1. The E and C Question: Who Comes First – Employee or the Customer?

    July 2, 2020 by BPIR.com Limited

    So how genuine, are you really about ‘Customer First’?

    Is it Customer First or Employee First?

    These are questions that probably bother and confuse us.

    In this piece, let’s talk about customer first. If one is truly serious about it, is it just about developing customer insights, surveys, research, customer value mapping and so on? Or is there something more?

    Have you asked yourselves, “Does this activity benefit our customers? And if not, can you stop doing it?” At times, this calls for ‘Sacrificing’ something that you would have earlier ‘valued’ or perhaps something that is actually making money for the company.

    But if you don’t feel like you can make every sacrifice required yet, then let’s not talk about ‘Customer First’. Let’s not talk about treating our employees with maturity, dignity and honesty, when they can see quite clearly, that you are not serious about placing Customers First. What’s worse is that leaders would be viewed as hypocritical. The Corporate Values, displayed prominently in fancy frames, become meaningless.

    So are there companies that actually sacrifice profitability (and thereby, forfeit profits) at the cost of being true to their principle or motto of ‘Customer First’. Are there companies who truly ‘live their values’?

    Here’s an example from my own experience:

    Over these last few weeks, most companies have struggled to cope with COVID-19 pandemic related pressures, and e-commerce companies have just about begun operations. I placed an order with Amazon. Everything went well and my order got confirmed. But, a few days later, I received a call from Amazon to apologize that they cannot deliver the order and that the item ordered was unavailable and restocking was not expected in the near future.

    My expectation was that they would simply apologize for the inconvenience, offer the refund, and close the transaction.

    However, this was different. This caller, obviously an employee of Amazon:

    1. Was empowered to take a decision
    2. Had a basis for what he went on to offer i.e. there was a process and a policy in place
    3. Had a well-understood procedure to follow.

    The employee informed me that since it was their error, for which they are very apologetic, they would now send a replacement of a similar product. This product was being sent for the price of the original product, when it was actually Rs 2500 (around US$ 33) more expensive than the originally one. “Good service recovery”, I thought.

    This was a big sacrifice which was made to keep a loyal customer (me), truly loyal.

    To be honest, had they simply apologized and refunded the money, I would have been a bit disappointed, but given my past experiences with Amazon, I would have continued to place my orders and shown my Loyalty towards them. As a customer, I would have ‘sacrificed’ and perhaps overlooked the inconvenience, given that I am loyal to the Amazon Brand and Organization.

    I am sure we all have had similar experiences and stories to share.

    What is your view? Customer First or Employee First?

    President and Lead L&S Custodian

    email: prashant@striking-ideas.com
    website: striking-ideas.com
    the L&S platform loyaltyandsacrificehuddle.com

  2. Alpha to Omega of Customer Service Management

    April 14, 2019 by BPIR.com Limited

    Article contributed by Dr. Almas Tazein, BPIR.com Limited

    “People think of loyalty as a customer for a lifetime, but it’s really much simpler than that.
    It’s about the next time, every time.” – Shep Hyken.

    A sensitive situation where a customer felt respected and understood, where his grievance was handled with ultimate finesse, or a split-second of arrogance – these can be the deal-breakers or makers. How they are handled as an organisation, with all the customer service jargons, SOPs and protocols at our disposal is crucial. Sometimes, there is no policy to lean on, because the state of affairs is so novel and alien. Someplace else, we need to bypass that dogmatic company rule and consider an alternative solution, for the better, and a policy change emerges. The core values of service delivery define refined customer service.

    There are two possibilities in the case of a satisfied customer: He gives a 7/10 to the overall experience of the services in an ABC company, where all his product and service needs were met. That same customer after a few months gives a 9/10 for the same criteria. The only difference this time was, he had a complaint, and his grievance was addressed to his utmost satisfaction. This is the concept of service recovery paradox.

    What do we do to seize this disguised opportunity in a situation similar to the latter?

    Customer service transcends the frontline of the organisation – from the CEO at the top management, to the task workers at the bottom, it is a reflection of the principles and culture of an organisation – as a whole, where everyone speaks one language – unsurpassed customer service ethics.

    It is alarming to know that,
    441 billion is lost by US companies each year due to poor customer service.
    82% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company because of bad customer service.
    79% of high-income households avoid vendors for 2+ years after a bad customer experience, and
    66% of customers switch companies due to poor service.

    Here is a pragmatic guide to some of most relevant Best Practice Reports that BPIR.com has published in the customer service management domain.

