6 Steps for Improving Customer Service

Most leaders believe that the key to improving your customer service lies with an outward process or change.  The reality is that a highly engaged team will consistently deliver on your vision of the customer experience, whereas a moderately or disengaged employee will simply attempt to deliver on your standards.  Customer service starts with building highly engaged team members!

6 Steps for Improving Customer Service

Throughout the course of my career I have worked for world renowned customer experience organizations like Ritz-Carlton, Hard Rock International, Marriott, and Marriott Vacation Club.  Each of these organizations have learned how to uniquely deliver a guest experience that sets their brand apart from their competition, and at the same time builds a fierce loyalty within the market.  The Ritz-Carlton experience has become the gold standard for customer service within the hospitality world.  Hard Rock International has built a brand based on unique experiences and the irreverence of Rock and Roll.  People around the world have become fiercely loyal to the high standards and consistency that Marriott and it’s brand partners stand for. 

All of these companies will echo the same sentiment, which is that their Ladies and Gentlemen, Team Members, and Associates create the consistently unforgettable experiences that have propelled their brands to worldwide recognition.  The reality is that the largest improvements in customer service don’t come from new systems, processes, scripts, amenities, buildings, or experiences, but rather from the investment in the team that delivers on all of these initiatives.  Leaders from around the world have learned that treating your team like you would treat your most important guest yields immeasurable differences.  This doesn’t mean that you need to go the rout of companies like Google where lavish amenities and expensive initiatives define the employee experience, but on the contrary a few simple things can be done that require nothing more than time and effort from a leadership team.  

Use these six tips to improve the employee experience within your organization:

  1. 10/5 Rule – Many organizations around the world have adopted this simple rule to help engage and recognize guests.  At 10 feet you make eye contact with the guest and smile, and at 5 feet you greet them with an appropriate greeting.  Many companies have learned that if you add the guest name at 5 feet you will greatly raise the guests engagement in the conversation.  This same principle should be applied to employees.  I have worked in plenty of places where people just simply didn’t know their coworkers name, and there was always an excuse why.  There are too many employees here to learn all of their names, or “I’m just bad with names”.  Nothing engages someone more than if you know something about them, so if you are a leader you should make it a point to learn the people’s names in your organization, and use them as frequently as possible.                                                                                                                                            
  2. Love Your Passengers – In Jon Gordon’s Wallstreet Journal best selling book The Energy Bus, he discusses a principle he terms “Love Your Passengers”.  The concept sounds funny the first time you hear it, but the idea is that you will be able to drive higher levels of engagement by getting to know your team on a personal level.  Just like using someone’s name makes them feel valued, knowing about them as an individual rapidly increases their engagement through personal connections which lead to a sense of community within the work place.  That connection can be fostered to not only grow engagement but by proxy increase financial metrics as well.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
  3. Training Opportunities – Today’s employees and future leaders are valuing education more than any previous generation.  As a result there is a high demand for opportunities to learn that will lead to potential growth and development in the future.  Many companies feel that a robust on-line training package is sufficient, but the reality is that most people do not learn from on-line training, but rather retain much more knowledge from live and hands on programs.  I have frequently seen leaders say that training opportunities are not readily available for them or their direct reports.  The simple response should be that each leader should take a personal interest in developing training opportunities even if they are outside of the corporate programming.  They don’t have to involve complicated curriculum or keynote speakers (though I would be happy to assist!!), but rather need to meet simple criteria of being valuable to the audience, and delivered with passion.  These training opportunities will drastically improve engagement levels.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
  4. Growth Opportunities –  “Growth opportunities” has long been code for promotion.  In many cases leaders only look at growth in a linear fashion associating the advancement of a team member with the possibility of a better title or more money.  The reality is that there are growth opportunities everywhere that will help to fill the void until such time as those titles and pay raises are available.  Developing cross training programs with accountability measures will help your top performers learn transferable skills that will keep them interested and engaged, and the accountability measures put a value to the program past the simple assignment.  Offering to pay for additional certifications or educational opportunities shows the team that you are willing to invest in them, which will foster the same good will your way as they become anxious for advancement.  Finally, setting up development plans with team members that are on a growth track (versus individual contributor track) that can be updated and monitored at least quarterly will keep all parties working together.                                                                                                                                                                                            
  5. Communication​ – Communication is one of the most underrated keys to success.  There are a number of topics that employees seek information on, and leaders should be excited to share their knowledge of those subjects.  Things like process or procedure updates, new opportunities, philanthropic efforts, marketing or social campaigns, leadership changes, accolades for performance, and promotions throughout the organization are frequent subjects of conversation.  The digital age has offered many opportunities for communication that simply require the engagement of a dynamic leadership team.  Digital newsletters, video messages, e-mails, company landing pages, and text messages are tools that many leaders are finding effective today.  Leaders that successfully execute on communication strategies find ways to mix live and digital communications to the team to ensure an authentic feel in the message.  Getting creative and trying new things will excite the team, and being included will make them feel valuable.  If they feel up to date, they will keep your customers, guests, and clients up to date as well.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
  6. Empowerment – When your team speaks to a customer, guest, or client they need to have a feeling that they can address any opportunity with the support of their leaders.  This confidence allows them to take care of the customer immediately versus having to contact a supervisor for a resolution.  That process demoralizes the employee, and upsets the customer.  Leaders that empower their team to make decisions also hand them an opportunity to be a self starter and execute at a higher level.  During my five years at Ritz-Carlton I would speak to new ladies and gentlemen during orientation about empowerment.  The one line that always got their attention was that each lady or gentleman had up to $5,000 per guest opportunity to spend to ensure the guests concerns were resolved to their satisfaction.  The undertone being that there is no limit to what you can do to make the guests’ experience memorable.  I don’t think I ever heard anyone come close to that number, but the empowerment that it instilled was world class.  Empowering your team will build the engagement and confidence they need to deliver memorable customer service.  

No business can service their clients without servicing their team.  A highly engaged team will raise the standards of the organization far past any physical or procedural change ever could.  The culture that grows from your efforts will guarantee that the results that are achieved are not only sustainable but also a base for future success!

Please feel free to send any comments or suggestions to ccano@jlhleadership.com.  

Thank You,

Chris Cano


JLH Leadership Solutions


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