In this age of digital transformation and technology, many argue we are more connected than ever before. In business, especially, artificial intelligence (AI), automation and the rise of robots has improved speed, efficiencies and processes beyond our wildest imaginations.
But at what cost?
Employees now provide products and services to consumers without ever having a face-to-face conversation. Customers type questions or issues into live chat feeds on websites, Facebook Messenger and other online conduits. We see more and more people in stores with headphones on, sending a strict message to service staff that they are not to be disturbed.
Our desire for speed and convenience is compromising our customers’ greatest and basic needs as humans: care, kindness and one-on-one attention.
Service is Simple
Yet we have made it overly complicated. We have created complex systems and internal processes that, while designed to help our teams, often stop us from delivering the service we know our customers crave.
Like many other leaders and companies, you have probably tried – and failed – many times to operationalise your customer service culture. The reason? You have forgotten that human beings are unpredictable creatures and customer service is anything but routine and automatic.
Customer service is a privilege and those employees who interact with your customers on a day-to-day basis have the power to positively impact someone’s life, not to mention your brand. Yet a lot of the time, especially in Australia, those interactions are negative.
Mediocre customer service is at an all-time high in Australia. Over one-third of customers surveyed in CPM Australia and the ACRS Omnibus Tracker’s The State of Customer Service in Australia Report stopped shopping at a company in the year spanning July 2016 to 2017 due to a poor customer service experience, and this number looks sets to increase.
What can we do about this?
When it comes to winning the hearts and minds of your customers, it’s the behaviours of your frontline employees that influence your whole organisation’s performance and results.
How customers feel when they interact with your employees and frontline staff determines how they feel about your company itself. This is what determines whether they will be a one-click wonder or a customer for life.
Procedures and steps of service may be great for robots and androids, but it’s the ways in which your service staff act and the emotional connection they create with your customers that will determine your ultimate success.
These behaviours, this service mindset, starts with you.
We get set in our own ways, stay in our own heads and forget that we are simply serving humans with our product or service. We try to control what happens in a service environment, which as you well know isn’t possible!
So the best, simplest and easiest way of developing a successful service culture is to work on your service mindset. This is a continuum of behaviours that you, as a leader, adopt. Your behaviours impact your employees’ performance, which in turn impacts your customer interactions and loyalty, creating a virtuous circle that enhances your whole organisation.
The Six Service Mindsets
1. Empathy – Leaders who practise empathy create a team of employees who feel understood. Cultivating trust in this way is essential for frontline leaders who have teams who are continually coaching, mentoring, teaching and caring for others.
2. Questions – These are a way of showing sincere interest in your employees as humans to help them grow into their role, and to help them facilitate the needs of your customers. When you ask the right questions, you are encouraging your staff to think for themselves and learn the effect of their decisions.
3. Energy–What you give attention to, grows. Therefore, leaders looking for best practice in their teams need to immediately shift the focus, the energy, onto supporting all employees to deliver great service.
4. Heart –When your staff feel that you trust them and appreciate them, they have a greater willingness to serve, which automatically increases their discretionary effort. Having a workforce of willing employees gives greater consistency across all customer interaction and creates a cumulative advantage for an organisation.
5. Purpose –Leaders who help staff see they are an important part of the whole success journey make staff feel valued, which motivates them further. An engaged workforce interacts with your customers more positively and this creates customer loyalty.
6. Practice –Being a leader involves conscious practice of behaviours and attitudes such as continually seeking information, developing people and helping people grow themselves in their working roles. Knowing that you are only as good as your last performance is key to continual growth and improvement and business longevity.
Rather than look at complex customer service strategies and ways to engage your staff, look at how you are showing up as a leader.
As a leader, you are responsible for your people who are responsible for your results. Even if everyone in your organisation is already excellent at what they do, sharpening their emotional competencies and their behaviours at work will contribute to a service mindset that will give you and your organisation an extra edge.
When we are highly tuned in to the people in front of us we start to frame questions differently, pause before we speak and even start to see things from someone else’s perspective. This conscious service environment transforms everything it encompasses and connects with: from head office to the shop front floor, from one human being to another.
Leaders who operate with a service mindset help build a service culture: a high-performing culture where customer loyalty is constantly increasing.
In service to you, for reading this article and giving it time in your day, I want to leave you with an additional resource.
Wherever you are in the organisational structure you are a leader and you can make a difference.
Go to the link and download the checklist.
I’d love to hear how you are doing with some of these humanistic tasks.
‘Love Being in Service’