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Step 2 - Culture

 

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Phase 5

 

 

Phase 3

3 Phases of Change

 

Step 1 - Before the Change

Step 2 - During the Change
 

Step 3 - After the Change

 

 

 

 

Customer Focus

by Craig A. Stevens, his students, and other professionals.

 

"Customer Focus" is the third step in excellent management. Since the customer is the only reason you have a job, if you are not willing to satisfy the customer…then you might as well go home; you are not needed. So we label the bar of the mobile on which the other elements hang, "Customer Focus." With the mobile, the bar is important, without it there is nothing on which to hang the other elements. Likewise, an organization without customer focus there is no clear goal on which to hang the organization's work. 

Use the broadest way to define Customer Focus. 

The customer is the reason for and the driving force behind an organization's mission. Accordingly, the customer is where an organization should focus every goal. 

Many people make all kinds of arguments on the difference between internal and external customers, stakeholders and customers, customers and clients, and on and on and on.  There are all kinds of ways to look at this, as in the comment below.

Customers are those people who pay us.  Jerre Stead, Past Chairman and CEO of Ingram Micro. Inc.

Call it anything you would like.  Labels aside, the point is simply, who are the people you are trying to attract, satisfy, serve, communicate with, or hand your product/service/work off to?  - AND - Who is next in line to receive your efforts?  - AND -  Who pays you?  Do your job to help empower these "groups" to make the ones who pay you, happy or....FIND A JOB YOU CAN DO! 

In the literature searches, the following words and concepts are used when talking about customers focus: 

  • public
  • suppliers 
  • clients
  • partnership
  • stakeholders and stockholders
  • employees and management
  • customer focus
  • external and Internal customer

Example of workshops on customer focus

 

Something to Believe In

By Starr Stone (TNU 2008)

 

 

            Could cynicism be the reason for employee lack of motivation?  According to Paul Levesque’s article, The Biggest Motivation-Killer, it may be.  Cynicism defined by Webster’s Dictionary is the belief that human conduct is motivated primarily by self-interest.  Levesque believes we can understand the cynicism by examining the motivation of the organizations’ owners and supervisors.  If the motivation is profits or self-interest, he sees this as a “breeding ground for cynicism.”  In this article, he explains his thoughts on the use of incentives as motivational tools.  To him, incentives create a mentality of “what’s in it for me.”

 

            According to Levesque, people are willing to volunteer many hours supporting a cause they believe in.  He says employees will support their organization if management will give them something they can believe in.  Therefore, shifting the internal focus off profits and onto meeting customer needs is the key.  He says people feel very rewarded when they know they are meeting a person’s need.  The positive feedback from the customers is motivating to the employee resulting in job satisfaction.  This positive feedback causes employees to work harder resulting in even more positive feedback   According to Levesque, “it becomes a virtual chain reaction.”  This focus shift improves employee job satisfaction evident by “high customer and employee loyalty.”  According to this article, motivated employees and happy customers yield higher profits for the company.  

           

                            

                                                            Works Cited

 

“Cynicism.” Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. 11th ed. 2007.

 

Levesque, Paul. “The biggest Motivation-Killer.” Entrepreneur.com 30 Nov. 2007. 15 Mar. 2008 www.entrepreneur.com/article/printthis/187288.html.

 

 

SOME MAJOR ISSUES IN CUSTOMER SERVICE

 

By Stephen Scarbro, Rick Rosson, Melody Benedict, Stephanie Vickers, and Femi Aweda
 

Executive Summary

 

Customer Service can make or break an organization. The world is growing ever more accustomed to substandard service when interacting with companies. An organization that properly aligns itself with the customers it serves, internal and external, can reap huge rewards over the long term. With the gap between inferior and superior service ever increasing, a properly trained organization can ready itself for more profits. Companies may flounder if proper measures are not planned and implemented. Substandard customer service can cause an organization to plummet quickly and force it into bankruptcy or closure.


The purpose of this article is to pinpoint some nuances of customer service that are mostly qualitative in nature. The source documentation has been selected to provide perspectives that are unique to this critical interaction between an organization and the people it serves. While not all training and customer service perspectives will be covered in this article, a fair amount of research and professional experiences with perspectives have been included in it.


All organizations are created to serve a purpose, and that purpose involves a customer. There are internal customers within the organization and there is the external customer. The external customer is usually the target market that the organization as a whole desires to serve. The entire organization involves the resources within it to serve the core competency of the company. This article will address some nuances of customer service that will enable the organization to focus on the reason for its existence and improve results for the short and long term.