    Index of Best Practice Reports – Includes new and old (but still relevant ) reports
    1 Customer Service Training
    2 Customer Service Excellence
    3 Customer Satisfaction Management
    4 Customer Complaint Resolution 2
    5 Customer Complaints Resolution
    6 Call Centre Representatives
    7 Customer Support and Service
    8 Customer Satisfaction Surveys
    9 Emotional Intelligence
    10 Relationship Management

    1. Customer Service Training
    There are essentially two types of training in the provision of customer service. The first refers to developing traits or characteristics such as professionalism, politeness, promptness, personalisation, enthusiasm or friendliness. The second refers to developing technical knowledge or know-how, depending on the products or services offered. To be a good customer service agent, you need to have the characteristics and the technical ability to solve problems and enhance the customer experience.

    Customers are the reason businesses exist and flourish. Developing a service-orientated culture helps prevent serious consequences like losing customers forever, putting the survival of the company at risk, law suits, and also giving a poor image of the company – nationally and internationally.

    80% of businesses believe that they already deliver high-quality customer service, but only 8% of their customers agree. Here are the 100 Customer Service Statistics You Need To Know.

    2. Customer Service Excellence
    Poor service quality leads to distrust. A 2011 Consumer Reports Survey found that:

    • 65% of respondents were “tremendously annoyed” by rude salespeople
    • 64% had left a store in the previous 12 months because of poor service
    • 71% were extremely irritated when they couldn’t reach a human on the phone
    • 67% hung up the phone without getting their issue resolved.

    3. Customer Satisfaction Management
    Customers expect organisations to serve them consistently by: asking them what they need, telling them what the organisation will do for them—and when it will be done, doing what needs to be done on time, and, telling them what has actually been done, and when it was done.

    4. Customer Complaint Resolution 2

    They say angry customers are good for business. “Original research executed by TARP (Technical Assistance Research Programs – Harvard) projectable to the U.S. population shows the following for consumers who experienced a problem with a potential financial loss of more than $100: 9% of those who did not articulate the problem remained brand loyal; 19% of those who articulated the problem but were not satisfied remained brand loyal; 54% of those who articulated the problem and were satisfied remained brand loyal.

    5. Customer Complaints Resolution

    There are different customer resolution scenarios that one can be experience – How to tell customers you need some time to resolve their issue? What to say when you can’t resolve the issue? How to (discreetly) let a customer know it is their mistake (the deal-breaker)? How to respond to a customer who is complaining in a language you don’t understand?

    A customer complaints resolution process is a formal procedure to log, investigate, and resolve any customer dissatisfaction or problems. The overarching aim of such a process is to turn around a dissatisfied customer into a satisfied one.

    6. Call Centre Representatives
    The role of the Customer Services Representatives (CSR) is increasingly requiring a wide skill set e.g. oral, written, product knowledge, sales, pricing, and technology skills along with an ability to handle stressful situations when dealing with customers. Jeffries & Sells (2004) measured the following correlation between customer satisfaction and CSR skills:

    • Knowledge 95% correlation
    • Accuracy 90%
    • Communicating 60%
    • Attitude 50%
    • Availability of Services 50%
    • Promptness 36%
    • Personalised Services 20%

    7. Customer Support and Service

    Customer support includes assistance in planning, installation, training, troubleshooting, maintenance, upgrading, and disposal of a product. Ongoing company profitability is related to how customers perceive the levels of support and service offered by an organisation. It has been predicted that the prioritization of CSS investments will be a major component relating to organisational growth over the next few years.

    The economics relating to the provision of CSS i.e. the balancing of levels of service against the cost of provision is a matter of key importance requiring company-wide coordination along with the integration of MIS and communications systems.

    John Wookey (2003) senior vice president, applications development, of Oracle Corporation wrote, the optimum solution for CSS is to employ a single customer model across an enterprise and to use collaborative CRM technologies which can collect and synchronize data from multiple knowledge sources.

    8. Customer Satisfaction Surveys

    A survey is designed to obtain customer feedback on satisfaction with an organisation’s products and/or services, and its major motive is to build a brand.

    Craig Bailey (2002) founder of Customer Centricity (a customer relationship consulting company) notes “Make no mistake, business is about numbers. In my opinion, there are two sets of numbers that every company must track and manage: the financials and customer satisfactions levels. If executives of a corporation only care about the financial indicators, the company will lose sight of their source of revenue – the customer”.

    9. Emotional Intelligence

    We have been led to believe that our IQ is the best measure of human potential. In the past 10 years, however, researchers have found that this isn’t necessarily the case and that a person’s emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) in actuality, is a greater predictor of success in life and work. EQ can have more explicit applications in the conflict resolution and customer service domains. Unlike IQ, EQ can be developed and worked upon.

