The Customer Loyalty Code – And How to Crack it – People and Culture
I’m back on the subject of what I believe to be the Customer Loyalty Code. I have suggested that it is
I’ve already written about Factor 1: Leadership and Strategy so I’m now going to suggest some ideas about Factor.2, People and Culture. This article will be split in to two, starting with 'People' and followed by the 'Culture' section next week.
There is, I believe, a common misconception about what makes a great person for delivering excellent customer service. (I call them Service Stars). What is said to have the biggest impact on their ultimate success is the training they receive. In fact, there are many training organisations that hope you will think that way, so they can sell you their particular brand of ‘Customer Service Training’. But all my experience tells me that this is a flawed approach. I have learned that sustainable success has little to do with the training people receive, but a lot to do with the type of people they are. The truth is that it’s virtually impossible for training, even great training, to turn someone that does not have the necessary character, intelligence and talents for the job, into a brilliant service provider. That’s because these are not ‘trainable’ things; they are in-built, and you hire them with the person. They were developed and learned from parenting, schooling, religion and the general environment as the person grew. By the time a person has reached employable age, they are pretty well fixed. In fact, psychologists tell us that short of a major life trauma, they will never change, and will determine that person’s attitude and behaviour for life.
So although training can help, it’s not the key to success. The key, for you, is to become skilled at identifying and recruiting Service Stars. Some people have extensive experience, which has enabled them to develop a skill for this. But such people are few and far between. I’ve found that most people are given the job of building a service team, or inherit an existing service team, with little experience of selecting the right people for the work and/or little or no suitably experienced people around to help them do it. I’ve also observed that the standard HR selection techniques are not much use in this context. That’s because most application forms tend not ask the right questions, the most used personality profiling tools, like Myers Briggs, don’t tell you what you need to know, and the commonly used face to face interview techniques and questions don’t elicit the answers you need. So if these don’t help, what does?
I think the starting point is to have a clear outline of the type of person that is likely to make a Service Star in your organisation. That will vary from job to job and business to business, but there are a few talents and characteristics that are generally needed for most service roles. These are -
- A person who is naturally warm, kind and unselfish– These are people who cannot see another person in difficulty without wanting to help. They are natural ‘givers’ rather than ‘takers’. They get a kick out of offering assistance to others when it’s unexpected.
- Someone who has a positive outlook on life– These people always look for the best in others. They always see a ‘half-full’ glass and are definitely not ‘nit-pickers’ or ‘criticisers’. Rather, they are able to bring sunshine, happiness and laughter into any room, meeting or team.
- People with great rapport and the ability to get on well with others– They are natural networkers, usually with a big circle of friends. They go out of their way to get to know and build relationships with as many colleagues as possible. They look forward to and often create opportunities to meet others.
- Those who are sensitive to others feelings with the ability to reactappropriately– They are people that not only have great empathy, and can therefore sense the way others are feeling, but are also able to then adjust their own behaviour so as to act in the most relevant manner.
- A hard working person who is keen to achieve worthwhile results– These people are happy to volunteer for extra work that will help others or the team; even when they are busy themselves. They enjoy being recognised for work well done and react well to both genuine compliments and constructive criticism.
As I mentioned above, these people are a product of both their genes and their upbringing. So their attitude to life and the way they behave is a result of both nature and nurture.
So having identified the character traits and talents needed, the next challenge is how to easily identify those people that have them. The best way is to use an appropriate profiling tool. I have suggested however, that the typical profiling tools aren’t much help. That’s true, but there are ones that are specially designed for this purpose and can really help. (We have one at The Academy of Service Excellence called STARS). Once these tools are correctly ‘tuned’ for a particular job and/or organization, they make it simple to spot those people that have the character and talents that best fit the requirements of the role. I would therefore suggest investigating what’s available. There’s no doubt that having the right profiling tool will make picking the likely Service Stars for your organisation much easier.
And then when you find them you should also find that the only training they need, is about the particular systems and processes they will be using in your organisation. That’s because when it comes to treating customers well, and in a way that will encourage long term loyalty, their natural behaviour and talents will be their best guide for what to do. They may occasionally need a little external guidance from a manager or supervisor, but they should not need very much formal customer service training. You should also find that, so long as they are amongst like minded people, they become great team players.
So my advice is to save your money on front line customer service training and instead, invest it more wisely, in an effective Service Star recruitment process.
But finding them is just the beginning. They will be unable to give of their best if you can’t then fully develop them in an environment (culture) that recognises, encourages and rewards their natural talents and behaviours. If you put them in the wrong environment, or amongst the wrong people. they will feel uncomfortable and out of place, they will gradually lose heart, and eventually they will probably leave. So what would be the right environment or culture for Service Stars to flourish?
This article will be continued next week. Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed it. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me.
- 7/3/2017:The Customer Loyalty Code – And How to Crack it!
- 14/3/2017:The Customer Loyalty Code – And How to Crack it - Leadership & Strategy
- 21/3/2017:The Customer Loyalty Code – And How to Crack it - Leadership & Strategy vol2