the company or the service culture in a welcoming and motivating way.
LUX* Maldives structures its orientation program around service. They don’t waste time boring new hires with policies and procedures. Instead, 60 percent of new hire orientation is about service and providing a quality guest experience. And orientation is just the beginning of a LUX* employee’s service education. In 2014-2015, LUX* provided an average of 75 service training hours to its employees. And of course, as employee training has improved, so have guest satisfaction scores. LUX* Resorts & Hotels has a Market Matrix Guest Satisfaction Percentage group average of 90.9 percent.
Developing service-minded, service-driven employees will be worth every ounce of energy you put into it. When you take steps to build a strong service team, everyone is fully engaged, encouraging each other, improving the customer experience, and making the company more successful.