Internal Customer Focus


If an organization is not fully functioning or if it is not meeting the customer’s expectations and needs, the problem may not lie in the processes or manufacturing of the product. Instead, the true culprit may be deeper within the organization’s culture. The true source could be poor interaction between departments, departments, and coworkers. Poor internal customer service can be just as detrimental to the success of a company as poor external customer service. (Earl, Internal 2)


Perhaps one of the reasons behind poor internal customer service is the issue of education and understanding. It is important for each person within an organization to be aware of his role as an internal customer service provider as well as one of an internal customer. Likewise, it is also important for him to understand the significance these roles play in the overall success of the organization and ultimately his own success. (Hyken 2)


Individual departments within an organization do not work independent from each other. Bosses do not work independent from their subordinates. Everything and everyone must mesh at some point. (Earl, How 2). Simply put, every person within an organization is at some point both the customer of someone else within the organization as well as one of a customer service provider. This is true not only for the vertical reporting structure but also for any horizontal interaction among coworkers. (Hyken 1) The understanding of and follow-through with this concept is imperative for the success of external customer service. (Earl, Internal 2)


It is as important for everyone to know and understand the concept of the internal customer service provider as is the importance of how to be a good internal customer. Communication is the key. For this relationship to work, both the internal customer service provider and the internal customer must communicate their needs and expectations.


According to Donna Earl, author of a www.HelpDeskCoach.com article entitled How to Provide Outstanding Customer Service, developing and adhering to sound guidelines should ensure the successful outcome between the internal customer and the internal service provider. For example, the customer should provide ample lead-time and necessary information to the provider emphasizing any priorities. The provider in turn should clarify their understanding along with identifying any prior commitments and timelines. Both parties’ expectations should be realistic. Ongoing communication regarding project progress is important. (Earl, Internal 1-4)


The same advice for giving positive external customer service is also good advice for maintaining positive internal customer service. Remember to smile when talking on the telephone. Even when on the phone, a customer can hear a smile from the representative. The Golden Rule applies. Treat the internal customer with the same dignity and respect you would like to receive. Together, decide upon the appropriate steps to meet project expectations. When discussing the project a best practice is not only to understand the expectations, but also to understand any limitations. Provide the customer with regular status reports. It is very important to always-present feedback in a positive manner.


To evaluate your level of internal customer service try the following assessment, which has been adapted from the Leading Edition an e-Newsletter for Purdue University Supervisors. Afterward, in order to gain a better understanding of how your internal customers perceive your service, you may want to forward the assessment to them. Ask your internal customers to complete it with regards to your attitude toward them. (Knight 2-3)


Assessing Your Level of Internal Customer Service
 

Scale: 1 – Very Large, 2 – Large, 3 – Some, 4 – Little, 5 – Very Little,
DK –Don’t Know

 

To what degree do you?

  1. Blame others for your customer service difficulties? 1 2 3 4 5 DK

  2. Treat others differently than you would like to be treated? 1 2 3 4 5 DK

  3. Moan and groan about internal customers? 1 2 3 4 5 DK

  4. Believe there is no point in trying to improve internal customer service?
    1 2 3 4 5 DK

  5. Believe that customer service interferes with the completion of your tasks?
    1 2 3 4 5 DK

  6. Talk negatively about your employer? 1 2 3 4 5 DK

  7. Place little value on customer service problem solving? 1 2 3 4 5 DK

  8. Speak in the jargon of your discipline rather than in terms your customer can understand? 1 2 3 4 5 DK

  9. Dismiss other employees or customers? 1 2 3 4 5 DK

  10. Consider customer service boring? 1 2 3 4 5 DK

Your Score:

 

45 – 50 Your work sets the example for others.

35 – 44 With some coaching, you can exceed the expectations of your internal customer.

25 – 34 Other employees may be complaining about you.

10 – 24 Your boss may have issues with your work.

 

Note: This assessment was taken and adapted from the Leading Edition, an e-Newsletter for Purdue University Supervisors.

 

Internal Customers: A Focus on Retention

 

Customers are the key ingredients to any successful business. Defining who the customers are in a business can pay huge dividends when applying retention strategies.


Differences between Internal and External Customers


When thinking of customer retention, the most obvious thoughts turn to the external customer. Keeping a strong customer base is the very existence of many businesses. Without the external consumer, any business will cease to exist. The need to focus on the on the external customer and the revenue they generate becomes paramount. That focus on keeping a strong customer base of returning or loyal customers will help to keep a business strong and growing. Focusing on the internal customer becomes just as important to the health of any business. Those who keep a business running by creating the product are just as valuable to the company as the revenue from the product itself. When internal customers are over looked, they can cost a company huge amounts of money in lost revenue every year. Losses take place when a company has to replace its internal customers because they have moved their loyalties elsewhere.


