‘Happy staff equals happy customers’ says Trisha Bennett FIH and Director of Hospitality Assured. Trisha shares her thoughts on delivering the customer service promise which are based on the service–profit chain. This links employee engagement to customer satisfaction, loyalty and profitability: a win–win strategy for all. In a nutshell, it starts with placing employees at the heart of the organisation by exceeding their expectations so that they are inspired to, not only deliver the service promise, but to consistently exceed the expectations of your customers. Highly engaged employees want to come to work, they enjoy work, they understand their responsibilities, know how their efforts contribute to the overall success of the company and so stay longer. The result is employees who genuinely care about customers and take time to establish and exceed customer needs and expectations. Personalisation makes the difference… the WOW factor!
‘We can no longer afford to merely satisfy the customer. To win today, you have to delight and astound your customers with products and services that far exceed their expectations.’ Tom Peters
‘Helping organisations achieve competitive advantage through business and service excellence’, is the Hospitality Assured Customer Service Promise (CSP). We are passionate about making a difference and Hospitality Assured provides a framework that helps you on your journey to world class and excellence. Distinctive customer service is the key to competitive success; building reputation, growth and profit.
Here are five steps you can take to deliver the customer service promise to your employees and customers:
1. Responsive: Ask questions, listen, respond, and continuously improve
Respond to the evolving needs and expectations of your current and potential customers. Actively gain customer and stakeholder feedback and research, using surveys and a wide range of methods, to get a clear picture of the marketplace and inform continuous improvement. Respond and take quick action to all complaints or problems. A problem solved effectively is your opportunity to give your undivided attention and time (the most precious gift of all) to your customers. Challenge your employees to problem solve and find solutions turning negatives into positives and a compliment. This means active listening skills underpinned by well framed questions are fundamental. Active listening skills includes not only what we hear, but what we see and reading ‘between the lines’. Observation to anticipate customer needs is vital, as the saying goes ‘get to the customer before they get to you’. Respond positively and confidently. Go beyond customer satisfaction to customer delight.
- Recognisable – Establish your brand and communicate your service promise
A service strategy is a distinctive formula for delivering service that is recognisable. Rigorous market and competitor research will help you position your brand. To ensure your brand is consistently recognisable the strategy should focus on your vision, mission, values and your customer service promise (CSP). Objectives and key performance indicators on areas that are of value to your customers that helps you to establish a competitive position should be included. Setting and communicating the strategy will help to ensure that all your customers have an understanding of your products, services, facilities and set the scene for customer expectations. Consider its impact; Does it inspire? Does it convey what makes your organisation recognisable, unique and distinctive especially in terms of delighting your customers?
- Reliable – Establish consistency though Standards & Measuring Performance
A strategy and CSP without establishing standards and measurement is a commitment to lip service not customer service. Customer focussed standards and satisfaction based measurements, including the Net Promoter Score, means that you will have a really good chance of creating a dynamic, information-based service delivery system that can be honed and refined to customer expectations. Measurement provides feedback on performance providing data on the reliability of service delivery and required improvements. Daily, pre and post service briefings, ‘Managing By Walk About’, audits and checklists are underpinning processes. Appraisals, team meetings and regular one to one’s provide the opportunity to review and, embed reliability and inspire staff to go above and beyond for customers. Remember the old adage, ‘under promise and over deliver’, then this becomes the new standard!
- Relationship orientated – Train and empower staff to deliver service excellence.
People will choose to do business with people they know, like, trust and who appreciate them. People never forget how you made them feel. Foster trust from all customers by giving precious time to developing and getting to know your employees and customers and exceed their expectations. Hiring good people with the right attitude; training to provide the skills, knowledge and behaviours; encouragement to go the extra mile; and looking after their health and wellbeing is crucial. Understanding others and department roles will help employees provide good internal customer service, a collaborative team approach and work as a high-performing winning team. A knowledgeable and motivated team will build confidence and inspire trust enabling the empowerment of staff to deliver the service promise. Remember ‘Nordstrom’s Rules for Employees: Rule 1: Use your good judgment in all situations. There are no additional rules’; this will help to develop a no blame culture. From a customer’s perspective, they want their experience with a brand to be connected and seamless. They expect companies to know and remember, across all touchpoints, who they are and what they’re looking for, so that the necessary information is available and without the necessity to repeat or clarify their needs. A customer service journey map will help to reveal issues with siloes in your business and where relationships need improvement.
- Reward – Recognise and reward customers and employees
Delivering service that delights and goes above and beyond is of such importance that it deserves public recognition and tangible rewards. For employees it reinforces the organisational culture, motivates others and can create a competitive environment. For customer’s, loyalty and festive cards, special offers all play a part but being recognised and that feeling of belonging and a home from home where you are valued is what often counts. As the saying goes, ‘actions speak louder than words’. Whilst a ‘thank you’ is sometimes all that people want, going above and beyond can provide the WOW. Continually strive to find different, memorable and fun ways to show how much you truly value customers and employees to build their loyalty. Consider challenging and rewarding employees for being creative, open minded and coming up with new ways of doing things. Immediate recognition at daily briefings through to presentations at annual awards and monetary rewards or prizes all show appreciation. Entering awards can be a great way of recognising employee talent and the opportunity to involve customers demonstrating their value to you whilst further developing the relationship.
Evolving from good to excellent customer service ultimately depends on the people who provide that service. Their enthusiasm, loyalty, or devotion can’t be forced but is earned through developing intense pride and ownership. Service organisations need to quantify their investments in people for customers and employees. Hospitality Assured encompasses the service-profit chain providing a framework for delivering excellent and astounding customer service and ultimately business success.
About the Author: Trisha Bennett
Trisha, Director of Hospitality Assured, has extensive experience in general management, marketing, research and education, and in 1988 founded a successful business consultancy that focuses on improving the performance of people and businesses. She is enthusiastic about learning and development, and believes in delivering service excellence through coaching, training and development interventions.