Service is the thing
The Service Culture Handbook
Great customer service is the best possible marketing any company can ask for. When most purchasing decisions are made based on word of mouth, the best way to attract new customers to any business, is to ensure that each and every customer becomes an advertisement for your customer experience. But customer service is not limited to those employees whose contracts say that they are customer service personnel. Customer service is in the center of all businesses, from small microbreweries to large international IT companies. The customer, and their experience, is, as always, the king.
And that is why service should run through every department, every executives’, and every employees’ head at all times. Truthfully, there are vanishingly few positions whose labor (what ever it’s form) does not in some way touch the customer, and thus their experience of the product or service that you are trying to move for them. And if service is embedded in every employees’ and executives’ day to day life, their thoughts, and actions, what is it really? The answer: corporate culture.
Realistically, if you want to make customer service the essence, the root of your company, you need to embed it into your company’s culture. Catherine Mattice, a workplace culture consultant, defined corporate culture as “the way an organization’s members think, act and understand the world around them.”. An example of this that Jeff Toister, the author of Service Culture Handbook, brings up in his book is certainly illuminating on what a culture based around providing an incredible customer experience is like.
Imagine you’re working for an IT company in a tech support capacity. The phonebanks that internal network at your place of work goes down and now, you have no phone system to receive calls from the company’s clients. What do you think you would do? Surely there is nothing to do but to wait for the company’s IT services to get it back up and that will take hours. Maybe you could get your boss to let you go home a few hours early. Honestly, what could you do?
This actually happened at Rackspace, computer hosting service company that provides hosting for over 300 000 customers. These companies use services provided by Rackspace to run their emails, internal computer systems and their websites. Without Rackspace they lose all of these essential tools. What is a tech support agent to do?
At Rackspace, they promote a way of thinking that they call the Fanatical Support Promise. It goes something like this:
“We cannot promise that hardware won’t break, that software won’t fail, or that we will always be perfect. What we can promise is that if something goes wrong, we will rise to the occasion, take action, and help resolve the issue.”
This way of thinking does not only apply to Rackspaces’ customer facing side either. Their entire culture is based around this promise. It’s the first of their six core values. It guides everything at the company, from how they recruit and hire new employees (Rackers, as they call themselves), how they train and educate their work force and it encompasses how every department goes about their work.
The Fanatical Support Promise may sound like a something that marketing department dreamt up after a weekend of conferences and brainstorming, but it and the five remaining core values of Rackspace actually come straight from the Rackers themselves (apparently the executives at the company weren’t even allowed to spell check the values before they were published). But since every Racker takes that promise as a personal creed, it primes the whole company to be ready to serve their customers to the best of their abilities. Fanatical Support Promise also primes the employees to be ready for so-called hero moments.
Every customer interaction provides an opportunity for a hero moment or it’s dreaded opposite, a service failure. Service failures stick out like a sore thumb in any customers mind, especially in cultures like Finland where we stubbornly concentrate and accentuate the negative. They are what customers most like to ramble on about in social media and those posts are what spread far and wide and fast. It’s easier to grouse about negative stuff and sometimes marketing teams will even answer you faster on social media than customer service will answer through you the phonelines (which in itself is another service failure).
Hero moments are the opposite of service failures. They occur any time an employee or a team or any part of the organization rises to the occasion to provide customers with outstanding service. They can be huge, newsworthy events where an insurance company provides a customer with replacement furniture after the old has burned, or a soft drink company ships in containers of clean drinking water after a devastating natural catastrophe. But hero moments can also be small, everyday occurrences. Customer service strategist Adam Toporek defined hero moments like this
“It means being there when the customer needs you and making your personal interaction with the customer as memorably positive as possible.”
Most customer service interactions are so mundane that they are de facto invisible. We don’t really think about our daily customer service interactions unless they are in somehow remarkable, either overwhelmingly positive or depressingly negative (or just so weird that we need to think about them, and even then they tend to be either negative or positive). Certainly , social media spreads the negative ones (service failures) far and wide and they tend to stick in our minds for a long time, affecting our perception of the whole company related to the failure. But we also keep the hero moments in our heads! Maybe a waiter offered you free desert after mixing up your main course. Maybe your local barista always remembers your name and prepares your usual order as soon as you walk through the door. Maybe you ripped your new band t-shirt in the moshpit and the merch vendor replaced it free of charge.
Hero moments stick with us. They embody exemplar customer service and show how much value kind and passionate customer service staff can add to mundane interactions. Does your corporate culture encourage your employees to spend few extra minutes to make sure your customers are treated like they should? Can your employees make sure that no matter what your customers receive service that will have them returning to your company time after time?
How did Rackspace handle that they failure of their internal computer network? One tech support agent tweeted about it. He tweeted his own personal phone number and contact info and encouraged any Rackspace customer to call him there for the duration of the downtime. Other employees soon followed suit. This wasn’t part of any protocol. It was unprompted. That tech support agent just cared enough about his service and his customers to take the extra steps, in a position where most of his colleagues would rather not even give their last names.
Do you care enough about your customers to follow suit?