irreverent, thought-provoking analysis of the industry-- with an
occasional guest columnist.
Make Your Customer Number Two
Want to provide fresh customer
service? Ignore conventional wisdom.
by Michael D Brown
(March 18, 2013)
(Note: Michael D. Brown is a speaker,
management consultant, and the author of Fresh Customer Service.
Clients have included small, mid-sized, and Fortune 500 companies,
including Marriott, U.S. Army, Wendy's, Omni Hotels, Houston
Rockets, Capital One, Wells Fargo, Amoco Oil, ARCO Oil, Murphy Oil
USAóThe Wal-Mart Project, British Petroleum, and a number of
colleges and universities. . He has been featured in such media
outlets as Christian Science Monitor, NPR, Black Enterprise, and
"Make the customer number one." Customer service experts have been
chanting variations of this mantra since one caveman paid another
caveman three clamshells for the skin of a sabertooth tiger. Okay,
as far as we know cavemen didnít chant mantras, but you get my
point. The vast majority of customer service strategies use the idea
of making your customer your top priority as their cornerstone.
Since most customer service strategies are partially or wholly based
on making the customer number one, then obviously customer service
levels must be at an all-time high, right? Everywhere you go, people
are raving about how great their daily customer service experiences
are, and customer satisfaction polls back this affirmation up with
Iíll give you a moment to stop laughing before I continue. Hopefully
you didnít snort any of your morning coffee out your nose. We all
realize that in far too many cases, the one word that best sums up
the state of customer service today is "disaster." Lines are long,
information is scarce, products are out of place or out of stock,
and no two employees have the same answer to the same question. If
today's public-serving organizations really are making the customer
number one, they have a funny way of demonstrating it.
Ironically, customer service levels are declining as competition for
customer loyalty is increasing. In this age of chain expansion, a
customer can find your services duplicated or your products cheaper
on the next block. The one way you can differentiate yourself in a
sea of similar competition is by offering a world-class customer
service experience. This will never happen if you use the same
stale, outdated, failed approach to customer service that you and
your competitors have always used before. Namely, the "making the
customer number one" approach.
The business world needs a makeover. A new perspective. A fresh
approach that I like to call "Fresh Customer Service." Fresh
Customer Service demystifies the process of attracting loyal, happy
customers who return again and again and recommend your business to
their friends and families. This type of customer reaction, what
some may consider as a minor detail, can actually tip the scales and
prove the difference between a prosperous organization and a
bankrupt organization. So whatís the secret? The Frontline Employee.
This idea is the key to unlocking sustained long-term success in
whatever area of service or production your organization offers.
Throughout your organization's entire process of selling, serving,
marketing, cleaning -- you name it -- the only way you can hope to
deliver a world-class customer service experience is by listening
to, equipping, empowering, involving, and valuing the feedback and
expertise your Frontline Employees can offer.
I know, I know, the struggle to turn just-any-old customer into a
loyal customer is unyielding, and the burden of competition is so
stiff you donít have time to think about what Mary Jo at the cash
register and Frank the janitor have to say about things.
But these are the exact people to whom you need to listen and show
your appreciation -- the operator who answers customer complaint
calls, the construction worker who is building a new home, the
consultant who is trying to move a client, the greeter who welcomes
the customer at the entrance of the store, the cashier who tallies
the customer's total at the register. The associate on the floor who
explains why this appliance is better than that one, who offers to
help carry grocery bags, who tidies up the restrooms, who smiles
when he performs his duties; and anyone else who comes in contact
with the customer, be it in person or via email, voice mail, snail
mail, Instant Message, Live Chat, or whatever Internet-based form of
communication has sprouted up this week.
Remember this important business fact: The employee is number one,
not the customer. The customer is number two.
The key to running a successful operation is believing and
practicing the concept that customers should always come second --
employees matter more in the immediate sense and should therefore
come first. After all, happy employees unleash their enthusiasm and
passion from within, and that passion is contagious. It infects
everyone around them, including customers.
And happy employees naturally provide superior
customer service. They smile. I've learned ways to make employees
happy, and I've listed some of the best below.
Thank your employees every day. Thank them for
going above and beyond their job descriptions. And why not thank
them for doing what they're supposed to be doing? It sure can't hurt
Treat each employee with the utmost trust,
honesty, respect, integrity, and commitment to his or her
well-being. The Frontline Employee is the most important asset,
resource, and ally to an organizationís operations. He (or she) and
his (or her) quest to deliver a world-class customer service
experience are paramount. We must take care of all of our Frontline
Employees first if we ever hope to effectively and consistently
reach the customer.
Seek to maximize the talent of each employee
and work to enhance his or her quality of life.
Value diversity among your staff and work to
fulfill their personal aspirations. Only then will the Frontline
Employee be more apt to pour his or her heart into providing a
world-class customer service experience and delivering the goals and
objectives of the organization.
All employees should have the right to be
involved in the planning of the work affecting them. In addition to
providing a world-class customer service experience to the
customers, you want to ensure that the Frontline Employee is an
ambassador for the organization.
companyís objectives, goals, aspirations, and expected customer
experience should be communicated to all employees. It is everyone's
responsibility to support the empowerment of the Frontline
Employees. Help the Frontline Employee make the customer's problems
his problems. The instant satisfaction of the customer is the
responsibility of every employee.
The companyís priorities and values need to be crystal clear in the
minds of all Frontline Employees. Forcing them to work in ambiguous,
uncertain "gray areas" of operation is like blindfolding the average
person and asking her to walk a tightrope. It's simply a recipe for
disaster. Whenever I take over a new team, I always establish a
general theme or mission/priority statement.
For many individuals, organizations, corporations, mom-and-pop
stores, and entrepreneurs, delivering a World-Class customer service
experience through Fresh Customer Service will require a cultural
change. But embracing this experience, no matter how much work it
will take, will deliver a competitive edge unlike any other.
Our customers are asking-- no, begging -- for Fresh Customer
Service, and they want it NOW! The Frontline Employee is the person
best position to fulfill this immediate demand. Realizing this, we
must empower and equip the Frontline Employee with the tools
necessary to make it happen and by doing so, we will be able to
deliver a world- class customer service experience every time. Serve
the customer and beat the competition.Ö No company is successful,
financially or otherwise, without Fresh Customer Service.
If you are a manager, frontline leader, supervisor, entrepreneur,
director, HR rep, small business owner or CEO, you must offer your
Frontline Employees a healthy, fruitful, cohesive working
environment where their contributions are valued and respected.
Remember that if you first take care of the Frontline Employees,
they will take care of the customers, and the bottom line will take
care of itself.
(Note: Brown's latest book, Fresh PASSION: Get a Brand or
Die a Generic is available for purchase from www.amazon.com,
www.barnesandnoble.com and through all major booksellers. His