I have asked thousands of people across the world (in a wide variety of organisations) how they would complete this sentence, “At the company I work for, my job is to...”
And most of them say things like:
resolve problems, and so on...
Occasionally, some people come up with responses like this:
ensure my customers are satisfied enough to continue doing business with us,
understand and meet or exceed customer expectations,
Unfortunately, the second set of responses is very rare indeed. Which brings us to the point: Whose job is it anyway, to ensure that customers are happy?
As you think through this question, consider how you may respond to it. If your first instinct is, “Hey, that’s someone else’s job, not mine”, or “That’s everybody’s job, not just mine”, or even “That’s senior leadership’s job — me, I’m just a ‘cog in the wheel’”, then you would do well to re-consider!
The truth is, customer service ought to be everybody’s job, in that every single person in any organisation impacts (in some way or the other) the customer’s experience with that organisation.
Of course, the closer you are to the “frontline” (that is, direct customer interaction), the more obvious this is — but even people in functions such as finance, human resources and purchase do indeed impact the customer’s experience. As the legendary Jan Carlzon (one time CEO of Scandinavian Airlines) said: “If you’re not serving the customer, you’d better be serving someone who is!”
Who is the customer?
Although most organisations will include something about customers in their vision statements, organisation goals and so on, they lose sight of the customer when they translate those grand statements into daily operational realities. For example, most performance metrics tend to focus on the tangible, specific transactions and tasks that people do in their everyday routines, rather than on customers and their satisfaction.
Of course, it is much more difficult to measure “customer satisfaction”, which is an intangible, subjective thing. Whatever the reason, the reality is that most of the time, the customer is not really in the reckoning as people are doing their daily jobs.
Think about it the next time you take a taxi. Does the taxi driver see his job as one in which he has “to ensure the passenger is truly satisfied with the experience”? Or does he see it as getting you from point A to point B?
The next time you go into a bank, check if the teller is focused on ensuring you have a positive experience? Or is she just paying out or receiving money, and documenting the transaction?
“Hang on”, you say. “Isn’t it important for the taxi driver to get you from A to B? Isn’t it necessary that the teller pays you accurately, and updates the database accordingly? Are the transactions not important?”
Of course they are! In fact, they are the “basics” — they are the “must do” aspects of any job. If these are not done right, the negative impact can be large — on customer dissatisfaction, lost customers, poor reputation and image, operating costs and therefore reduced business results.
But then, it is also crucially important to ensure customers are happy enough to lead to “R3” — retention, referral and repurchase. In a 2004 McKinsey survey of European banks, they found that customers who had positive experiences when interacting with bank employees tended to increase the value of their business (58 per cent), and purchased new products (29 per cent).
On the other hand, 72 per cent of customers with negative experiences in the bank switched their main bank, stopped buying products, bought competitor’s products, or decreased the value of business with the bank. The challenge is for us not to see the situation as either transactions or customer service, but rather as both transactions and customer service.
Aim for balance
Happy customers can make a huge difference to you and your job. Here are some ways you can put the customer back into the reckoning:
Write your job description out, emphasising both “transactions” and “customer service”. Print this out and keep it visible in front of you at all times.
In your daily “To Do” list, include at least two items to do that would directly impact customer satisfaction.
Link your work/tasks to your customers’ needs and expectations, and identify the impact that your tasks can have on customers’ lives.
Collect stories of how happy customers have contributed to your business or its growth — and make those stories visible.
Think through what you could do differently if customer satisfaction was a part of your job (that is, what you are getting paid to do). Document these approaches, and implement them.
Include some “customer metrics” into your KRAs/KPIs. Customer satisfaction is an end objective, which can of course be used. But it is often easier to introduce simpler metrics — for example, “Use customer names”; “Recognise repeat customers by name”; or “Proactively provide an “extra” at each customer interaction”.