The simple truth about service
Everybody talks about ‘service.’ Customers demand it. Businesses promise it. People write books about it. But nobody ever defines what ‘service’ is in any clear and meaningful way. If we can’t define it, we can’t deliver it, because we don’t know what it is. So, here’s a simple definition of ‘service’ that has helped hundreds of clients:
“Service is anything that makes some of our customers’ stress go away. Anything that gives them stress is ‘unservice’.” (Are you in the ‘unservice’ business in any way?)
People give us some of their money and we make some of their stress go away. That’s the deal.
So, if service is anything that makes some of our customers’ stress go away, great product design and quality are part of customer service. How many times have you bought something that you just know was designed to fail? It’s was a piece of crap, and that’s bad service.
Effective packaging is service; shipping accurately and on time is service; clear signage is service. Pricing, policies and guarantees are all part of the service package. Helpful, easy-to-understand information is service. Simple acts of kindness are service, whether they put money in our pockets right away or build a relationship that owns a customer for life. Service is an attitude, not a department. It’s an attitude that must reside in the minds and hearts and souls of every person on the team. It’s not something we do – it’s who we are.
Excellent customer service is the product of your corporate culture, not the result of the latest program to improve customer service. Service is a religion, not a festival! Festivals are where we eat different food and sing different songs for two weeks and it’s over. Religion is for your heart and your soul every day of your life. Many companies introduce “customer service festivals” in the form of short term contests, competitions, and other gimmicks that the staff endure, safe in the knowledge that it will all soon be over.
Two things are absolutely essential to creating a service culture. First, there are the techniques and processes of service. These are the things that can be taught or done to deliver great service: design that works; knowledgeable, empowered and available staff; and, systems and procedures that ensure efficiency, consistency and ease of doing business.
Beyond these techniques and processes of service there is a whole other level. There is the attitude, passion, joy and commitment that we call the ‘Spirit of Service’. It’s not found in any training manual or process chart. It starts with passionate, caring leadership and lives in the hearts and minds of every person on the team.
When a Marriott Hotel guest desperately needed black laces for the shoes that came with his rented tuxedo, a bellman – unable to find black shoelaces on short notice – simply removed the laces from his own shoes and gave them to the guest. You could search through the entire Marriott Hotel Customer Service Training Manual and not find any specific instructions about giving up your shoelaces. That’s the ‘spirit of service’!
A banquet hall in Toronto decided to repaint and redecorate after booking a number of wedding receptions for the following spring. When one of the brides and her mother arrived at the hall a few weeks before their wedding, they were horrified to find a complete change of color. They had gone to great expense to have specially designed bridesmaids’ dresses and table décor that would co-ordinate perfectly with the color that the banquet hall used to be.
Without a second thought – and in the ‘spirit of service’ – the banquet hall owner had the entire hall completely repainted back to the original colors; an act of kindness that so amazed the bride’s family that they convinced four of their friends to book weddings at that location.
The bride’s family also called a friend at the Toronto Star to pass on this story of heroic service, resulting in a feature article about the banquet hall and its wonderful owner. The article appeared on the front page of newspaper’s weekend Lifestyles section and was read by over 400,000 people!
So, what specific things will you do to improve the techniques and process of service and to create the ‘spirit of service’ in your business? And, when will you start?