SERVICE is the heart of any business. It must never be left to chance.

Why? Simply because excellent service is a critical factor that fosters customer retention, develops customer loyalty and builds brand preference. 

In addition, excellent service that is aligned with an organisation’s business objectives will further yield optimum returns on investment.

What constitutes good customer service?

There are three simple truths to answer this question:

1. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes

Customers can be unpredictable but providing good and consistent customer service should not be.

Putting oneself in the customer’s shoes gives a good perspective of the service needs from the customer’s viewpoint.

This provides valuable insights to the service initiatives expected by the customer and how they can then be delivered effectively.

The thrust of this approach is to appreciate and better understand the customer’s experience and to then develop a “service charter” through targeted action plans.

Good service delivery is about managing the customer’s expectations and experience.

The strategic intent is to turn a one-time or regular customer to be your customer for life and even transform him into an “advocate” or “ambassador” for your organisation.

Remember the three don’ts of good customer service:

* Don’t just serve;

* Don’t just deliver; and

* Don’t just satisfy.

Good customer service advocates are facilitators who engage, anticipate and delight.

2. Manage your customer touch point experience

You have only a few short moments with each customer.

The second simple truth is that it is imperative to pay meticulous attention to every touch point with the customer to provide an all-encompassing excellent customer experience. 

In examining customer touch points, the fundamental question is: Does the present customer service experience create satisfied and loyal customers?

If the answer is no, then you need to push your comfort zone farther and inquire what would make your customer satisfied and loyal.

Remember this: Loyal customers give honest, direct opinions, adverse or otherwise.

This can be done in a strategic and structured manner.

The following is an example of how Changi Airport has done it:

At Changi Airport, customers go through different service touch points, served by many airport partners, as they pass through the terminals.

The challenge is to harmonise the services of these different entities so that, collectively, they deliver one Changi experience.

This entails developing a long-term strategy to address customers’ interactions and experience.

One of the airport’s major customer service initiatives is the Instant Feedback System (IFS). The intent is to amplify listening posts at Changi Airport to gather deeper insights of its customers.

The IFS has been implemented at key service touch points to engage and interact with customers.

This provides customers with an immediate channel to tell the airport management how they have performed and where they can improve.

The information gathered is priceless. It has helped, and will help, calibrate the airport’s service barometer and challenge all staff to raise Changi’s existing level of service.

3. Loyal staff = loyal customers

Loyal staff members cultivate loyal customers. An organisation must build a service culture that drives desired service behaviours.

Employees are important internal customers and need a regular dose of appreciation.

Treat them well and chances are they will have a higher regard for the customers they serve.

Focus on the positive rather than the negative, and reward positive actions while coaching staff to overcome the negative.

Celebrate little successes with your staff and develop targeted training programmes to keep staff’s skill sets relevant at all times.

Service is not an act

Service is a sprint, while good service delivery is a marathon.

There are no magic formulas. It calls for a common will, discipline and endurance by all in the service delivery team.

Management must embrace the commitment to provide service excellence, and there must be leaders to provide the vision and foresight that is critical for developing a good service culture.

In addition, good customer service demands consistency.

To achieve this, document exactly how you want your business to fulfil customers’ needs in every situation so that everyone in the organisation knows what is desired.

Create systems and procedures that consistently deliver the desired level of customer experience, which in turn will build your customers’ loyalty as they know exactly what to expect. 

Changi Airport’s journey in creating a consistent customer service experience via its Customer-Centric Initiative (CCI) was not an easy feat.

This was an effort undertaken to align all airport agencies and partners towards a common service objective, that is, to be a service icon of Singapore. 

It took strong leadership and the commitment of an airport-wide service improvement team, aptly named “Eureka”, to spearhead the airport’s journey to success.

True service is not an act. It is an attitude. A positive attitude, to be precise. 

We should not look for reasons to serve but for opportunities to excel in service.