How important is good service to both internal and external customers, for you?
I always remind the companies that I consult, train, and coach, that excellent customer service is the very life-blood of any business. And many companies focus on engaging and training staff on how good service is delivered and measured. I am sure you have gone for such training programmes.
In my businesses, I spend a lot of time, energy, and effort on getting my team up to standard for delivering a great experience for our clients.
I look at a person's ability to offer a strong customer experience as a "threshold capacity". This means, it is a deal breaker, if they do not understand how important it is to develop this skill.
I let people go, when I sense that they refuse to accept this as a non-negotiable benchmark standard. I believe that the customer’s experience hinges on you delivering your work, at a standard that exceeds their expectations.
However, what is the role of a manager, business owner, or leader in ensuring that their team delivers top-notch engagement to clients?
Business owners understand that service is vital. Therefore they will crack the whip. They might offer incentives for good behaviour. And, they will promote people who surpass the standards they set.
But what do you do when customers give you feedback? Especially, if they offer constructive, and genuine observations on what your team can do to improve.
Many leaders, and consequently their workers, do not engage properly with feedback from their punters.
If you write a bad review or criticise a member of staff, most companies offer the standard platitudes. First they will thank you for your feedback. Next, they will make some vague promise about attending to your complaint. And finally, the best ones will offer you a voucher to spend at their establishment, as a way to apologise.
Is this what a customer wants? Do they only complain or offer feedback because they a want a free gift?
To be honest, in my businesses that deal with food and beverages, I sometimes get the odd customer who complains, expecting a freebie. The vast majority, however, offer useful, and honest ideas on how they would like to be served better.
The challenge for you as a manager, leader, or business owner is to learn to recognize the difference between the freeloaders, and the people who give you proper feedback.
Both in business, and in your work, genuine feedback will help you to grow exponentially.
But how do you accept feedback, and what do you with it?
This week, I had a bad experience at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
Over the past few years, my wife and I have been regularly using the skin and personal care products from a particular brand. Both of us find that the products work remarkably well for us, and the retailer has outlets in most of the major shopping centres in, and around Kuala Lumpur.
I usually shop at their outlet at NU Sentral. And, we have always had excellent service. However, when we stopped at their KLIA outlet, we were deeply disappointed with the service. And, I resolved to stop buying their products.
As we boarded our flight, I was lamenting to my wife that many brands spend thousands on advertising, packaging and on communication strategies yet they do not train their staff to deliver high quality service.
But after some reflection, I decided that I liked their products, and notwithstanding this one bad experience, I really wanted them to continue to grow.
So, I took a day to calm myself down. Then, I wrote a detailed account of what had transpired, with some suggestions on how their customer service can be delivered better. I sent this email off to a few addresses I found on their website.
Much to my delight, within a day, I received a response from the owner of the franchise, in Malaysia.
She apologised and acknowledged that her staff was out of line. She asked me for some clarification. And she did all this without being defensive or offering me any platitudes. Of course, I replied accordingly.
The response from Jeevah Nadraj, the owner of SpaCeylon in Malaysia, was courageous and admirable.
Her apology, per se, was a "threshold" requirement.
What was really exceptional was that she was keen to have a dialogue with me on how she could improve her team. She was interested in how they perform better in delivering customer experiences. She did not justify bad behaviour, and did not trivialise my complaint. She recognised that my feedback could lead to growth, and confidently took my feedback.
In fact, I'm happy to share that she has now engaged me to conduct a Customer Service Workshop for her staff, who manage her outlets nationwide.
As individuals, and as business owners, you need to become like Jeevah Nadraj. You must respond to feedback, suitably. Start by analyzing it, then learn from it, and finally make the necessary changes.
This will guarantee your sustained growth.
Shankar R. Santhiram is the managing consultant and executive leadership coach at EQTD Consulting. He is also the author of the national bestseller “So, You Want To Get Promoted?”