Influence on the customer experience occurs as we deliver service events at many points in the customer journey. It is a based on conscious investment choice made by the organisation, with regard to people, process, time, money and effort allocated to serving the customer.
The customer service that you offer is therefore a choice. Excellence in this area is about making fundamental choices regarding the way that you see customers, how you decide they should be treated and managed, and the processes you establish so that these interactions occur.
The 2 customer experience mindsets
When delivering customer experience training, I invite people to consider 2 different types of service. The first type is like that offered by Solomon Northup, the main character in the movie 12 Years A Slave. He was kidnapped forced into slavery to serve others. Often begrudging and sometimes undermining, the level of service offered was only enough to keep Solomon safe.
Often people serving customers think that customer service is about being a slave to them—responding to each and every demand as if we have no choice. Forced to serve, you may even hear people inside the company talking about the customers or consumers in unpleasant ways and seeing customer service as a burdensome task.
This frame of mind is more like customer-slavery—where we and all of our resources are simply at the beck and call of the customer. This often comes from a scarcity mentality—‘We have no choice but to serve them’ or ‘If we don’t do everything the customer says, we will lose them!’
True customer service has a different tone—it’s about serving from a place of power through choice; because you value the experience of the customer, and you want their experience to be the best that it can be, because it matters. The example I use here is that of Alfred the butler from the Batman franchise, who serves out of care, concern and choice. This comes from an abundance mentality, and seeks the best outcome for the customer that we can deliver from a place of abundance and resource.
It is the intent which is critical. Is your team serving because it has to, or because it truly wants to? The shift in effort, focus and outcome by changing from a customer slavery mindset to a customer service mindset has a deep impact on the customer, as well as the staff. When service feels powerful, fulfilling and valuable, things really change. Shifting from the ‘What is minimum I can offer’ and ‘I don’t want to do this, but I have to’ frame of reference makes a huge difference in how your customer service is perceived.
Empowered customer service
The customer is always right is the catch-cry of customer-slaves. I invite you to consider the empowered customer service alternative: ‘The customer is not always right, but they always have the right to believe that they are.’
Note the difference. One implies absolutes, the other implies perceptions. If we serve customers from a place of knowledge and power, we can work to positively manage their perceptions, and deal with issues that arise. If the customer is always right, then we are simply stuck reacting to that.
How to improve customer service
- Decide if what you do is customer slavery, or true customer service.
- Understand your full customer journey and customer experience, and all of the potential touch points where service adds to the experience.
- Make investments supportive of your choice. True customer service is an investment with direct business returns.
- Train people to serve from a place of compassion and power, not powerlessness. Make it okay to be a customer servant, rather than a customer slave.
- Develop interpersonal and emotional intelligence skills to help your service teams deliver the right service to the right customer.
- Take a full service model into your business—everyone serves: They are either directly serving the customer or serving the people who are serving the customer.