    Success stories: U.S Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) recognised that many of its personnel required high components of EI to effectively fulfil their roles within the organisation. Developing partnerships, collaboration, and working with elected officials/citizens required empathy, flexibility, impulse control, and non-confrontational relationships. MAG implemented an EI assessment, training, and coaching program that was made available to all staff on a voluntary basis.

    10. Relationship Management

    Research has found a 5% increase in customer retention boosts lifetime customer profits by 50% on average across multiple industries, as well as a boost of up to 90% within specific industries such as insurance (Bain & Company).

    Companies that have mastered customer relationship strategies have the most successful Customer-relationship management (CRM) programs. For example, Capital One Financial Corporation, a US credit card issuer, invested heavily in a CRM programme intended to nurture its customers and ensure delivery of the right product at the right time to the right customer. The programme was so successful that it even allowed the company to deliver products that customers were not aware they needed. As a result, the company went from start-up in 1995 to industry leadership in just five years. (Ragins & Greco, 2003).

    All references in this article can be found in the relevant Best Practice Reports except for the following:

    – “The story behind successful CRM – Bain & Company”. www.bain.com. Retrieved 23 November 2015.

    To join BPIR.com and support our research, simply click here, or to find out more about membership, email membership@bpir.com. BPIR.com publishes a new best practice report every month with over 100 available to members.

  3. Is the customer really always right? A hotel company invests in its employees first

    July 28, 2017 by BPIR.com Limited


    Originally posted on Blogrige by Dawn Marie Bailey

    What if you turned the service philosophy “the customer is always right” on its head and considered your employees first? What would happen to your customer service?Employees first (or ladies and gentlemen first) is a consideration of two-time Baldrige Award recipient Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, LLC, where inspired, engaged employees are considered one of the most critical investments, said Valori Borland, Corporate Director, Culture Transformation, at the Ritz-Carlton, speaking at a recent Baldrige Quest for Excellence conference.

    “We know without a shadow of a doubt [that] you cannot have excellent customer engagement without having passionate advocates who work with you,” said Borland. “We support. We invest. We grow. We develop. We want to inspire [employees] each and every day.”

    She added that the two most important things you can say to an employee are “Thank you” and “That means a lot.”

    And in the hospitality industry, where the average rate of employee turnover is 80%, retaining employees, especially in ultra-competitive markets such as Miami and New York City, is a challenge. But Borland said the Ritz-Carlton averages an employee turnover rate of just 20%; “a lot of that comes back to culture.”

    Growth of the Culture

    In the early 1980s, Borland said, the Ritz-Carlton started as three U.S. hotels and now has 140 properties in more than 30 countries. The growth is both in number and type: the Ritz-Carlton now offers properties that include destination clubs and year-round residences. The hotel company has had to evolve its culture and processes through different elements of the hospitality industry, different regions of the United States, and even different countries, she said.

    What the hotel company attributes to its success to be able to grow and consistently deliver service excellence are four pillars: (1) the Gold Standards (made up of components: the Credo, motto, three steps of service, employee promise, 6th diamond, and 12 service values), (2) alignment across properties, (3) its human resources key processes, and (4) the delivery of unique experiences (e.g., global flavor and celebrity chefs), said Borland.

    “As we have grown and as customers adapt and evolve, and their needs have changed, we had to stay relevant,” she said. “We have a commitment to quality. This actually came out of us going through the first Malcolm Baldrige assessment. We had to quickly be able to figure out how do we align and create consistent messaging.”

    Borland said the Ritz-Carlton’s original vision, written by former president Horst Schultz, was to create a world-class, luxury hotel company on the premise that we are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentleman. That motto has not changed over the years.

    She said, in the late 1990s, the employee survey revealed that the ladies and gentlemen wanted an internal statement of their beliefs, so employees and leaders, across global properties, held roundtables to seek feedback, and the employee promise was developed. As an employee, Borland said, “I was so blown away that they wanted me, along with my colleagues, to be a part of the writing and co-creating and collaborating [on the employee promise]. . . . When you involve your employees in the planning of the work that affects them directly, wow.”

    Borland said the 12 service values all start with the word “I” followed by an action word; for example, “I am proud to be Ritz-Carlton” and “I am creating.” She said putting the “I” before the values indicates ownership and pride. She added that the service values support the mystique of the brand, as well as the emotional engagement of the Ritz-Carlton’s ladies and gentlemen.

    Recruiting, Hiring, Training

    As a luxury brand, the Ritz-Carlton looks to serve the top 1% of the travelling market, a pretty specific niche, said Borland. So, the hotel company needs to recruit the same caliber of employees to be able to deliver to this market. She said the Gold Standards that encompass the Ritz-Carlton’s values and philosophy are the foundation of the culture, but the employees make the magic happen.

