Organizations talk about change and discuss the kind of actions that will radically improve their operations, streamline expenses and take them to the level of world-class organizations. Companies that excel in their business are constantly re-inventing themselves in the wake of change.
To bring about radical change, the kind that shreds the envelope as opposed to pushing it, requires some fundamental shifts. Over the next few issues of PrimeMover, we will discuss some of these fundamental shifts.
Shift 1 – Moving from Customer Response to Customer Delight
“Customer” here refers to both internal, like another department that processes outputs or a branch salesperson, and external customers, such as a client at a site. Each one is equally important.
Knowing whom to contact at a company for help is important. How many of the numbers on your company’s phone list are still current? How many Tech Support numbers that have been passed onto customers by the main office or branches are valid numbers? They may have been valid a few years ago but may not be so now!
All such support numbers should be tested periodically to ensure customers are not being sent to a dead-end. Also, field personnel should be able to get a hold of technical support personnel at their main offices, including after-office hours contact information. Moving beyond customer satisfaction, a minimum expectation, is necessary in these trying times.
In one situation, a client experienced a machinery breakdown due to a transmission belt failure. A call was put through (during the weekend) to a distributor’s contact person who opened the shop and fabricated a new belt and had it shipped to the customer during the wee hours of the morning.
After a three-hour trip, the belt was delivered to the client so that they could start running their machinery by 8 am the same day. Needless to say, the customer was bowled over by the level of service provided.
Every contact with a customer, whether it is a complaint or request, is an opportunity to turn convert into a rewarding experience – monetarily or otherwise. Going the extra mile for the customer can yield significant financial benefits. Passing a customer (who has called in for assistance) from one staff member to another takes away from customer satisfaction. Taking the extra step here would mean, finding out the required Subject Matter Expert (SME) and connecting the two!
Other customer-delight examples:
Employees on problem-solving teams at a plant read customer complaint letters and address the issues raised, participate in plant tours with visitors, sign-up for classes to improve their knowledge, and provide feedback on management effectiveness via surveys and suggestions. Their customers praise the company for its attentiveness.
Counter salespeople at a parts distributor always acknowledge the person who may be waiting for service but is not being helped right away. This acknowledges the customer’s presence and takes the sting out of waiting in line!
Employees at another distributorship who participated in process-review sessions suggested having a separate “pick-up only” line that served customers who walked in to just pick up pre-ordered parts. Not only did this take out the wait time for those customers, but it also reduced pressure on the counter staff where long lines used to form previously.
Staff at one parts-supplier voted to get in on equipment purchase decision-making that resulted in the purchase of job-specific fork-lift purchases and other handling equipment. They also took responsibility of maintaining the equipment to ensure high up-time, which in turn served customers better. The fact that their participation in decision-making counted was enough for them to take pride in their equipment and deliver outstanding customer service at every opportunity.
One bus company distributed personalized business cards to its bus drivers to be distributed to passengers who ride the bus. In this way, drivers use their discretion to resolve conflicts on the spot. Empowerment pays!
Caterpillar Inc. is probably one of the most consistent leaders in customer satisfaction, despite not being the lowest-cost provider. Their field-service teams are among the best in the world in speed and execution. CAT’s customer service score is among the highest of any service company.
Excellent customer service is what most competitive companies aspire to attain within their cultures. A few succeed marginally while others are very successful at it. Whether we are talking about a major corporation or a family-owned business, the essence of outstanding customer service – customer delight – is always the same. It requires a culture of discipline, ethical entrepreneurship (acting as if each has a stake in the company’s future) or staff-empowerment and a fanatical attention to customer needs.