Last month I started a three-part talk about wowing the client. No matter what your business or organization does, it has clients. Those clients have a right to expect service from your organization or group. If you don’t serve them, they will find someone else who will. But what if you are serving them, and they are not happy? That begs the question of whether or not you are delivering beyond the basic rights your clients have. I refer to it as “The Perfect Client Experience” or “Wowing the Client”. I talk about this topic in my book The Company Culture Challenge but thought it was worth a deeper look. Now, this process isn’t something that you can just expect your staff to be able to deliver on its own nor can you expect your staff to come up with its own process. Creating this experience can include your staff and maybe even some clients but, it requires that you as the leader to step up and step into everyone’s shoes so that you can define how you expect things to be done. Now, this process breaks down into three parts. The first part is the Consistency of Delivery; the second is Caring for the Person; and the third is Going the Extra Mile. So, this month, I want to talk about the second step, Caring for the Person. Now, this assumes that you have done what’s necessary to achieve a high level of Consistency of Delivery. Without that, clients will not respond as desired to the subsequent parts.
Caring about the Person means understanding what the client needs and/or wants and then delivering it in a way that says, “I care.” Understanding what the client wants or needs requires a group of skills including value of service, active listening and value of people that we must develop in our teams. I go back to my friends over at Shubee who have that great consistent way of answering each call that comes into their organization. They deliver caring in every greeting. Without fail, Shubee’s customer services reps answer the phone, “How can I make you smile today?” You can tell that each person understands the value of caring about customers and taking care of their needs. That message comes through right at the beginning of your interaction with them, regardless of who is calling. As Shubee’s IT provider, we call a lot, and I can say I love calling Shubee because of how I feel when I hear that greeting.
Now, let’s talk about the three core skills required to master step two: Care about the person.
Value of service – Does your team truly understand why what they do matters? Can you articulate it in a way that if asked, each team member could in turn articulate it to you or a customer? I often see people who will do a job with deadly efficiency and consistency but no passion for the work and therefore, no care about who they are serving. I have found that part of my leadership role involves teaching my team about all of the ways in which the services we provide for our clients matter to them and how the interactions our clients have with our team members bring value to them. If you take that list of client interactions you created from last month’s post and use it to discuss why each interaction matters, your team will begin to understand its value. Start with the big picture and big interactions first. Then move to the more complicated and maybe more difficult interactions. When someone understands why he does things and how what he does benefits others, begins to take pride in it and this translates to part of Care about the Person.
Active listener – I still struggle in this area as do most people. To be an active listener you have to put aside what you want to say and how you want to lead a conversation and truly hear what the other person is saying. There have been times when I’ve gone into a business with a problem. I am not so much looking for someone to make amends for a broken product or sub-par service as I am acknowledgement that I matter as a customer. More often than not, when this has happened, the person I am dealing with does a fine job of handling my transaction but never truly listens to me or acknowledges my need. So, I leave that interaction still not completely satisfied. Now, there are plenty of books and training sessions that you can use to improve your active listening skills, but for me, this is about role playing with your team. Again go back to those interactions you documented and act them out with your team as a group so that everyone can contribute to, learn from and critique performances. Throw a few curve balls into some of the sessions to see how each team member reacts. When someone doesn’t hit it out of the park, get the rest of the team to assist by recommending what the team member could have done better. Allow that person to try again. Make sure your team is having fun with and that no one is scared to make mistakes. It is here that you want them to try and fail, not with your clients.
Value of people is one of the hardest things to teach. The first two are skills that almost anyone can learn. But teaching one person how to value the thoughts and feeling of another can take a lot of you sometimes. Let me start by saying that we hire for this skill. We ask questions and give tests and simulated interactions that help us see if the person we are considering truly wants to help people and values them. I love people, and I love serving them and their needs. So, I teach by example through my interactions with my team members not just through what I say during meetings. Do you truly value the people your organization serves? Do you value the people on your team? Do you value yourself and understand the value that you bring to your team, your customers and your organization? If you do, then it will show in everything that you say and do, which will make it easier for your team to follow your lead.
One of my favor examples of Caring about the Person is a story told by author and speaker Scott McKain that I had the privilege of hearing him tell live. I was able to find this YouTube video of him telling it. Here is a transaction that could have been done consistently and would have been satisfactory for him, but when the person on the other end of that call goes to the next level and demonstrates caring about the person, locks in a client for life, not to mention so much free publicity it isn’t funny.
So, how do you help your team show your clients that they are truly valued? As always, let me know what you are doing and how you are doing it. I am a life-long learner and would love to learn from you.