For years, I’ve been asked in Q&A sessions, “Why is customer service so poor?” It is often posed as a rhetorical question with no expected answer. But I answer it anyway.
The reason you and I, as customers, consistently receive indifferent, transactional, or apathetic customer service is that exceptional customer service behaviors are still voluntary.
Now, there are things employees have to do (like comply with grooming and uniform standards, arrive at work on time, or follow cash handling protocols), but providing exceptional service doesn’t matter. not part. You can no more force an employee to provide exceptional customer service than you can force a customer to be loyal. It’s not natural.
However, there are three things you can do to improve the quality of customer service provided by your employees, whether they serve paying customers or work behind the scenes to support those who do.
- Reveal the total role of work.
Each job role consists of three parts – job knowledge, job skills, and job purpose – which are divided into two important dimensions: job functions and job essence.
Job functions are groups of related actions, functions, or tasks that an employee performs in a particular role. This dimension of a position consists of business knowledgesuch as hours of operation, product specifications, prices and availability, and Professional skills. These skills can be technical, such as typing, using point-of-sale software, or programming, or soft skills, such as communication, customer service, or time management.
Job functions inform your employees What do and How? ‘Or’ What to do it. They are mandatory, often transactional, process driven and generally expected by customers.
The real world of a manager’s work tends to be defined by the instruments of the job function, including job descriptions, checklists, standards, policies, procedures, protocols, quotas, budgets and usage reports.
essence of work, the other dimension of every job role, is how each employee’s actions and behaviors support the organization’s purpose. This dimension is made up of work objectivewhich is defined as the highest priority of a position.
The essence of work communicates Why employees do What they do and How? ‘Or’ What they’re doing it. It is displayed in the choreographed actions of your employees and their voluntary, relational, customer-centered behaviors. It’s the unexpected little extras that turn an ordinary experience into an extraordinary one, a satisfied customer into a happy one, and an indifferent employee into an engaged one.
An example of a work objective might be “surprise and delight customers”. A server at a restaurant that management has emphasized is the server’s highest priority is more likely to bring an unexpected amuse-bouche to a table or replace a cut glass with a chilled replacement glass for refresh a guest’s Manhattan cocktail.
When you begin to reflectively think about a job role in terms of its three parts (job knowledge, job skills, and job purpose) and its two dimensions (job functions and job essence), you will become aware of the absence or to the presence of the essence of the position during your interactions with service providers.
- Specify intentional actions and behaviors.
Your employees will achieve their work objective in mandated and repeated actions but also in the discretionary and often spontaneous behaviors that occur when employees are motivated and engaged.
It is important to distinguish between actions that are required of employees and voluntary behaviors that, by definition, cannot be imposed. Voluntary behaviors can only be suggested, encouraged and modeled.
Shares are things that are performed, usually to achieve a goal. Actions are deliberate measures that, when taken, improve the level of service and the resulting customer experience.
Take New Jersey, the last bastion of full-service gas stations. When gas station attendants refill customers’ tanks, they can take additional steps to improve the service experience: they can clean every windshield, check fluid levels, check tire pressures, and offer customers a coupon for a discounted product or service at a local partner’s business. as part of a co-marketing campaign.
Behaviours are the ways in which a person behaves, especially towards others. Examples of customer service behaviors include observing, expressing genuine interest, anticipating needs, recalling preferences, displaying a sense of urgency, paying attention to details, the sharing of unique knowledge, the transmission of genuine enthusiasm and respect.
At a New Jersey gas station, an attendant might improve a customer’s experience by smiling, making eye contact, using the customer’s name, or providing feedback on the condition of wearable parts, such as tires and wiper blades.
- Incorporate the essence of the job into each function
The key to delivering exceptional customer service, reliably over time and by design, rather than inconsistently here and there by chance, is to integrate essence of work (both mandatory actions and voluntary behaviors) in each professional function.
Think back to the example of the restaurant server. Combining the essence of work and function – serving unexpected appetizers and offering a chilled mid-drink coupe glass – guests were surprised and delighted.
Even the actions of the gas station attendant, most of which might be expected by the customer, can be elevated to an exceptionally routine and transactional level depending on the attendant’s demeanor, quality of uniform, and promptness with which he deals with these actions.
Here’s another example of the professional servers at Sparks Steak House in New York. Each evening, you’ll see staff members skillfully changing linen tablecloths between dinner and dessert courses without exposing the wooden tabletops below. Throughout the exhibition, plates, silverware and, above all, barware never leave the table.
It’s really great – and it’s an example of operationalizing the essence of the job (a fascinating performance) by integrating it into a job function (clearing the table and changing the linens between classes). It is a mandatory choreographed action that has been rehearsed, perfected, and integrated into a standard process.
It is true that this elegant routine (an action) can be executed by a surly waiter (behaviour) who is ready to get the hell out of here. Although table linen performance may be a job requirement, good behavior such as smiling, making eye contact, being interested and caring is always voluntary. Whether or not these behaviors are practiced depends on the employee involved.
That’s why the quality of your dining experience often depends on which section of the server you’re seated in, or why your satisfaction with a customer support call center depends on which representative your call is routed to. .
While using recruiting software with predictive analytics increases the odds of hiring candidates who exhibit desired behaviors, ultimately the decision to do so rests with the employee.
Improve your customer service by design
The most effective way to improve the quality of customer service and ensure its consistency is to do it by design. First, reveal the total job role, including job knowledge, job skills, and job purpose. Second, specify deliberate actions and behaviors that employees should adopt, recognizing that actions may be necessary, but behaviors can only be suggested, encouraged, and modeled. Third, integrate the essence of work into each function. This will allow your staff to deliver exceptional customer service reliably over time, rather than inconsistently by chance.
Written by Steve Curtin.
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