    “You can’t just add on when renovating a building; you have to go back to the foundation, make sure it’s solid, reinforce it before building out,” she said. “To consistently deliver service excellence around the world is all about human resources—our systems behind the smiles. . . . How do we inspire and engage on a regular basis daily, at all times?”

    Prospective employees go through four to five interviews, with team members often involved in decisions, before they are selected to join the Ritz-Carlton, said Borland. The hotel company is not solely looking at skills and knowledge. “We are looking for individuals who possess the behavior and have the DNA of who we are already as a company,” she said. “Can [the employee] consistently bring [the Credo] to life and energize it for every guest, every day? I cannot teach you to smile and to care and to be genuine and authentic.”

    Before they can start their jobs, employees must complete two-and-a-half days of orientation training, which includes content from senior leaders, human resources, sales, marketing, finance, etc., about the Ritz-Carlton culture, said Borland. On their first day, the ladies and gentlemen receive their very own Credo cards. The Gold standards, of which the Credo are part, “are known, owned, and energized with every guest during every interaction at all times,” she said.

    After orientation, each employee receives a learning coach to guide them, and on his/her 30th day, each receives an operational certification. On the 31st day, another day of orientation, called day 21, allows coaches to check in with employees. Day 365 is celebrated, but it is also used as an “emotional rehire”; the employee is asked, “Are you still committed to being a part of this organization?”

    Ladies and gentlemen at the Ritz-Carlton are empowered to handle service recovery for immediate employee resolution. Borland said employees have the tools and the training to make decisions. She suggests, “Allow them to run your business as if it’s their own. You would be surprised as what that does accomplish. Some say if you give too much power to employees, they might give away or comp too much, but If you teach them, set the examples, and provide the guidelines, you may be surprised that they probably make better decisions” than others who are not on the front-line.

    To ensure consistent messaging, across the globe in every Ritz-Carlton property, at the beginning of each shift, every day, 40,000 employees go through the daily lineup, which reinforces messaging about what’s new, a featured topic, a value, a component of the brand, etc. On Mondays and Fridays, ladies and gentlemen share “wow stories”: examples where they have gone above and beyond to deliver exceptional service to guests.

    “We are always asking how can we be better. What are we doing that really creates the brand loyalty?”

    And for the Ritz-Carlton, that brand loyalty starts with the ladies and gentlemen of its workforce.

  4. How to handle customer feedback on social media

    September 30, 2016 by BPIR.com Limited


    Originally posted on The Meeting Room by Ashlee Keown

    If someone posts a complaint on your business’s Facebook page or Twitter feed, how best to respond? Would you a) delete or ignore it b) discuss a possible resolution via comments on their post or c) thank them and make contact privately?

    Here’s how to turn feedback – good or bad – into an opportunity, by Ashlee Keown, Warehouse Stationery’s Digital and Direct Communications Manager and contributor to the company’s business advice site The Meeting Room.

    Complaints, questions or compliments posted on your business’s social media pages offer a chance to make a positive impact on what current and prospective customers think of your business. Quickly resolving a complaint, for example, can build credibility and goodwill amongst your followers.

    1. Plan ahead
    Assign one person to manage social media feedback. Ideally, they will have customer service experience.
    Prepare a plan. This could be a simple decision tree that covers:

    • types of comment
    • how to respond to each type, eg “Thanks so much for your compliment”
    • how quickly to respond to each type, eg within 30 minutes for a complaint
    • when to involve someone more senior or with detailed product knowledge, eg a question that can’t be answered readily
    • how to proceed in certain situations, eg notify X of a complaint about Y and find a solution together.

    To help develop this plan, think about how your business handles customer complaints on email, by phone or in person. Remember, social media is a public forum and conversations remain visible, so extra-special care is required when responding.

    2. Keep across it
    To be able to respond quickly, monitor your social media pages constantly. This doesn’t mean someone watching them 24/7. Your social media person should check work accounts as often as possible, and set up alerts to be notified immediately when someone posts a comment.

    Social media platforms offer this alert function, but only for activity on that platform. Tools such as Hootsuite enable monitoring across different platforms.

    3. Review carefully
    Each comment should be read thoroughly. Some may be inappropriate and should be deleted, eg abusive or racist, or a product promotion. Set out the types of comments that will get deleted in the ‘profile’ or ‘about’ sections of your page.

    Tip: Don’t delete negative comments out of hand. A business page with absolutely no complaints can raise suspicions. A page where customer complaints have clearly been resolved can build trust.

