How compassionate are your
systems to the needs of your customers and staff? Let me give you an example:
on my birthday I got the worst sweater I have ever seen. The color was hideous.
Fortunately it was purchased at my favorite store. I have never had to return
something to this store before, but assumed it wouldn't be a problem
The very polite lady behind
the counter, who knows I am a regular customer, explained there was nothing
she could do because I didn't have a receipt. Big deal, I thought, I spend so
much money here and they can't even make this one exception? The sales person
did everything she could, which was pretty much nothing. I felt helpless, she
felt helpless and suddenly I was a victim of an uncompassionate system that
didn't respond to the needs of the situation, the customer or staff. I always
thought the store's motto-Customer Service is Our Priority-was true. Until now.
How can customer service be a priority when the system is so inflexible? It
like saying here is what we call good service-if you don't like it too bad.
It's service by the store's terms, not the customer's.
A Compassionate System
What is a compassionate
system? One that is flexible enough to respond to the needs of the situation
and everyone involved (both staff and customer). A system that creates an environment
where employees are empowered to use their judgment to make decisions, responding
to customers instead of reacting with set policies.
Training for this kind of
service isn't just a one-shot experience. It is a mentality that starts with
the company as a whole. Because people provide service, this usually means empowering
employees to make more decisions, define service in their own terms and take
ownership of their own service standards.
Do you currently have policies
that do not serve customers or staff? These likely serve the company as a whole,
but do they affect the relationship between service people and customer? Re-examine
them asking, "How does this policy help our employees do their jobs or our customers
get what they want?" Does it help you build a positive, helpful service mentality?
If not, consider why you have it in the first place and weather the policy be
changed or made more flexible based on the situation.
Encourage employees to use
their judgment to help customers and give them lots of room to do so. It may
help to provide examples of how people have used their judgment to make a sale,
satisfy an irate customer, upsell, etc. The easiest way to create a compassionate
system is to do it situation by situation.
Reinforcing Service Mentality
A service mentality begins
with a compassionate system and a clear vision. A vision is a picture of the
future that produces passion, worded in a clear and inspiring way. It should
describe the key market you are in, the basic service you provide and what distinguishes
you from your competition. Most importantly it should have meaning to customers
and employees. There is no use having a vision if employees don't know what
it is or how it affects their job. I suggest regularly reinforcing the vision
to keep it alive. Do this by reminding people how their job keeps the corporate
vision going and helps the company meet its commitment to customers.
The most important part
of the vision is the feeling it evokes. Find examples of areas where this feeling
comes through in service and celebrate them. Reinforce that feeling with regular
meetings, newsletters and other communications celebrating what your company
is doing and why. Bring out the feelings in people and situations. Remind employees
how their specific job contributes to the company, the customer and the community.
People tend to appreciate their work more when they see how much they are contributing
Service should be at the
core of everything. Your vision reminds people of the reason they are doing
what they do. If it is central to the business it will inspire people. How would
employees respond if someone asked, "What does your company do?" Would they
respond, "We produce _________"? If service is at the heart of the your business,
it should come through loud and clear. Listen to the difference: "We help our
customers be more successful by ________." Have every service employee answer
this question in his or her own way.
Get to the Heart of Service
Answer the question," Why
are we doing this," for every problem, opportunity, policy or procedure. Start
with questions like how will we do this? When you understand why, the how usually
falls into place. Have ongoing open conversations with employees about service.
How can you make it a core part of your business? Does it drive the business
and everything you do? As a group, discuss what good service is like. See if
employees can find examples of excellent service in action.
People keep the service
mentality alive, so create a system that is flexible to them. Have a clear and
compelling vision that inspires. Finally, keep reinforcing this vision. Your
bold service mentality will shine through.