Similarities between Internal and External Customers


When comparing external and internal customers, the two are strikingly similar. In the article The Value of Customer Retention: A Business Without A Customer Retention Plan Will Lose Revenue And Market Share by Tim Cohn, a list was given for the reason external customers leave. Those reasons are as follows:

  • Move or Die 4%

  • Other Company Friendship 5%

  • Competition 9%

  • Product Dissatisfaction 15%

  • No Customer Contact Strategy 67%
     

Many of these apply to the internal customer as well. Some of these are completely out of the control of any business owner. Many are not. A customer may decide to move to another town, county, or state. Friendships can control customer movement too. Employees who move to another company can pull remaining employees with them to the new company because of friendships that were cultivated in the original company. This creates losses in the employee pool from the original company. Competition for employees is fierce and creates issues that will prompt internal customers to seek employment elsewhere because they are looking for better pay, better benefits, or a more comfortable working environment. Product dissatisfaction is another reason given for customers leaving. The same may apply to the internal customer. So, what is product dissatisfaction? The product of the employer, the manager, or supervisors is what will retain or cause a customer to leave.

 

When an employee becomes dissatisfied with the product, they may seek out a new product elsewhere. The no customer contact strategy is the last reason Tim Cohn gives for customers leaving a company. “If your customers begin to feel ignored or neglected, won’t they ultimately take their business elsewhere?” The same principal applies to internal customers.


The Cost of Hiring New Employees

 

Employees who feel neglected or not heard by the company or management may seek to gain that connection from a different employer. In the article, It’s Cheaper to Keep ‘em by Lee Anna Jackson, she states, “There's a lack of effective feedback.” Employees usually experience some form of disengagement before they decide to leave. "A manager can step in and disrupt or reverse this process by simply sitting down with the employee and asking, 'How are you doing?”

 
Calculating the Cost

 

The cost of finding and hiring new employees can be just as damaging to a company as lost revenue is to a company losing business through lost external customers. In Lee Ann Jackson’s article, she states that the average loss from an employee leaving is $13,000. This is due to recruiting expenses, advertisement, and lost productivity. In companies with high turnover rates, this can be devastating. In Jackson’s article, she states “Research shows that approximately 22% of American workers voluntarily leave their jobs within the first year. The cost to a company is as high as $40,000 in lost revenue for a worker paid $48,000 per year. This comes from lost productivity, having to place recruitment ads, interview new candidates, train new employees, and pay overtime to other employees who now have to pick up the slack.


Retention Strategies

 

The value in retaining employees has gained new ground in recent years. Employee satisfaction has again become a focal point for many companies. Coleman H. Peterson states in his article Employee Retention: The Secret Behind Wal-Mart’s Successful Hiring Policies, “employees don’t leave good companies, they leave bad bosses.” Therefore, the key is learning how to keep good employees. A retention strategy for keeping the best employees seems to center around people as a whole. Pay, benefits, and job opportunities rank high on the list of reasons employees give for seeking new jobs. However, the dissatisfaction caused by those in direct line with the employees is the major cause of employees looking for new employment opportunities.


How to Keep Good Employees

Carole Nicolaides offers a few tips on customer retention in her article titled, Why Most People Will Never Reach Their Goals!


1. Consider your employees as your customers.
2. Be available and present for them.
3. Be willing to share the company’s goodies.
4. Exceed your employees’ expectations.
5. Communicate the company’s direction.
6. Follow-up and ask for their feedback.
7. Say thank you.


By following these simple rules, a company can avert some of its losses and keep some of its high performing employees. Some tips from JoAnna Brandi, Howard Hyden, and Chuck Reaves in their collaboration on the article, Best Practices: Customer Retention, give a different but effective approach to internal customer service.

  • Model the behavior. Create an environment where employees can make decisions at the tactical level. Leaders need to model the behavior they want employees to exhibit, not the "do as I say, not as I do" model.

  • Know your customer. Allocate time to go out and meet with customers and suppliers.

  • Manage out, not up. If an employee's orientation is to please the boss, he or she will not focus on pleasing the customer.

  • Put customer service first at your management meetings. If you always ask questions about cost cutting or meeting the budget, your management team will focus on these issues, not customers.

  • Guarantee your products and services. Stand behind everything you do or make. Otherwise, what possible reason can anyone have to buy from you?

  • Make on-the-spot decisions. No one wants to hear, "Let me check with …" or "I'll have to get back to you.” A customer who comes to you with a problem and gets an immediate decision will - more often than not - walk away satisfied.

