From a viral video to a positive review, a customer’s motivation to share their experience with your product or service usually comes down to notoriety. By extraordinary we mean something worth discussing and sharing with others.
Sharing can be in the form of ratings, reviews, comments, posts, and old-fashioned word of mouth. For small businesses, what your company offers must be extraordinary, and the greatest opportunity to make a guest experience remarkable lies within the realm of customer interaction. From the smallest details to the overall company culture, customer experience is what makes or breaks continuous customer attraction and retention.
How to do you instill a culture in your small business that motivates your staff to consistently deliver remarkable customer service, resulting in increased customer loyalty and revenue?
Here are six steps to consistently deliver on your customer promise and improve your business.
Starts and ends at the top
Customer service begins and ends with YOU, the owner. Nothing else really matters, and all other efforts are futile, unless the owners truly believe in the value of providing excellent customer service.
Do you think your customers are looking to take advantage of you or do you realize that the vast majority of them are honest and will reward you with their loyalty if you treat them well? Do your employees’ policies have to do with theft control and prevention, or are your staff really trained to take care of the customer? The “Employee of the Month” plaque on the wall is meaningless if business owners and management don’t really believe in providing extraordinary customer service and the investment it requires.
Investing from above includes believing in and instilling a persistent culture of superior service. You should include a shared manifesto that serves as the foundation for your company culture. It’s not just about the cliche leadership and teamwork posters, but your true belief in running your company in a way that proudly represents you and your staff. It’s about providing the service you enjoy experiencing when you visit your favorite establishments, the places you return to again and again because they make you feel great and that you share with others.
The interaction between the customer and the company has become increasingly transparent, thanks in part to technology. Company brands are no longer static entities, but dynamic and personified. Culture is everything in today’s business environment, and customers can smell insincerity from a mile away. Part of a brand’s culture must be built on the core values and beliefs of the business owners. Your business must foster an environment in which a passion for excellent customer service can flourish. Like many things in life, it all comes down to balance. If you believe in your core values and have faith in your employees’ ability and training to deliver, it will be easier to develop an environment of empowerment and trust.
Culture is a living organism that breathes and needs support and care. It evolves over time, but the basic principles must never give way. One way to measure whether you have successfully instilled a strong culture is to observe how your team handles a new member. Does the team automatically correct and guide the new member’s behavior and actions if they differ from the accepted norms of their culture without being told? Are you quick to tell managers that this new hire doesn’t fit in? Does the new employee stand out from the other employees and feel like they are a “fish out of water”? These are good signs that your team embodies your business culture and drives you to consistently deliver on your customer’s promise, even when you’re not looking.
Systems are the ways in which a company’s culture is carried out consistently and repeatedly. Without the systems infrastructure – including software, manuals, forms, training, and checklists – remarkable customer service quickly deteriorates. Systems are the key to running consistently in all aspects of your business.
When it comes to customer service, training and development systems for your employees are critical. Well-trained employees who have access to protocols and procedures that foster good customer relationships are the key to the success of any business. Your focus should be to develop systems as if it were a multi-unit operation, even if you are running a single location business. This approach supports the repeatability of your process, which should ensure that every new hire is hired, trained, and developed to the same effective and productive standard.
Your culture and systems mean nothing without the right team of highly motivated people to run them. When it comes to your company’s team of workers, it’s important to take the time and focus on finding people who are a good fit.
Always remember to hire slow and fire fast. If a staff member does not fit in well, it is critical to break ties quickly. Remember, the fact that an employee is not suitable for a particular position does not make him a bad person or a bad worker, it is probably not a good choice.
When hiring customer-facing employees, personality and character are often more important than skills or experience. You can teach a person new skills, but it is extremely difficult to teach someone how to enjoy working and serving clients. It helps to have a great employee baseline and also use employee screening tools like Kolbe’s RightFit ™ solutions when possible to help you choose the right candidate for the position.
Listen and measure
How do you know if you are consistently delivering remarkable customer experiences? How do you measure customer service and satisfaction? It is imperative that you and your management team Listen and measure to objectively assess your progress and performance. Your customers will tell you what they think about your product and service, but you must listen and be receptive to their comments. You must also measure and reward or correct the performance of your staff. Doing so keeps your focus on customer service first throughout your organization.
From online reviews to mystery shoppers, the trick is to make sure you listen to and take into account what your customers are saying. Try to listen to broad topics that come from a variety of sources. Ask your employees what they think or ask a friend to test your business as a customer to get an authentic and trustworthy view of customer-facing interaction. Monitor social media platforms and use alert technologies to stay on top of what people are saying about your business. Take feedback and feedback seriously, and take input from loyal customers who love your business.
Consistency is the true test of your commitment to delivering extraordinary customer experiences. Are you dedicated to providing extraordinary service during the life of your business, or was it just a fading phase?
An individual client doesn’t really care that they have run smoothly on the previous thousand clients; it is your transaction and interaction that matters most. Additionally, a high opinion from one customer can be overridden by a poor opinion from another. And people are more likely to share a bad experience than a positive one, a reality that is greatly amplified by the relative anonymity and the Internet’s ease of sharing with others and encouraging everyone to become critical.
Consistently complying with every customer and every interaction is the hardest thing to do and should be your ultimate goal. While it’s impossible to be perfect, your standard must be set extremely high so that you run as close to 100% as possible. And when it fails, as we all naturally do at times, your process should include prompt and genuine resolution for your clients. Most clients understand that we all make mistakes; what they usually do not tolerate is indifference and lack of follow-up.
Being extraordinary is often what sets us apart from the competition. Our products and services must be of high quality, but it is the experiences that our customers enjoy when they interact with us that they value and share the most.