Service Culture for a New Generation

One of the few respites I enjoy is sleeping on the plane. I’m fortunate to travel the country viewing c-stores and speaking at events, but where some people can get work done on a plane, I’ve come to find an adult beverage and a power nap are much better uses of my time.

So when a friend offered me a book to review recently for my flight back to New Jersey, I was hesitant to accept knowing full well I’d be pressed into a deeper discussion on customer service. But I’m glad I did. The book, “Driven to Delight: Delivering World-Class Customer Experience the Mercedes-Benz Way” by Joseph Michelli, delves into providing outstanding customer service in a unique way that helps create benchmarks to accurately measure your efforts.

Where many customer service programs fall short, Michelli said, is delivering on promises to delight customers with an outstanding experience, which is literally the most important part of a customer service plan. It’s all too easy to assume customers are delighted while, in reality, they have one foot out the door with an eye trained on one of your many competitors.

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Michelli shared four service-related red flags that require immediate attention.

• You’re not asking your customers how they feel. Directly asking customers what their level of satisfaction is, and why they feel that way, is a simple but crucial component of providing outstanding service. Making assumptions about how customers feel based on foot traffic or sales metrics isn’t good enough.

“Even if you’re doing well profitably-wise right now, you lack indicators to tell you if you’ll be dead in the water tomorrow,” Michelli said. “It’s possible that you’re flatlining and you don’t even know it yet. Consistently harvesting customers’ opinions is the only way to keep your finger on the pulse of their service experience.”

• You aren’t taking a “customer’s-eye view” of the service experience. While you might be investing plenty of time, money and energy in making customer service improvements, if you haven’t taken the time to map and design the service experience from the customer’s perspective, you’ll inevitably do a lot of work that’s irrelevant.

• Your social media strategy is halfhearted or nonexistent. No matter how popular or established your company is, no matter how loyal you think your customers are, you need to establish a social media strategy.

“The young market doesn’t look up companies in the yellow pages,” Michelli said. “They turn to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. But this isn’t just about Millennial customers—even baby boomers are deeply interactive online. If you don’t make it easy for customers of all ages to contact and engage with you in the way they prefer, you’re treading on thin ice.”

• You’re not listening to what people are saying about you online. Maintaining an active, updated social media presence is only half the online equation. “If you’re not monitoring what people are saying about your company, your competitors, and your industry in general, it’s just a matter of time before you find yourself wondering what went wrong,” Michelli said.

Now take that one step further. Can you imagine a customer putting a bumper sticker on their car telling others how much they love your company? “If not, that’s a red flag, Michelli said, because Facebook ‘likes’ are the new bumper stickers. If you can’t see your customers being excited enough to announce, ‘Yes, this is a brand I’m proud to be associated with,’ you are missing opportunities to secure satisfaction and emotional engagement.”

• Your employee turnover exceeds industry standards. Yes, some employee turnover is healthy, and if it’s the right people who leave (i.e., low performers), all the better. But if your turnover exceeds industry norms, you have cause for concern.

“Large pockets of turnover are often reflective of an unhealthy culture—and unhappy, disengaged employees do not provide outstanding service,” Michelli said. “Plus, during tumultuous turnover, your customers are interacting with a new brand every day. They’re not getting the benefit of personal relationships or the type of enthusiasm that becomes infectious in the life of the customer.”