  • Keep your promises. In an attempt to outdo the competition, you may be occasionally tempted to over-promise delivery of goods or services. Do not do it! Make promises you know you can keep. Customers appreciate it.

Surveying customers periodically in order to gain insight into the effectiveness of these tips should help to keep managers tuned into their employees. Ultimately, the goal is to keep the high performing employees. These are the backbone of a good customer retention strategy and following them on a daily basis will help ensure the internal customers in an organization are there for the long haul.
 

External Customer Service


In the context of this writing, external customer service divides into a couple of ways. It is the relationship between the business and outside parties. This could first and foremost be towards direct consumers or just vendors. Both are very vital to the survival of a business. For this reason, businesses should not overlook customer service. It is a vital part of a continuous improvement strategy for any business.


Basics of Customer Service to the Outside World


Joy Fisher-Sykes in her article, Getting Back to Basics: A Customer Service Tale gives a few hints on building customer service. The first one was to acknowledge customers. She talks about the common occurrence of cashiers answering personal phone calls during sales transactions. Sometimes, they are busy chatting with a fellow workmate while a customer is waiting for help. This gives the customers the impression that their business is not important to the company. More so, it is just disrespectful ignoring a person standing and waiting at a counter. Despite the given example for a retail setting, this point applies to every other business. Employees must acknowledge the presence of customers. In addition, employees should listen and be attentive to every customer. Fisher-Sykes encourages explaining one’s plan and reason of action to the customer.

 

For example, an automotive service associate at a dealership should explain certain things to the customer. These things include what is wrong with the car and the required maintenance to fix it. A number of times, the technician may remove the damaged part of the automobile. Then he shows the customer exactly what the situation is. This is great customer service. It is a much better approach than just ripping the engine apart without any explanations whatsoever.


Customer Follow-Up: A Source of Future Revenue


In Sherry Lowry’s article, she mentions that following up with customers after a sale is important. Apart from building a relationship, it also gives the opportunity to introduce new products. At times, it may be cumbersome trying to contact a huge customer base within little time. Using auto-responders is a way to get such work done. It enables one to send out mass mailings, emails, and “thank you letters.” Auto-responders make it seem to the customers as if it was sent only to them. This would aid repeat business and increase revenue. If businesses follow up with customers, chances are high that they will return to do business. According to NADA (National Association of Auto Dealers) statistics, there is a 78% chance of earning the business of a previous customer. Whereas, it is a 20% chance to sell a brand new prospect a car. This proves all the more that following up could increase a company’s bottom line.


External Customer Focus: Excellent Customer Service

Delivering customer service starts out with understanding what customers want. This could be a challenging notion because many customers are not sure what they want or why they want it. It is up to each business to focus on their external customers and to provide “Excellent” customer service to them.


Defining the external customer should be the first start for companies trying to improve their customer focus. External customers are the business’s clients who purchase products and services from the company. The customer are from the public and without their spending power, many companies would go out of business. When a customer feels that you value their business, they will usually come back to use your services again.


It is important to understand what the needs and wants are from the customer. In the article by Mary Ann Winslow titled “Internal and External Customer,” it lists some key issues to a positive approach to customer service.

  1. Identify customer’s needs- Knowing what your customer expects and wants from your organization.

  2. Developing the right products and services- Once you have discovered the customer’s needs it is important to develop the product to match customer’s expectations.

  3. Measuring customer’s satisfaction, this requires constant and ongoing improvements, due to changes in customer’s demands.

Once the customer needs and wants are satisfied, the customer will then feel like a “value” customer. This will cause the customer to frequent your business regularly and increase profit for the company. If the experience was a bad one, the customer will take their business elsewhere. With increase competition in business today, it is important to keep customers in order for the company to grow its profits. The “word of mouth” is a powerful way to communicate to other potential customers.

 
One of the most important ways to measure the customer’s satisfaction with a company is call customer feedback. Many companies use common research methods such as surveys and focus groups to study the customer’s overall experience. In an article by Gauher Chaudhry title” Build a Better Business with Customer Feedback” states that “97% of unsatisfied customers never complain.” This means only 3% of customers are actually complaining. Chaudhry also states that” Customer feedback is vital to a business’ success, without it the business will not know how it can improve or how well products work.” Here are a few examples of a feedback survey.


