Customer service is not a department. It’s a philosophy. It’s to be embraced by everyone in an organization, from leadership to the most recently hired employee. It is part of the culture, and culture starts in the C-Suite with leadership defining the vision. Once everyone understands that, employees are in alignment, on track to deliver the right experience to the customer, as well as their fellow employees.
I had a chance to connect with Jasmyn Haas, VP of customer and employee relations at Flume, a software and technology company that enables its customers monitor their water usage, thus saving water—and most likely money, too. Her organization is very focused on customer service. As she shared her ideas on what it takes to be a true customer service pro, I thought of how they applied to everyone in the organization, not just a customer service department. That’s why I opened with the concept of customer service being a philosophy that’s part of the culture. Haas shared six ideas for creating raving fans and employees. I’ll share each of them and follow with my comments.
1. The Voice of the Customer is Gold: The voice of the customer (VOC) is simply listening to the customer to know what’s working, what’s not, what they like, and what they don’t. Haas learned early in her career, while managing customer churn, that VOC is the answer. Combining objective data with subjective comments is an optimum way to understand the customer. The data lets you know what’s working. The customers’ comments let you know why.
2. Treat Employees How You Want Them to Treat Customers: This is what I’ve referred to as the Employee Golden Rule. You can’t treat people one way and expect them to act another. That’s the old “Do as I say, not as I do” approach to leadership that simply doesn’t work. Haas says, “If you want happy, satisfied customers, you should start with happy and satisfied employees.”
3. Empathy: This seemed to be the word of 2020. If there was ever a time to show empathy and understanding, it was at the height of the pandemic. As we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, people—customers and employees—are still concerned, nervous, upset, scared, etc. For the frontline professionals dealing with customers, this is obvious. For leaders and managers, it’s just as important to connect at an empathic level with your employees and team members
4. Customers Judge You from Their Very First Interaction: Hass tells a story about how her manager at a retail store took her outside to evaluate the parking lot, sidewalk and windows. “Everything leading up to the store is a reflection of the store itself,” says Haas. “Keeping things clean, organized and consistent helps portray a good first impression.” Going beyond the first impression of a storefront, it could be a website, the journey the customer takes to reach someone in customer support—or any other first interaction the customer has with any aspect of your company. The first impression from any type of interaction sets the tone for what’s to follow.
5. Evolution Is a Must. ABC: Always Be Changing: The old saying, “The only thing that is consistent is change,” comes to mind. Change happens around us, and it’s happening at an accelerated rate. You can’t just watch it. You must participate in it and embrace it. There’s not an industry that isn’t evolving in some form or fashion. If all you are doing is what you’ve always done, your competition is going to find ways to blow past you. The company that doesn’t change is looking at potential extinction. Accordingly, employees in the company must be willing to change as well.
6. Reputation, Reputation, Reputation: I can’t imagine anyone would disagree that every customer should walk away with a positive perspective of your company. The way a customer is treated is the foundation of reputation. Reputation is a form of consistency. You know what to expect. You count on it. When it’s predictable and consistent, you build on your reputation from there. Products work the way they should. Employees are always knowledgeable, friendly and helpful, and they treat customers with respect. When the expectation is consistently met, it becomes a reputation.
My personal favorite is number two (treating employees the way you want customers to be treated). Going back to the opening paragraph, if you want to create a customer-focused culture, it must start with leadership. And the way that the employees are treated by their leaders and managers is what the customer is going to feel. That said, all six are worthy of taking the time to discuss. You’ll find it is time well spent.