Having family and friends around over New Year is always special, giving one a chance to catch up with the progress of each other’s lives. We currently have friends from Huntsville, Texas, staying with us for a month. Huntsville is a small city of 38 500 inhabitants, has Sam Houston State University (with 18 000 students) and is the seat of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, perhaps most notoriously known for its many prisons and particularly, a host of prisoners sitting on death row. Yes, the death penalty still exists in Texas.
Huntsville, however, is not just known for its university and criminal justice system – there are some lesser known “attractions”, particularly so if you are a resident of Huntsville. One of these “attractions” is a hair-dressing salon, located in a large refurbished old building downtown. Working during the week from eight to seven and Saturdays from eight to three, The Facemaker employs 22 staff to care for the hair dressing needs of a constant stream of faithful clients that ensure an appointment schedule that could be the envy of many other hair-dressers of the town, maybe even the State. Upon asking the owner the reason for this display of loyalty and passion for the salon and its staff, he simply replied that customer care drives everything that they do in the business, the business itself being built on the following tenets:
- The client is always right (the client’s preferences always supersede those of the stylists)
- No negative talk (if someone is not present, it shouldn’t alter the way you talk or think)
- No “borrowing” of equipment without asking (respecting each other’s space)
- Dress respectfully (comfortable, but modest)
- Trust (everyone is valued and trusted, particularly the staff)
The Facemaker management values the staff, is committed to the stylists and their customers and sees customer care’s origins in caring for the staff and clients as a principle.
Superior customer service is about much more than merely caring for customers – it is first and foremost a mind-set, an attitude and a commitment. It is a way of living, a way of looking at yourself, others and the world. Many organisations don’t realise this and tend to initiate customer service training programmes that focus only on the actual skills and tools required for customer service. Without addressing the underlying attitudes, perceptions and beliefs about self, the world and work that shape behaviour, change cannot be lasting.
Merely developing greater levels of service excellence is not enough. The challenge is to maintain and sustain this so that true customer loyalty can be achieved. The following critical factors need attention:
- The role of senior leaders in creating and sustaining an environment where service excellence is the norm. Senior management needs to set the tone, create a customer-oriented culture, communicate the service vision and make available the necessary resources for staff to deliver against the set service standards
- Middle and junior level leaders need to connect employees to the organisation and its goals, consistently and constantly communicate the service vision and standards and coach their employees towards service excellence. They should demonstrate to staff that their contribution is valued and provide support and recognition where needed. Above all, they should walk the talk as far as service excellence is concerned
The creation of a culture of customer care breeds customer loyalty and passion for your business. Customers become your brand ambassadors motivated both out of the satisfaction they achieve from your quality products and also their experience of the quality care that they receive when interacting with your staff. The Facemaker seems to have found this recipe. The creation of a culture of customer care sets you apart from competitors.