1. How would you rate the customer service?
Excellent- Good - Fair – Poor
2. Was the product delivered on time?
Excellent- Good- Fair-Poor
3. How do we rate against our competitors?
Excellent- Good- Fair- Poor
4. Are you happy with the product you received?
Excellent- Good- Fair- Poor
5. Do you plan to do business with us in the future?
Yes – No
If No, please tell us why?
6. How can we improve our services?


Many companies are also trying to entice customers to take part in surveys. Some companies are using toll free numbers printed on receipts for customer to call to answer survey questions. Once the survey is complete, the customer may win prizes or discount off their next purchase. This is a good marketing tool for the company in order to bring back customers.


External Customer Focus: Defining the External Customer

Delivering customer service starts out with understanding what customers want. This could be a challenging notion because many customers are not sure what they want or why they want it. It is up to business to focus on their external customers and to provide “Excellent” customer service to them.
Defining the external customer should be the first start for companies trying to improve their customer focus. External customers are the business’s clients who purchase products and services from the company. The customer are from the public and without their spending power, many companies would go out of business. When a customer feels that you value their business, they will usually come back to use your services again.


It is important to understand what the needs and wants are from the customer. In the article by Mary Ann Winslow titled “Internal and External Customer,” it lists some key issues to a positive approach to customer service.

  1. Identify customer’s needs- Knowing what your customer expects and want from your organization.

  2. Developing the right products and services- Once you discovered the customer needs it is important to develop the product to match customer’s expectations.

  3. Measuring customer’s satisfaction, this requires constant and ongoing improvements, due to changes in customer’s demands.

Once the customer needs and wants are satisfied, the customer will then feel like a “valued” customer. This will create customer loyalty and cause the customer to frequent your business regularly, increasing profits for the company. If the experience was a bad one, the customer will take their business elsewhere. With increased competition in business today, it is important to keep a strong customer base in order for the company to grow its profits. “Word of mouth” is a powerful way to communicate to other potential customers.


One of the most important ways to measure the customer’s satisfaction with a company is to solicit customer feedback. Many companies use common research methods such as surveys and focus groups to study the customer’s overall experience. In an article by Gauher Chaudhry titled” Build a Better Business with Customer Feedback” he states that “97% of unsatisfied customers never complain.” This means only 3% of customers are actually complaining. Chaudhry also states that,”Customer feedback is vital to a business’ success. Without it the business will not know how it can improve or how well products work.” Here are a few examples of a feedback survey.

  1. How would you rate the customer service?
    Excellent- Good - Fair – Poor

  2. Was the product delivered on time?
    Excellent- Good- Fair-Poor

  3. How do we rate against our competitors?
    Excellent- Good- Fair- Poor

  4. Are you happy with the product you received?
    Excellent- Good- Fair- Poor

  5. Do you plan to do business with us in the future?
    Yes – No
    If No, please tell us why?

  6. How can we improve our services?

Many companies are also trying to entice customers to take part in surveys. Some companies are using toll free numbers printed on receipts for customer to call to answer survey questions. Once the survey is complete, the customer may win prizes or discount off their next purchase. This is a good marketing tool for the company in order to bring back customers.
 

Works Cited
 

  1. Earl, Donna. "Internal Customer Service: Explanation and Case Study." Help
    Desk Coach 2005, p2. 18 October, 2006
    <http://www.helpdeskcoach.com/articles/InternalCustomerServiceCaseStudy.html>   

  2. Earl, Donna. "How to Provide Internal Customer Service." Help Desk Coach
    2005, p1-4. 18 October, 2006
    <http://www.helpdeskcoach.com/articles/OutstandingInternalCustomerService.html>

  3. Hyken, Shep. "Internal Customer Service." Think Service Article 88, p2. 18
    October, 2006 <http://www.thinkservice.com/industry-insider/articles/article88.htm

  4. Knight, Al. "Is your work group "customer oriented?” Try this assessment to find
    out. ." Leading Edition e-Newsletter for Purdue University Supervisors
    1003, p1-3. 18 October, 2006
    <http://www.purdue.edu/hr/LeadingEdition/LEdi_1003_customer_service.htm

  5. Tim Cohn, The Value Of Customer Retention: A Business Without A Customer Retention Plan Will Lose Revenue And Market Share 10/16/2006 5:57:48 AM
    http://www.marketingprinciples.com/customerretention/default.asp?cat=123 

  6. Ro King,A Customer Retention Program Primer, April 22, 2003
    http://www.marketingprofs.com/login/signup.asp?source=/3/king1.asp 

  7. JoAnna Brandi, Howard Hyden, Chuck Reaves,Best Practices: Customer Retention:The New Era of Customer Retention,2006
    http://www.teconline.com/www/bestpractices/customer_retention.asp

