“When employees are kept informed instead of projecting an attitude of ‘I just work here’, they come across to customers as ‘I can help because I am in the know’” – ANON

Whilst it is true that any possibility of a “personal touch” and “face-to-face” experience has been taken out of customer interactions, almost totally due to the current COVID-19 virus pandemic, it is not true that customers should thus expect poor service and relative “distance” from the providers of products and services. Quite the contrary – businesses need to ramp up connection with customers during these difficult times to accelerate growth and secure their respective futures.

Great customer service is experienced, or not, based on the realisation of a number of perceived expectations that develop in people:

  • The advertising expectation – what the copy written script, photographs and other collateral suggest or promise that the product or service can do for the purchaser (e.g.: the technical and comfort specifications related to a running shoe brand – less jarring on the spine, secure footing even on uneven surfaces, light weight technology, etc.)
  • The brand expectation – what amount of perceived value resides in the brand (Companies like Nike, Adidas and Reebok, to name a few, have spent enormous sums of money, huge time doing research and large amounts of effort in establishing their respective brand values)
  • The fashion expectation – is this kind and make of product currently perceived as highly prized? (Am I going to look good wearing these shoes?)
  • The customer service expectation – when I am busy deciding on which shoe to purchase, will I be treated with respect and be valued as a potential customer? (Does this sales person have the technical knowledge to be able to consult with me regarding the pros and cons of a pair of running shoes and will treat me respectfully, even if I come across as ignorant?)
  • The communication expectation – the amount of understanding that the sales person demonstrates (Is this sales person listening to me and responding to me with empathy?)

Managers should prepare employees actively and constantly to ramp up customer service ability. Care for the customer is developed in the attitude and heart first – the technical finesse, with adequate doses of training, will develop over time. Superior customer service rests in the mind-set of the employee – senior leaders therefore need to align their respective organisations to the needs of the customers and help managers set the tone and lead by example as far as service excellence is concerned.

Alinda Nortje, Executive Chairperson and Founder of Free To Grow, notes the following aspects of setting the tone by senior leaders:

  • Creating and maintaining an environment where service excellence is the norm
  • Identifying and addressing critical success factors in the organisation that need to be aligned to the needs of the customer
  • Creating and communicating a service vision and service standards
  • Deepening an awareness of the needs of their internal customers (their staff) and the mirroring principle

Developing both a pride and a passion for customers and service in employees and the practical and technical skills for interacting with customers is sorely needed in business today. Those who purchase products or services want to be respected and treated well in all interactions. Realising great customer experience requires business alignment and an investment in an engaging training experience for employees.

Free To Grow assists organisations with developing and sustaining a superior service culture (www.freetogrow.com)

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