When people think of customer service, they often think of the person who works behind a counter. They mistakenly think that it is only the person behind the customer service counter who serves the customers, when the reality is that everyone in the organization plays a role in serving customers.
Customer service is about the human dynamics and communication, and thus goes far beyond the technical aspects of an organization’s product or service offerings. An organization cannot survive for long even if its product or service is the most unique and innovative offering on the market. In our world of globalization, technology, and international competitiveness, it becomes harder and harder to focus on technical product and service features if an organization wants to stand out.
The real differentiator is people, because it is not easy to replace (or duplicate) people who understand and deliver excellent customer service on a consistent basis. Companies and the people who work within them can create a service culture by nurturing and growing three critical ingredients: commitment, attitude, and action. The presence of these three ingredients provides an environment where a service culture can grow. Commitment, attitude, and action are all required for a service culture and they correspond to the heart (commitment), attitude (mind), and action (body) of the service provider.
The meaning of commitment is to pledge or engage oneself. People who are committed to excellence in the service they provide have a clear understanding why their jobs are important, and how they are making a difference for their customers (whether they are external or internal customers). Committed service providers understand that whether they are the person interacting with the client or repairing an aircraft, their work has value, meaning, and essentially can help ensure that the customer will return time and again.
Commitment is an emotional connection to the work of an individual, and it is precisely that connection that directly links commitment to the heart. A heartfelt commitment to one’s work will ensure that each task is completed with enthusiasm and in the process, exceptional and seamless customer service will be delivered. If it is understood that a service is being delivered instead of just a task, such as answering the phone, then work will no longer be an unending list of “to do’s”, but will become a source of gratification and provide a sense of accomplishment.
It is the above-mentioned heartfelt commitment that forms the foundation of any successful service culture. And it is that service culture that gives organizations a competitive advantage over their competition. A product or price advantage can easily be replicated in today’s global economy and technologically innovative world. But a strong customer service culture and the people behind it can never be duplicated. A product can easily be back engineered and placed on the market. But it is the service-committed representative’s genuine smile and warm “Hello” while building a relationship that ultimately makes the lasting difference. A team that consistently moves in the same direction with the same mission, under the umbrella of service commitment feels a profound sense of fulfillment and satisfaction by serving others. And it is precisely that unified team that every manager should strive to cultivate in an organization.
When someone believes in what they do, it is not hard to get motivated. The reason behind the motivation could be as simple as being excited and eager to complete the task ahead, no matter how challenging it may seem to be. A strong commitment fuels a strong service attitude. And because attitudes are determined by the individual, service attitude is directly connected with the mind. The psychology of the mind is a vital factor in determining one’s attitude and a positive attitude is directly correlated to individual fulfillment, happiness, and health.
In service delivery, as in other areas of life, things do not always go as planned. Schedules change, people do not show up, traffic happens… But as Donald Porter, vice president of British Airways. once said, “Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.” A positive and upbeat attitude is indeed an essential factor when tackling those things that go wrong. Instead of focusing one’s energy on the grim fact that something did not go as planned, a positive attitude will serve as a guide to the solution of how to go around the obstacle and, in the end, impress and please the client.
In today’s global economy, mergers and acquisitions are also quite common. Companies acquire and merge with other entities, departments may combine or separate, new management may be put in place. This can be quite stressful for management and employees as they wonder what may happen next or what the new leadership will be like. One of the best pieces of advice in this situation is: “Keep a positive attitude.” Focus on how to help and contribute to the two companies merging smoothly, instead of obsessing on the fact that things are changing. That simple shift in attitude can mean the difference between feeling a part of the new entity and being at odds with it.
Everyone has bad days and everyone hits traffic on the freeway, but everyone has the free will to choose their own attitude about how they will deal with it. That little shift, in the end, can make all the difference.
Service Question: What do you call a person who is committed to a cause and has a great attitude but never gets around to taking the action to make things happen?
Answer: a. Unemployed, b. A philosopher, c. A procrastinator, or d. All or any of the above
The answer to the service question is “D. All or any of the above.” It is a common phenomenon, people with big dreams and plans. They are sold on the vision of a better life for themselves and others. They are infinitely positive, and just talking to them gets others excited. These are the people who want to start their own business, strive for the big promotion, or have a big plan for the future. They are emotionally committed and have that positive mental attitude. There is only one problem. Their hopes and dreams remain hopes and dreams because they never take any steps to move toward those hopes and dreams. There is no action. These are the people who are philosophers because they have all the answers and can tell everyone what to do even though they have not shown that they can do it themselves.
These are the people who have big plans — and they assure everyone that they will start tomorrow or next week, even though tomorrow or next week never seems to come. Action is associated with activity, with doing.
Service action is the third ingredient of service. Companies and the people who work within them can create a service culture by nurturing and growing these critical three ingredients that have been expanded on over the last three articles: Service Commitment (Heart), Service Attitude (Mind), and Service Actions (Body).