Customer Service Extraordinary: “Excellent customer service is everyone’s job”

03 November 2017 -

Customer Service RepIt all starts with the attitude and behaviour of the chief executive

Guest blogger John Spiller

I needed to write this after reading Adrian Furnham’s article about customer service in which he says that the moral of his story is: “For travel service organisations. Sh*t happens. Amen.”

This, in my view, is a very complacent approach.

Delivering excellent customer service is hard work, and the organisation of the business is a key factor in how it is delivered. Many companies will have separate customer services and manufacturing or “doing” directors at board level.

The idea is that the manufacturing or “doing” side of the business can get on with their job without worrying about customers as their mistakes will be sorted out by the customer services department.

Yes, mistakes will occur, but with this approach, there is absolutely no pressure on the manufacturing or “doing” side of the business to improve their customer service performance. Consequently, the customer services department will always be in defensive mode and customer service will be poor.

Another key factor is the attitude and actions of the chief executive towards customers.

I have worked in a 3,000-employee business where excellent customer service was expected of everyone. This started at the top. If an irate customer rang head office to speak to the chief executive, he would stop what he was doing to speak to that customer – even if he was in the middle of a board meeting.

That is the way to set an example of what excellent customer service should be.

The problem may then have to be passed down the organisation to someone who would resolve matters, but the chief executive would require written feedback on what was said and done to satisfy that customer.

Indeed, when the feedback report from the local member of staff was received by the chief executive, he would promptly ring that customer personally to check that the member of staff had indeed satisfied his or her complaint.

This made it absolutely clear to everyone that they were all involved in providing excellent customer service and that delegated authority right from the top was given to all to resolve matters – whatever it took.

There is nothing worse that someone having to go and ask their boss if they can spend this or do that in resolving the complaint.

Many companies these days have a dedicated executive customer team that deals with complaints addressed to the chief executive.

From my experience as a customer, I am certain that the chief executive never saw my complaint letter and the purpose of this team was in fact to keep these complaints from him or her – even though there may be a personal message on their website from the chief executive concerning his attitude towards customer service.

In one case with an energy supply company, my complaint took weeks to resolve and many mistakes were made by this executive leader in dealing with my complaint so that matters were indeed made worse rather than better.

I shall never deal with that company again.

One particular UK car company has a separate customer services organisation and the company aims to give outstanding customer service. The company “beats its dealers over their head” to give outstanding customer service whereas when the fault is with the factory itself it is far less forthcoming.

Consequently, the relationship between the factory and its dealers is very poor and the company will never fully achieve its aim of providing outstanding customer service.

So, everyone has to be involved, everyone must have full authority to satisfy the customer when things go wrong, irrespective of the attitude of the customer who has been let down.

And finally everyone must strive to “go that extra mile” to satisfy their customer.

John Spiller CEng FIET FCMI is an experienced director with a track record of providing excellent customer service in the engineering business

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