  8. Carole Nicolaides, Why Most People Will Never Reach Their Goals!, 2002 http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/Nicolaides13.html

  9. Joy Fisher-Sykes, Getting Back to Basics: A Customer Service Tale 18October
    2006 http://www.thesykesgrp.com/CustomerServiceBasics01.htm

  10. Shelley Lowery, Customer Service - Following Up with Your Customers 16
    October 2006 http://www.web-source.net/followup.htm

  11. Chaudhry, Gauher. “Build A Better Business With Customer Feedback.”
    International Cyber Business Services Inc. (2003).17 October 2006 http://icbs.com/KB/internet/kb_internet-3-special-benefits-every-customer.htm

  12. Anne Winslow, Mary “Internal and External Customers.” EzineArticle.
    October 2006.17 October 2006 http://ezinearticles.com/?Internal-and-ExternalCustomers&id=317979

 


3 Must-Haves When Dealing with Problems in Customer Service
Article by Jared W. Geers, Theron Hobbs, Christol Obayagbona, & Emily Steiner (TNU 2006)

Introduction


In a global marketplace full of competing organizations, companies are beginning to understand the necessity of a good customer experience. But, what happens when a problem quickly turns a good service experience into a tarnished interaction? Nearly every company has numerous customer service measures, but how many of these really produce the right results? This article focuses on three main themes that various industries share in their approaches for dealing with customers’ problems. First, companies must have a plan in place to deal with problems when they arise in order to maintain positive and loyal relationships with their customers. Second, fostering a “no-blame” culture recognizes that problems do occur and it is best to learn from them and continually improve processes. Lastly, approaching conflict resolution at an early stage will prove less costly and provide for relationships with customers who are happier in the end. Companies who practice these three themes will continually improve the customer experience and increase their base of loyal patrons.
Commercial airlines, hotels, and supermarkets are three industries in which dealing with customers’ problems effectively is crucial to staying competitive.

 

Hospitality and the Marriott Way


The complexity that exists within a full service hotel can provide many opportunities for problems to occur. During a typical hotel stay, guests may interact with several hotel associates before reaching their room. Therefore, it is highly important to have a system in place to deal with problems that may occur in the guest’s experience.


Bill Marriott, in his book, Spirit to Serve, sheds light onto an important philosophy that deals with guests’ problems. He tells that when a guest has a problem during their stay, it presents an opportunity for the hotel to make that guest feel special. How the problem is dealt with can have a significant impact on the guest’s overall satisfaction. (Marriott 1997)


Marriott, indeed, has a system in place to handle guest problems. The organization uses what is called the L.E.A.R.N. process. L.E.A.R.N. stands for Listen, Empathize, Apologize, React, and Notify. Associates should listen to the guests’ problem, share in their frustration, apologize to the guest for the inconvenience, fix the problem, then notify a supervisor so he or she can follow up with the guest to ensure all issues have been resolved and the guest is happy.


Several years ago, Marriott conducted a study of frequent travelers and found that guests are actually 23% more likely to return to a hotel brand if they experience a problem that was resolved and handled properly, than those guests that never experienced a problem at all. (Marriott 1997) Thus, resolving guests’ problems properly does indeed present opportunity- not only to increase overall satisfaction, but also customer loyalty.

 

Airline Industry


On a daily basis, airlines have customer service problems in four general areas: ticketing, baggage, special needs, and irregular operations. Maintaining a no-blame culture in this environment can alleviate many of these issues. The following is an example of the “blame game” which airline service agents need to avoid in order to be effective.


One late Sunday afternoon, Nashville resident, Robert Jones, was ready to board his flight from BNA to ATL to attend a weeklong business conference. When booking his flight several weeks earlier, Mr. Jones inadvertently scheduled a connecting flight into Charlotte that he would not be able to catch on time. Mr. Jones realized this error a few minutes prior to boarding his flight. When Mr. Jones approached the ticketing agent, Ramón Diaz, he expressed “We have a problem.”

 

After already being on his shift for seven and a half hours, Agent Diaz wanted to tell Mr. Jones,  “No, sir, you have the problem!” He opted instead to initiate the no-blame method of customer service. He responded in a way that did not point out Mr. Jones’ mistake.


“Mr. Jones I see that there is an alternative connecting flight into Charlotte that will give you ample time to switch planes in Atlanta. I would be more than happy to switch you on to this flight.” Agent Diaz made the necessary adjustments and provided a positive experience for Jones. The agent eliminated much of the hassle and frustration that may have led to a disastrous day for Mr. Jones. The agent ensured Mr. Jones felt well taken care of, which likely made Mr. Jones a loyal customer. (Jones, 2006)


The insight gained from this scenario is based on the customer’s perception. The customer perceived that the agent was doing all he could to remedy the issue. The prompt actions of agent Diaz erased the initial problem without placing blame, which maintained a positive perception of the airline. The lasting impression for Mr. Jones was how well agent Diaz had taken care of him.