    4. Respond quickly
    Generally, the faster a business responds to comments the better. So if someone puts up a compliment, sincerely thank them for it as soon as you can.

    Similarly, if they make a genuine complaint, respond quickly with thanks, an apology and a promise to make things right. Be open, polite and professional, not cold or defensive. Their complaint is a sign they value your product or service.

    It’s important then to move the conversation onto a private channel – eg Facebook Messenger, email or phone – so you can get to grips with the problem without discussing every detail in public. Then do all you can to solve the problem.

    Once the issue is resolved, go back to the original comment and ask the person publicly if they are satisfied. This shows your customer and others that you made good on your promise, and that you value them.

    5. Learn and improve
    Feedback on social media offers valuable information about your business. It’s also a chance to test and enhance the way you handle complaints and queries.

    Tip: Whether positive or negative, use feedback to improve your customer service and your business as a whole.

  5. A customer guarantee absolutely dependent on workforce engagement

    March 17, 2016 by BPIR.com Limited


    Originally posted on Blogrige by Dawn Marie Bailey

    “To guarantee that every guest is delighted because of me” is the mission of Baldrige Award recipient K&N Management. Along those same lines, its vision is “To Become World Famous By Delighting One Guest at a Time.”

    Those are pretty lofty goals whose achievement is ultimately dependent on each and every workforce member, because the vision and mission clearly spell out what each workforce member is to do—delight guests. And the owner and operator of Mighty Fine Burgers, Fries & Shakes, as well as the licensed area developer of the four Austin area locations of Rudy’s Country Store & Bar-B-Q, has invested in its workforce to ensure that each member can do just that. Part of this investment is really caring for, listening to, and engaging the workforce in support of both the customers (guests) and the community.

    Allyson L. Young, HR and Brand Director, K&N Management, who will be speaking at the upcoming Quest for Excellence Conference, says, “We can’t achieve our mission or vision without the best people. If you don’t spend the resources to select, train, engage, and retain the best people, you or your managers will spend the majority of their time and energy dealing with workforce issues. We strive to treat our workforce as our internal customers, build relationships, and create an experience for them that will leave them delighted.”

    Recognized as one of the Top Places to Work in Austin, K&N Management builds and maintains a focus on “guest delight,” relying on innovation and technology to create product offerings that meet or exceed guest requirements. For example, guests can access store information and events via web sites and social media, as well as through large monitors that display important information about the brand and community outreach efforts at each restaurant location. Feedback is collected with a tablet that administers short surveys right at the table and uploads the information to a third-party host for aggregation. Takeout guests are directed to a Web-based survey.

    To attain this guest delight, leaders know that the workforce must be engaged. One successful example of K&N’s approach to workforce engagement, says Young, is K&N’s Team Member Care Team. “We have two full-time associates who spend their time helping our people solve personal problems before they become work problems,” she says, adding a Theodore Roosevelt quote that pretty much sums up K&N’s workforce philosophy: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

    K&N Management strives to retain its workforce by offering a comprehensive set of above-market benefits to team members who average at least 30 hours per week. For all categories of workers, turnover rates are lower than industry averages. For example, at the time it received the Baldrige Award, K&N Management posted a turnover rate for production workers that was less than 50 percent, in contrast to the industry average of 85 percent. K&N Management’s absentee rate was slightly more than 1 percent, compared to 5 percent for the best competitor and 3.5 percent for benchmarked organizations. Over 95 percent of K&N Management team members reported they were proud to work for the company.

    During the Quest conference, Young will be presenting some of the organization’s top tips for using the Baldrige Excellence Framework to support workforce engagement across its sites. For example, she says, use the framework to identify gaps, then put together cross-functional strategy teams to benchmark best practices in or outside of your industry, create an action plan, and close those gaps.

    At her session, participants will also learn how K&N Management uses strategic planning to continuously improve workforce engagement. Every year, it is one of our strategies, she says, and we have implemented several key workforce engagement processes since receiving the Baldrige Award in 2010.

    Young added that service industries, especially in the hospitality industry, among other types of organizations, can benefit from Baldrige:
    The Baldrige Framework promotes innovation, which promotes learning and continuous improvement in every part of the organization.

    • Many small businesses, especially restaurants, are family-owned and operated and are simply reactive to the environment. When applying the Baldrige Framework, leaders become more disciplined in terms of long-term thinking, which results in more proactive problem solving and continuous improvement.
    • Many business owners are concerned about the future and sustainability. The Baldrige Framework provides the guidelines for operational excellence, which results in long-term profitability and sustainability.
    • What if your organization’s mission and vision were absolutely dependent on each and every workforce member? Do you have the workforce engagement to take that chance on behalf of your customers?