To Improve Customer Service, Find a Role Model

It makes sense that if you improve customer service, you will increase customer loyalty. But improving customer service is not necessarily easy. It takes more than a seminar or a motivational speaker. It takes effort and time to make a sustainable improvement in the level of service you deliver your customers.

Not long ago I was talking with Dr. Alan Weiss about customer service. Among the many good ideas he mentioned to improve customer service, one stood out. Alan said “if you want to improve customer service in your company, get a role model”. So, with thanks to Dr. Weiss for his thought starter, here are some of my suggestions to find (or create) a Amazing Service role model in your company.

Almost every business has someone who stands out in how they care for customers. They care about people and it shows. They always take an extra step or two for their customers. They’re friendly, courteous, warm, patient and knowledgeable about what your company does. They listen well and they are focused on helping customers get what they want. They follow through and they follow up. They are the people your customers ask for when they come back. And they’re the employees your customers write letters about, telling you how wonderful they are.

These are people you want others to emulate.

Your first step is to define what you want in your Amazing Service role model. What personality traits and behaviors do you want in this person? Then prioritize them (because you’ll never get them all). Paint a picture of your ideal employee, from your customer’s perspective. These are your Amazing Service standards.

You should include employees and customers in this process. Get their input. Ask them to share their views on what they should expect from your company. They will give you an incredible amount of valuable information.

Step two, watch, listen and learn. Pay attention to your employees as they take care of your customers. Watch what they do and how they do it. As you do this, remember the ideal employee profile you created in step one. Make notes of how various employees measure against your Amazing Service standards. Then list these employees and rank them.

If you have one employee who is a perfect (or almost perfect fit) great. You have your first role model. If not, pick a couple who offer the best match. And make sure the group you select cover all the Amazing Service standards you created earlier. This way you will be able to model all the important aspects of Amazing Service to the rest of your employees.

(If you don’t have any employees who come close to meeting your standards, then you need to think about adding or replacing staff. You can train and coach a lot of things but you need to have good people to start with. )

Once you have one or more role models, you then need to find ways to transfer their Amazing Service behaviors to the rest of your employees. Here are some suggestions.

1. Publish your Amazing Service standards

Print, distribute and post your new Amazing Service standards. Make sure all your employees know what they are and what they mean. If you want great results, let your customers know what your Amazing Service standards are. Use them to make a statement about what they can expect from your company. Use posters, emails, flyers. Make laminated cards to give to every employee. Put them on customer receipts, signs, menus, brochures, websites – anywhere your customers might see them.

2. Record your role models in action

Use audio or video to record your Amazing Service role models working with customers. Show these in staff meetings on a regular and consistent basis. Highlight when and how the employee is doing things that meet or exceed your Amazing Service standards. Note: avoid focusing on what they do wrong in these sessions. No one likes to get criticized by a group of their peers. It will make the process less effective.

3. Have regular coaching and role playing sessions

Schedule regular meetings with your staff to coach them to your Amazing Service standards. Use role playing as a coaching tool in these sessions. Pick one standard each meeting. Prepare several staff before the meeting to play the parts. Many people snicker and sneer at role playing. Let them know you’re serious about using it as a tool for improvement. Make it fun but useful.

4. Reward employees who deliver Amazing Service

Set up a program to reward and recognize employees who are “caught” delivering Amazing Service, according to your standards. Create ways to acknowledge their efforts publicly. Give prizes, plaques or other incentives to employees who demonstrate the service standards you are looking for.

5. Reward employees for noticing when other employees deliver Amazing Service

This is key. As an owner or manager, you can’t be everywhere, so you need to engage all your employees to help. Develop ways to reward employees for observing and “turning in” other employees who deliver great service. If employees are looking for Amazing Service, it means they’re thinking about it. Plus it means they’re engaged in the process. To observe a fellow employee delivering Amazing Service, they need to know what it is. They need to understand your Amazing Service standards.

6. Get your customers involved.

Engaging employees to observe and report Amazing Service is good. Getting customers to do it is great. Find ways to get them involved in the process. Start by getting their input on what your Amazing Service standards should be. Then let them know what your standards are. Encourage them to nominate employees for recognition and rewards. Make it easy for them to do this. The more engage your customers are in this, the more loyal they will be (if you process is genuine).

When we think of improving customer service, we usually think of training. But that will only take us so far. To have a measurable and sustainable improvement, you need to focus on it constantly. Finding and using role models is an effective way to do this. Try this for 90 days and you’ll see a significant improvement in the quality of your customer service.

The article was written by Kevin Stirtz