 

Supermarkets


Publix Supermarkets are quickly becoming the service leader among grocery store chains in the United States. In 2005, the supermarket chain rated number one for customer service by Corporate Research National. (Gourmet Retailer) The success of Publix Supermarkets is due mostly to a customer-centered environment that is proactive in handling guest problems. Management and associates have the resources and training methods in place to ensure any customer issue is resolved efficiently.


Additionally, Publix supermarkets boast a wide selection of items. Therefore, when a customer shops at Publix for a hard-to-find item at other stores, the item is usually available at Publix. Publix was one of the first supermarket chains to carry ethnic food items. (Food Retailing Today) Publix also offers an organic-centered produce department. (Anderson 1) When customers have special orders, a Publix staff member places the order. Customers can pick-up special order items when the store receives the item. (SPARC 2005) Publix also carries retail gift cards to many other stores and places of business.

 

The goal is to create a one-stop shopping experience for customers by offering many choices.
Publix demonstrates well the third of the Must-haves in their problem anticipation approach. The Publix approach to customer service anticipates customer problems before they occur. Publix has an immediate-refund policy. Anytime a customer wishes to return an item due to dissatisfaction, Publix accepts the item. The store does not require a receipt or proof-of-purchase. Despite this liberal approach to customer service, Publix remains the leader in supermarket growth. Jim Wilson, analyst for The Wilson Group, surveys companies with this type of customer philosophy. He believes that by creating an employee-centered company, the employees can offer more personable and more proactive customer service. (Drug Store News)

 

Conclusion


There are many ways of dealing with problems in the customer service industry and this article has stressed the 3 Must-Haves in order to do it effectively. Although eliminating problems is not possible, minimizing the effect and capitalizing on the opportunities that those problems present is the name of the game in becoming a leader in any service-related industry. Leaders know that taking care of the guest during and after a problem is a valuable practice that will help provide loyalty to an organization (Byrnes).


At the highest (and most important) level, these organizations are teaching a philosophy. The philosophy must contain methods --how to actually work with customers. Therefore, organizations need to teach the specific, technical knowledge required to answer questions and solve problems (Cannon). This approach will likely ensure longevity for those who get it, not for those who do not. (Hadden and Catlette)
 

Works Cited

 

  1. Anderson, Jennifer. Dining in the Aisles. Restaurant Business. March 2006.

  2. Byrnes, Jonathan. Nail Customer Service. Working Knowledge. October 20,
    2006. http://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/4569.html

  3. Duff, Mike. Consistency Rewards with Customer Loyalty. SPARC. November 21, 2005.

  4. Duff, Mike. Publix Sabor formats cross ethnic lines. Food Retailing. March 27, 2006.
    Hadden, Richard and Catlette, Bill, Contented Cows Give Better Milk, March 10, 2005. www.ContentedCows.com.

  5. Hugh M. Cannon, Ph.D., What Are Key Elements of Customer-Service Training? Workforce Management. August 2004

  6. Jones, Character. Interview with passenger. Nashville, TN. November 1, 2006.

  7. Marriott, J.W. Spirit to Serve, Marriott’s Way. Harper-Collins Publishers. New York. 1997.

  8. McTaggart, Jenny. Miami Spice. Progressive Grocer. September 1, 2005.

  9. Retailer Spotlight. Gourmet Retailer. July 2006, Vol. 27 Issue 7.

 

 

Outrageous Customer Service – The Competitive Edge

 By Wendi Hester, Dianne Nuñez, and Sheena Ward (TNU 2005) .

 

H

ave you ever been a recipient of bad customer service?  Did you wonder if the company’s representative was mad, having a bad day, or just generally unhappy?  Studies have shown that there is a direct link between unhappy employees and bad customer service.  Observe your co-workers.  Can you see the link between those disregarded by upper management and those who show little concern for providing good customer service?

 

A frank discussion with some TVA employees revealed the connection between happy employees and good customer service.  Even though their hearts were bent toward customer service, their spirits had been so dominated by hierarchical rules and regulations, budgets, and business plans that these employees had developed a “who cares” attitude.  Now, the million-dollar question, "What can we do to make TVA a provider of “Outrageous Customer Service?”

