Essential And Guiding Questions That Are Aligned With Lesson-Level Objectives Building Your Infrastructure to Sustain Your Service Strategy

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Building Your Infrastructure to Sustain Your Service Strategy

Have you ever wondered why so many customer service strategies fail or fail before they even get started? I mean think about it: how many companies have you trusted where you have consistently (the operative word here is “constantly”) received a positive and memorable buying experience?

The kind of buying experience that you will remember and influence you to return to that company. So how many companies have you done?

I want to make two points here:

1) I bet you took a long time before thinking of a particular company. I highly doubt that a flood of companies cross your mind when you think about that question, and

2) I bet you can count on one hand the number of companies you’ve done…and I’ll bet there are a few fingers left. The sad truth is, consistently receiving good customer service is the exception, not the norm. So why? I can say many reasons, but without a doubt the biggest one is the lack of organizational infrastructure.

Customer Service Infrastructure:

Customer service infrastructure is an organizational structure, which includes: systems, processes, policies and procedures that facilitate and support a continuous focus on the customer.

It all starts by building your organization from the customer backwards: not the other way around. An organizational structure that ensures a continuous, uninterrupted and laser-like focus on the customer. An infrastructure is needed because when it comes to a customer service strategy there is a distinct and marked difference between implementation and execution.

Implementation is about “getting ready” to launch a strategy, where execution is about consistently performing the desired pattern. Take for example a soda promotion at your local convenience store. The implementation phase will include activities such as: ordering the appropriate level of product, obtaining promotional signage, advertising, perhaps creating a store incentive program, and communicating and training staff. in the store. Once the soda promotion begins, the execution phase begins.

Implementation includes: ensuring signage remains fresh (and up!) throughout the duration of the promotion, product displays remain full and attractive, inventory levels are maintained, and most importantly, employees of store consistently (there’s that word again) promote and sell the product to every customer every time they enter the store – not sometimes, every time!

Just imagine how much more soda shops would sell if they went beyond the strategy implementation stage? Good companies implement well, but great companies excel in implementation and in particular implementation. The ability to consistently execute is what separates the great companies from the good companies.

Unfortunately, most companies fail miserably in execution. Why? Because a customer service strategy unlike a product strategy is process driven versus program driven, and a process needs a support system to succeed.

Paradigm Shift:

To launch and sustain a successful customer service strategy the first step in the process requires an organization to make a drastic paradigm shift. Most organizations are program oriented vs. process. Programs have start and end dates.

Metrics are created and results are easily tracked. And at the end of the program period you know whether it was a success or not because you can clearly see the results. A customer service strategy on the other hand takes time before you can quickly see results.

Customer service is a process not a program. And a process that requires patience and discipline. Because of this programmatic mentality in many companies, patience and discipline are unfortunately not part of their DNA.

I want to introduce 10 key infrastructure components needed to facilitate, support and sustain a long-term customer service strategy. Notice that I used the words: long term and sustain, not short-term and program.

If you want your company to stand out for great customer service then you need to think in terms of process not program.

Components of Customer Service Infrastructure:

1. Commitment:

You have to make a conscious decision – you can commit and stand for customer service or not. You can’t be half pregnant with a customer service strategy.

Companies that stand for customer service have every fiber of their organization focused on the customer; it is part of their corporate DNA.

Customer service is their north star that provides direction, guidance and dictates behavior within the organization.

2. Appoint a Champion:

You need to drive ownership of customer service throughout the organization: every person at every level.

Ultimately, everyone should own the customer, not just your frontline team that interacts with your customers – everyone! But as you can well imagine, ownership will take time for your organization to learn, and in most cases it can take years. So in the interim, until you achieve customer service nirvana, you need to appoint a Champion within your organization to carry the flag, lead the charge, and drive the process.

The individual you assign must have a high-level position of respect and power within your organization to make things happen. The higher the level, the easier the path, because it sends a strong message to your organization that customer service is important.

3. Identify your moments of Truth:

Moments of truth or “touch points,” are the points of contact a customer has with your company.

Customers often make both conscious and unconscious value judgments about each of the instances of reality they encounter. These value judgments are then recorded on a mental report card in your company.

Identify each of your company’s instances of reality: stores, employees, phone answering, delivery trucks, etc., then develop a strategy for each that will ensure a consistent world-class customer service experience.

4. Evaluation: Policies and Procedures – Systems and Processes:

Outward thinking versus inward thinking: start with the customer and work backwards.

Do your policies and procedures serve the customer or your organizational bureaucracy? Are your policies and procedures customer friendly? Are your systems designed to make it easier for you to do business or for your customers to do business with you? Are your processes putting your frontline employees in a position to succeed or fail in the eyes of your customers?

5. Develop Meaningful Metrics:

If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it! Meaningful, meaning metrics that your frontline employees have direct control or influence over.

Things like: store sales, retail appearance, mystery shopper scores, and customer comments are meaningful frontline metrics that drive customer service behavior.

6. Score your Metrics:

Whatever metrics you choose, communicate them throughout the organization through a visible scoreboard. If your business includes retail stores, buy one of those big white poster-boards, the kind kids use for school projects. These white-boards can be purchased at any office supply store.

A scoreboard is important because it lets employees know what is important and how to achieve it. We tell our employees to go out and win, but we always keep the rules of how to win and the score secret. Bosses know what the score is – their scoreboard is the P&L or management reports. Like sports, keeping score makes it more: interesting, engaging, challenging and fun. Who plays golf or tennis and doesn’t keep score?

7. Training and Skill Development:

You must prepare for victory otherwise you are just practicing. And in today’s unforgiving market practice it just won’t cut it. The phrase: “The customer is always right” does not motivate employees because it does not tell them what to do for the customer. This phrase is more of a bumper sticker than an operating principle.

Training and skill development ensures that your employees are prepared to succeed.


8. Communication:

Communication is the life blood of any strategy. You should never over communicate. As with infrastructure component #2: Appoint a Champion, assign one person to own the communications strategy across the organization, from headquarters to the store level. You need to drive communication in every corner of your organization. It can provide focus and align activities. Talk about things like:

* Sales results * Mystery shopper mark

* What worked / didn’t work * Customer comments: good and bad

* Performance expectations * Areas for improvement

* Lessons learned * Customer service stories

9. Recognize and Reward:

Identify and reward the behaviors you want to see more of. Why? Because what is recognized and rewarded will be repeated.

But be sure to recognize and reward only the right performance and behavior. And remember, recognize and reward results, not efforts. At the end of the day it’s the results that matter.

10. Celebrate Success:

Consistently delivering a great customer buying experience is difficult. If it’s easy, good customer service is usually not an exception. And if you think being a frontline employee is easy, then take their job for a day.

I’m confident you’ll walk away with a greater appreciation for what our frontline employees go through every day. When goals are met and good things happen, take time to enjoy and celebrate the moment with your employees who made it happen. After all, life is too short, isn’t it?

Keys to success: In addition to the 10 infrastructure components I outlined, you must have: patience, discipline and a laser-like focus to succeed. A customer service strategy takes time to see results. So have the patience and discipline to stay strong without abandoning your customer service strategy halfway through.* For a free report: “Motivating Non-Performers: 20 Dos and Don’ts of Motivation of Employees” go to: http://www.eps-i.com

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