If you work in an organization, you have customers. Your coworkers are your “internal” customers and their performance in many instances is dependent on your performance and support.
If you sell anything (product or service), the people who pay you are your “external” customers and their willingness to continue paying you is dependent on their perception of the value that you provide.
Both internal and external customers are important to success and leaders in effective organizations understand this.
Customer service is what you do to meet or exceed customers' expectations in an attempt to create customer satisfaction both internally and externally.
Many of The RAD Group’s external customers are in the service business and everyone of them has a stated objective of providing “service quality” to their customers. When we ask them to define their customers' views of service quality, they often hesitate and say that they really haven’t asked them.
If service quality is a significant component of customer satisfaction, then it would seem that understanding the customers' expectations in this realm would be critical to success.
"Because Knowing is Half the Battle!"
So the first step to customer satisfaction is to understand the customer's expectations, but how?
It’s really pretty simple, Ask and Listen!
The asking part can be done either informally, in conversation with the customer, or formally through surveys. I don’t know about you, but it seems that every time I buy something at a store, the cashier circles a web address for me to complete a customer satisfaction survey for a chance to win something. These organizations know that if they don’t understand what drives me to buy from them, they will have less chance of meeting my expectations and I will most likely take my business somewhere else.
How many times have you been in a restaurant and had your server stop by your table to see if you need anything or if the quality of the food met your expectations. They are simply asking to understand customer expectations. They also know that you feel valued (and consequently more satisfied) when your opinion is valued.
Don't Listen for Validation
The listening part is also really pretty simple, but many times difficult to execute. If your objective is to get validation that what you are doing is correct, you will probably stop listening to criticism and only focus on positive feedback.
Effective organizations know that the opportunity for improvement lies in the criticism and not in the positive feedback. When they get criticism, they take that opportunity to explore even deeper to determine what is causing the failure to meet expectations.
Train Employees to Value Feedback
Effective organizations don’t leave customer service to chance, but rather train employees on how to meet or exceed customer expectations.
At a minimum they teach their employees to be Helpful, Courteous and Knowledgeable. Really effective organizations teach their employees how to monitor customer perceptions through Observation and then how to Ask and Listen.
Deal Effectively with Complaints
Effective organizations also teach employees how to deal effectively with complaints.
They teach them that complaints are simply a symptom of failure to meet expectations and that exploration of the complaint is an opportunity to improve their service or product in the future. This means more success for the individual and for the organization.
What's the point?
Effective organizations don’t stop with simply meeting customer expectations, they “Go the extra mile” and, where possible, attempt to exceed those expectations. But they also understand that exceeding expectations starts with understanding those expectations in the first place.