 

In order to make a difference, the first step is to come to a consensus on the definition of good customer service.  Who is the customer?  What does the customer need?  Webster defines a customer as “one who buys goods or services.”  Webster also defines service as “assistance, help: an act of assistance or benefit.”  Some would define good customer service as putting the customer first and delivering the best product, for the best price.  According to Edwards W. Deming in The DEMING Management Method “. . . Everybody here has a job in improvement. . . .” (p.27)  Most TVA employees know how to deliver customer service with a smile.  If this is true, why publish articles to enlighten them?

 

As we all know, TVA is in the business of providing a service to its customers.  What is the link between good customer service and good business?  Below is a model developed by Craig Stevens that depicts the link between customer service and every other aspect of a successful business (The Linked Management Models). This Mobile of Excellent Management accurately depicts that company culture and customer focus must begin with the company’s leadership team.

We need a new attitude –“if you are not happy, we are not happy” – “if you are not satisfied, we are not satisfied.”  What if our customers believed we really care about the quality of service we provide for them?

 

Outrageous Customer Service should invoke a sense of loyalty from our current customers and a sense of pride for employees.  Outrageous Customer Service would win new business for the company and provide job security for employees.  Price is not the only factor that customers look at when making decisions.  Outrageous Customer Service can win over a client, even when another vendor may have a lower price.

 

You might be thinking, “I do not interact with outside customers very often and this certainly cannot have anything to do with me.”  Each employee plays a vital role in customer satisfaction.  Your impact on customer satisfaction is more important than you may think.  Craig Stevens puts it this way, “If you don’t have a customer, or you don’t know who your customers are, then you should not have a job.  Go home and work on your house; at least there you know who your customers are.”  Staff members and the company they work for are synonymous in the customer’s view.  The attitude an employee projects must be a true reflection of the company’s attitude toward customers.  Outrageous Customer Service is a concept that each employee must embrace for the continued success of TVA.

 

If you do not have direct interaction with outside customers, your customers are your coworkers and other departments.  Outrageous Customer Service is the competitive edge that keeps all of TVA’s customers happy.  Your coworker deserves the same level of customer service that you would provide to a paying customer.  Somewhere down the line, your actions affect a paying customer.  In the words of Craig Stevens, “If what you do does not impact a customer somewhere down the line, then why are you needed?” 

 

 

WORKS CITED

 

Westbrook & Stevens, Craig.  “The Linked Management Models.”  http://www.westbrookstevens.com/linked_models.htm   25 July 2005.

Walton, Mary.  “The DEMING Management Method.” © 1986 Mary Walton.

 

 

Ten Steps to Whip a Restaurant into Shape

By: Melonie Charlotte, Michael Shaffield, and Sherry Chapman (TNU 2005)

All restaurants occasionally find the need to improve upon customer service and efficiency. This does not have to be a difficult task. Improve your customer service and efficiency by trying the following ten steps:

I. Restaurant Image:  Pick an image and stay consistent with it.

II. Restaurant Appearance: A clean restaurant is necessary. This includes not only the floor, table, and dishes but also the employee uniforms, shoes, hair and nails.

III. Cooking and Food Processing Areas:  Keep cooking and food processing areas cleaned and sanitized after each use. Sanitizer buckets with clean towels next to each station will help insure this.

IV. Dish Machine and Pot Sink Procedure:  Dish machine and pot sinks must be 150-200 parts per million (PPM). Keep testers near by and teach your employees how to use them daily. 

V. Cold Storage Area:  Keep cold storage areas in proper order. Cold product should be stored on six levels from top to bottom: Produce, Cooked Product, Beef, Pork, Fish, and Chicken. Just remember, “Pretty Cindy Brady Plays First Clarinet.

VI. Quality and Cost Control:  “Standardized recipes and carefully thought-out procedures, used consistently, will produce food that has the correct ingredients, thus ensuring both quality and cost.” (Powers and Barrows p.109)

VII. Employee Marketing and Sales Attitudes:  Influence suggestive selling and good attitudes to service staff.

VIII. Employee Policies and Job Descriptions:  “A new employee should receive orientation, which should include a full job description. They must also receive adequate training.”

IX. General Management Techniques:  Act as a team to give direction to the unit, to maintain standards, and to secure the best possible experience for their guest.

X. Easy to Read and Appealing Menu Set Up:  Make menu easy to read and appealing. Include descriptions of all entrées and pictures of the best entrées.

By implementing these steps, you will see a significant improvement in the overall customer experience and noticeable improvement restaurant efficiency.

Powers, Tom and Clayton W. Barrows. Introduction To Management In The Hospitality Industry. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ. 2006.

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