This sounds like the billion-naira question – what does it take to create a culture of fantastic service in your business? If you could wave the magic wand of service in your business what would cause that “magic” to happen? Well, great service doesn’t happen overnight, and most people don’t believe in magic, nor is there some silver bullet that will create great service in your business in one fell-swoop. However, there is hope, our experience suggests that are a number of governing forces which when in play can make great service seem like second-nature in your business. Your strategy therefore is to work hard and creatively to ensure that these governing forces are at play in your organization:
#1: Job Skills:
If your employees are not competent at their jobs they can never deliver fantastic service. Fantastic Service only happens when employees (internal and customer-facing) know their jobs. As the business owner you can drive this through regular training and re-training as well as regular competency tests that focus on practical knowledge and skills required to deliver fantastic service. The foundation for all job skills training lies in identifying clearly the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to excel in all the jobs in your organization and being brutally honest in assessing yourself and your employees against each of this knowledge, skills and behaviours. If you miss this important step you can never be sure that the training that you are offering is really adding value or helping employees to meet and exceed customer expectations.
#2: Communication Skills:
Beyond the technical and products skills required to effectively serve customers, you and your employees must possess excellent communication skills – the ability to think critically, listen effectively, give and receive feedback, express yourself in writing, and deliver effective oral presentations on a one-on-one basis and in small or large groups. Effective communication skills ensure that for example, when customers are complaining, you can listen with empathy, understand their issues, and respond effectively verbally or in writing. Communication skills are also useful in building rapport and relationships with your customers as well as in thinking critically to solve challenges that may occur when dealing with a customer. Again, you can bolster the communication skills of your employees by investing in communication skills training, providing exemplary leadership as an effective communicator, and creating a culture of positive communication across your business. When organizations do not build the capacity for effective communication, they miss out on the immense opportunities to create real connections with their customers and prospects.
#3: Shared Vision and Teamwork:
To be effective in responding to the needs of your customers, you and your employees must have a shared vision of where your business is going and have a clear vision of what great service means. Effective business leaders work with their teams to co-create the organizational vision and the customer-vision, re-examining these visions from time to time, and ensuring that they remain relevant to the needs of the business and customers at all times. To have a shared vision, you should use processes that get others involved in co-creating the vision with you. It is too easy and most ineffective to just call in your employees and read out a grammatically correct and well scripted vision statement that you concocted all by yourself. By getting them to co-create the vision, you develop the shared understanding and perspective that ensures that everyone truly buys into the vision. Similar to co-creating your vision, you should also engage your employees in team-building and bonding activities to let them build rapport with each other and practice what it takes to really function as a team. You should also check that your recognition, reward and performance management systems ensure that team work, not individual performance and achievements are recognized and rewarded. Many business owners pay lots of lip-service to teamwork and go right back to incentivize people for individual glory and achievement.
#4: Healthy Policies, Procedures & Tools:
You cannot deliver quality just by having a great vision of what quality is. You must translate that great vision for your business into tangible policies: providing guidance to employees; procedures: laying out step-by-step how things should be done; and tools: resources to ensure that things are done in accordance with the laid down policies and procedures. Disciplined execution ensures that there are clear approval-levels for all issues relating to customers and that customers are served in a consistent way across your organization. People in the restaurant or fast food chain business appreciate the importance of structure – disciplined buying procedures, stock and inventory management, facility maintenance and menus make a whole world of difference to the quality of service that customers receive. The more consistent these are the higher the premium that customers are prepared to pay.
Attitude is the difference maker. Whatever you do as a business owner “hire for attitude and train for skills”. Try your very best to attract and retain people with the right attitude – the attitude to learn, the attitude for possibility thinking; the attitude for creative problem solving; and the attitude for service. If there is something that your business must abhor – it is people with the wrong attitude. As a business owner, your antenna should be on “red-alert” for people with the wrong attitude – isolate them, give them the feedback they need, and exit them if their negative attitude continues to get in the way. Never trade off attitude for skills thinking that you can change the person. It is a lot more likely that someone with the right attitude will open up to learn new skills than vice-versa. Some people are working in service organizations like yours only because they need a job. They are the classic square-pegs in round holes – and need to make hard career choices, lest you make one for them in the larger and higher interest of having happy and loyal customers.
These governing forces have been known to “predict” customer service success. As a business owner, put in place the culture and structures to see these forces in play in your organization and watch it soar from good to great!