I’d like you to take a minute to think about your experiences as a consumer.
- How many of you have had a surly server in a restaurant whose first smile came when she was handing over the check and angling for a tip?
- Do you have enough fingers to count the number of times a retail clerk has continued to chat on a personal call while you stood and waited at the counter?
- Consider the last medical office you entered. As the doctor made you sit for 25 minutes past your appointment time without so much as a hello, did you notice the little sign informing you that you will be charged if you ever arrive late?
- Have you called your local utility lately and battled through six prompts on an automated phone system only to hear: “Your call is important to us. All of our operators are currently busy. Someone will assist you in” — ominous pause — “18 minutes.”
As leaders and employees we can relate to lousy service because we have all experienced it. These outrages are everyday occurrences in an inside-out world that focuses on cost-containment and internal “efficiency” instead of serving customers. You may be tempted to simply give up on the idea of getting — and maybe even providing — great service, but there is an antidote. It is the customer-focused approach of Outside-In®.
At CBI Group, we are customer service oriented and have three bedrock Outside-In® practices that any company could adopt tomorrow. Perhaps every company should. They’re easy to implement and have a profound effect on customers’ perceptions of our business:
- The Interrupt Policy: We’re in the age of e-mail. That means if a client is resorting to the phone, you know there’s a pressing need that (s)he believes only you can help with. We give callers the option to interrupt our staff members no matter what meeting, discussion, or project they’re engaged in. And if someone is out of the office, we offer to put customers right through to their cell phones.
- The “Sunset Policy”: Of course, once they’re actually given a choice, most clients really don’t mind leaving a message or taking their concern to e-mail. But some do and despite our best attempts, there are still times when someone really is unreachable temporarily. In those situations, we honor our customers’ and other team members’ needs by returning all calls, notes, and e-mails by the end of the business day, with no excuses.
- “I Can Help You”: Many front-line employees are led to think they have one function: pass customers off to someone else as quickly as possible. At CBI Group, we listen not for the hand-off moment, but for the customer’s need. Then we do everything we can to satisfy that need without transferring the call. But if the person who answered can’t help, we will personally find you the right person, with no further delay.
These practices are basic in nature and simple to adopt. I hope this is reassuring because when we think about our job and our company, the task of good customer service seems so daunting, especially when the day-to-day things seem to get in the way. It’s also important to recognize the strong impact that great customer service drives beyond customer satisfaction. It can help drive growth! Imagine that, a simple phrase like “I can help you” could help your business grow… Outside-In® customer service is just one of the ingredients that will help get your recipe for growth just right. More to come on smart growth next week!