How to improve your customer service

Did you know that this week (5- 9 Oct) is National Customer Service Week? Nope – neither did I! Until my Fruitful Friend Stephen Spencer kindly informed me. Stephen is a Customer Experience Expert, who specialises in working with those in the retail, tourism and hospitality sectors. I asked him to write a guest blog to share some insights from his perspective on this subject, and give us some pointers for how we can all look to up our game when it comes to customer service.

Over to Stephen:

By chance, I discovered that this week is National Customer Service Week (I heard it on Steve Wright in the afternoon). After searching on Google and Twitter, my initial shame at not knowing about this momentous event turned to surprise and consternation, as I realised that, just perhaps, I wasn’t the only one not to know about it. As you might expect, National Customer Service Week is endorsed and coordinated (in the UK) by the Institute of Customer Service, with a daily schedule of Customer Service-related activities and an online shop, offering branded promotional items such as a silicone wallet (£2.50) and a torch key ring (a snip at £2.40). And yet, as I searched #NationalCustomerServiceWeek on Twitter it became clear that there isn’t a huge amount of excitement or energy around the event.

I may be being harsh, but I think this is a sorry state of affairs. Customer Service isn’t a fringe activity, or a hobby pursued by a dedicated, anorak-wearing few – it is something that affects us all, every day. Whether we are engaged in business or philanthropic endeavours, or whether we are entrusting our hard-earned cash to a local tradesman or restaurant, the way we engage with our Customers, or are treated by those to whom we are Customers, daily impacts our success, our wealth, and our wellbeing. As retail behaviour guru Paco Underhill says, “Amenability and profitability are totally and inextricably linked. Take care of the former, in all its guises, and the latter is assured.”

So, focusing on Customer Service – on being nice to Customers – has the power to transform relationships, and profits too. A recent report by workforce development charity People 1st found that a 1% increase in productivity could generate an extra £1.43 bn revenue in the tourism and hospitality sectors alone! (For productivity, read people doing what they do better, with more energy, and generating better returns.) People 1st also report that a shortage of so-called “soft skills” is hampering productivity – through failure to equip employees with the skills they need to engage Customers, become more productive, and commit to fulfilling careers in the service sector.

Perhaps the lack of buzz around National Customer Service Week, then, reflects the current state of affairs with regard to service in the UK: it is somehow accepted that we don’t “do” service in this country, and therefore we accept mediocre service as the best we can deliver, or receive. In turn, we don’t invest in training our employees (or even ourselves) to deliver outstanding service, and it is therefore no surprise that the best and brightest don’t see Customer Service as important, let alone as the source of a rewarding career.

So to translate all this to your own business – if you’d like to improve productivity, attract and retain more customers and build a committed, productive Team – here are three questions to ask yourself today (it is National Customer Service Week, after all):

  1. Is my business Purpose clear and compelling – to me, to my Team, and to my Customers?
  2. Do I, regularly, sit down with my Team (or with a coach) to review what I/we could do better to really excite and engage our Customers?
  3. Do I, regularly, call or meet with a Customer (or potential Customer), just to talk about their perception of me/us, and to ask them how we could do better in any or every aspect of our product and service?

Once you’ve answered these questions (use a scale of 1-10 if it helps), make an action plan, and take steps to implement it – immediately – and start building a culture of Service Excellence into every aspect of your business. You won’t regret it – indeed, your only regret will be that you didn’t start sooner!

If you’d like to discover more about designing and delivering outstanding Customer Service, visit today!