Great customer service requires no super-secret sauce. The fact is while different businesses may use different approaches, they all share one common practice. Companies that offer legendary customer service instill their beliefs at every level of their organization, and usually have a philosophy of presenting their customer service mantras proudly.
These customer-centric companies go to great lengths to ensure that every employee has the opportunity to learn each aspect of their approach—with the constant goal of creating an overwhelming spirit that translates into a way of working for each and every employee.
Whatever the organizations choose to call their customer-centric ideas—creeds, rules, lessons, steps and commandments—the goal is to use these concepts as an ever-present reminder that the customer is at the heart of how the company wants to do business.
Taking a deeper dive on selected customer-focused values each of these companies makes a part of standard operating procedures provides ideas and inspiration for others:
One of Disney’s “8 Customer Service Rules” is: One of the keys to customer service is holding staff accountable. Make the staff aware of expectations prior to hiring and during orientation. People work better if they know the rules.
“It’s all about integrating expectations and cultural fit into your hiring and recruiting practice. It’s about having a clear understanding about the type of people who join the team,” said Richard Spoon, ArchPoint CEO. “If people violate the expectations, it affects their employment.”
Spoon says that the whole idea of accountability goes hand-in-hand with having consequences. “You get retrained, reassigned or leave the company because you’re not able to meet the expectations that have been set,” he said.
Implementing formal training programs, including mentoring programs and encouraging informal ones is a must, according to Spoon. “Creating a variety of materials that regularly remind employees of what good service looks like works. Don’t limit communication to traditional means. Be innovative in reinforcing that message.”
2) The Ritz-Carlton
The Ritz-Carlton requires their employees to carry the 12 Service Values in their pockets. One of the 12 reads: I create a work environment of teamwork and lateral service so that the needs of our guests and each other are met.
“One of the amazing things the Ritz does is ownership of an issue. The employee who is presented with the issue owns it to resolution—whether or not it’s in his or her control to fix. That, of course, requires teamwork,” said Amy Lazarus, ArchPoint partner. “For example, if my shower is leaking and I tell the maid, she owns the resolution—even though it is the maintenance person who’s actually going to fix the leaky shower. One person can’t deliver all the expectations a customer has. A clear environment of teamwork is critical to deliver against a customer’s expectations.”
Ever-innovative Zappos choose to create its own “10 Commandments.” The complete Zappos doctrine is instilled into each employee. One of the commandments reads: Build open and honest relationships with communication. Zappos is big on transparency and having employees say what they think.
“No surprises,” Spoon said. “The whole concept of transparency is that nothing’s hidden. What is set as policy is followed. Expectations are delivered. If I state that it’s overnight delivery, then it better be overnight delivery.”
Zappos has figured out that being transparent and open in their conversations with customers rather than bringing fine-print stipulations into play wins repeat business and invaluable grassroots-word-of-mouth marketing.
“While creating that kind of mindset is teachable, it’s also cultural,” Spoon said. “The trick comes in how to manage employees when the desired customer service is not delivered. ’If I don’t tell you and I get away with it’ versus ‘I tell you and I get smacked,’ then there’s not going to be a tendency toward transparency.”
Building open and honest relationships with employees requires an “acknowledge and move on” style of management. According to Spoon, managers must:
• Set the expectations.
• Support with transparency.
• Stay consistent.
“Negative consequences can’t be because of transparency. The consequences have to be related to the event.”
4) Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines has taken a distinctive approach to customer service since its initial lift-off. First and foremost, the airline works to hire a certain kind of employee. Southwest Airline’s seven “Lessons in Loyalty” keep the customer firmly in focus. One of the lessons is: Check your ego at the door. We seek humble mindsets that can be tough when needed.
“Highlighting humility speaks to the issue of accepting the responsibility of the customer’s experiences in a way that acknowledges your mistake and attempts toward finding an acceptable way to meet expectations without making the customer wrong,” Spoon said.
All too often, customers feel more like a number and less like a human when dealing with large companies these days. In a world that’s going fast and constantly looking for a black and white solution, having a real person listening with a humble ear and working to understand a real situation is often a profound experience for a customer.
“Humility comes across in the tone of voice. You can hear humility over the phone and see it in person,” Spoon said. “Humility isn’t about weakness. Humility is about ‘We made a promise, and I’m going to do everything I can to deliver on it.’ Many times a disgruntled customer simply wants to be heard. They just want someone to say, ‘I’m sorry.’ Coming from a place of understanding their pain because of the experience they’ve had with your company, product or service is an important moment. “
5) Apple Inc.
As Shakespeare aptly wrote, “All’s well that ends well”—and Apple agrees. In its customer service acronym, APPLE, the E represents, “End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return.”
“When a customer is satisfied, he or she will refer your company to someone else. When they are delighted, they will evangelize your company to others. For example, when a restaurant comps an item or two because the kitchen was a little slow—that’s an unexpected fond farewell and an invitation not only to come back, but to rave to your friends,” Lazarus said. “A sincere thank you and, ‘Come see us again,’ is a good practice, too, and often goes a long way toward engendering loyalty.”