For the past two months I have been working through 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 still 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 third step, Going the Extra Mile. This assumes that you have done what’s necessary to achieve a high level of Consistency of Delivery and are Caring for the Person. Without the first two, clients will not respond as desired to this last and sometimes most critical part.
Going the Extra Mile means seeing an unspoken need or desire and delivering on it. Many of us do a great job of consistently delivering on our base product or service. We may even from time to time exhibit the ability to care about the person we are serving, but getting ourselves and our teams tuned into the person to the point that we can understand the unspoken desire or need of that person is difficult. I go back to David and my book and the experience worksheets we included. David used the example of a rained out amusement part visit and how they could have improved the experience of getting a refund. Now, it would have been easy to have the staff handle the transaction quickly, smile while doing it, apologize for the weather adversely affecting the visit and giving David’s children some candy. What was difficult was getting that team member to see that David was disappointed, and that he was struggling with what to do with his children on a rainy day. If the team member had fully understood David’s need, he/she might have suggested some indoor entertainment that was nearby and even offered directions, maps or phone numbers. It is that little thing that was never asked for or even expected that could have turned that client experience into something positive. Don’t get me wrong; David got his refund. In the client experience that he suggests, he would have gotten a token park-mandated apology that the team member extended, but he still would not have gotten a true WOW.
Now, I know you are saying, “can you really expect people to be able to do this?” I would say absolutely, and here are other examples of it. RackSpace is a network hosting company that provides tech support that they refer to as “fantastical support.” There is a story where a marathon support call has run way past dinner time and while the RackSpace reps have handled the call from the day shift to the night shift the end user IT people are still the ones on the call. The RackSpace engineer hears the end users in the background talking about being hungry. She takes it upon herself to locate a pizza place near the end users’ office and have pizza delivered, which she paid for herself. There is also the Zappo’s $250 “make it right fund” that permits all customer service people to spend up to $250 to make any issue right for the customer, and Nordstrom’s has a policy of taking anything back at any time for any reason.
So, what do these examples have in common? In my opinion, three things: They are companies that have a focus on company culture, take the time to train their teams on what client satisfaction truly is and what must be done to achieve it, and empower their team members to do what is right or needed to achieve the perfect client experience every time. The most important is empowering their team members. You see I can have a solid culture, train my team until they can see any need, but if I do not give them the power to execute on what they see, then what good is it?
I recently got the chance to hear Mark Strung from the Business Resource Center in Columbus, GA. He provided the three questions we have to ask to empower our teams to execute the way we want. He said, when any team member comes to you to have you solve a problem, “What would you do if I/no one was here to help you solve the problem?” Then ask “What would the outcome be?” Lastly, ask “Are the response and outcome in keeping with our mission and values?” In doing this, you are coaching that team member to think independently, know what is expected and acceptable and to feel empowered to execute on issues like that in the future. It is then and only then that a team member can have the confidence and ability to truly hear what a client wants or needs even when that desire or need is unspoken.
I know that this isn’t something that comes about overnight. There is a lot of hard work to put a program together to achieve such a goal, but what will happen if you don’t? Will your clients find someone else to serve them or some way to satisfy their needs without you? I can promise that some will. If you aren’t delivering on the basic product or service you will lose more clients than you care to think about.
So, to close out this three-month effort, I would challenge anyone who leads a team to look at what your product or service is, and first ensure that you are delivering on it in a consistent and meaningful manner. Then take some time to truly work with your employees to ensure that they understand how and why we should all care about the person on the other end of the transaction. Lastly, begin to empower your team to do those things that are not part of the direct product or service you offer but things that your clients are asking for, whether spoken or unspoken. You may even want to consider having your team read the book by Bob Burg entitled The Go-Giver.
I hope this series has provided some value — and maybe discussion — for you and your team. It is always my goal to take what I learn from my trials and errors and share it with you and, I hope, help you to avoid the pitfalls we have run into along the way. I invite you to check out our IT Learning Series for 2012 at www.techtartare.com and sign up for one or the many great events we are hosting. At these events, we combine great learning experiences with great food.