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Five Keys to Creating an Uplifting Service Culture

business-people-shaking-hands1Recently I was walking through a distribution warehouse to meet a client. Hanging on the wall were safety posters instructing employees how to lift heavy boxes. Most of us have seen these posters many times. This was the first time I stopped to read one.

“Ron, are you ready to get started with the meeting?” asked the vice-president showing me around the building.

“I want to read this,” I replied. “Can I take a second?”

As you can imagine, the VP’s facial expression registered confusion over my interest in a standardized safety poster.

Soon I was seated in the boardroom with a table full of executives. The conversation focused on an obvious lack of performance that was affecting the company’s bottom line. “Mr. Kaufman,” said the chief executive. “You’re a service guru. We already have a fantastic service department. And we don’t get many customer complaints. But this is a cultural issue. Is this really something you can help with?”

Don’t Leave It to a Department

I’ve heard these types of comments for more than 20 years, in all corners of the globe and inside some of the world’s most recognized heavyweight organizations. The perception of many companies is that service is something handled by a department or a specific job title. It’s something only necessary to customer satisfaction.

“Would you mind if we talked about your safety posters?” I asked the CEO.

My seemingly odd question captured the CEO’s attention. Safety posters offer a simple, best practice to lift anything heavy, like a package, a tool—or even an entire culture. The posters instruct employees to stretch properly, position their body carefully, and use their strongest muscles. Plus, they tell employees to study and practice proper habits continuously.

When it comes to uplifting a culture—engaging people, motivating people, building loyalty, increasing performance, and creating a sustainable advantage—many companies pass by service as a solution, because somehow the concept has been improperly labeled.

I define service like this: taking action to create value for someone else. Those are powerfully simple words. So consider the impact of an uplifting service culture, a shared purpose within every aspect of your business, interaction, and transaction, from the boardroom down through the front line, where everyone focuses on creating value for someone else both internally and externally. Imagine the effect on performance, engagement, customer loyalty, employee retention, value, and competitive advantage.

“Let’s talk about the basic instructions for lifting anything,” I said to the group. “Let’s use the instructions of a safety poster to talk about building an uplifting service culture.”

1. Stretch. Yes, there are calisthenics for your culture. Stretch your mind and your old habits. Get the creativity flowing. Ask the big questions of why: Why do we need to change? Why service? Why now?

2. Position yourself. Lifting a culture requires proper positioning and support from all levels. Leadership must lead service. And everyone else must make himself or herself a service leader.

3. Use your strong muscles. The architecture of your company is akin to physiology. Muscles need flexing. Blocks need building. The building blocks of your culture, such as communication, recognition, vision, and metrics, need shaping. Analyze each block to understand which needs improvement.

4. Study. Educate your team with continuous exercise and understanding. Just because I read the safety poster once doesn’t mean I will perform properly. True education means I can perform based on the knowledge I have acquired and the practices I have learned.

5. Practice. Results really pay off here. Practice is the action of continually seeking improvement. It’s the correcting, steering, and adjusting to find continued success.

There is superhuman strength in every culture. Look at the heavyweights in the world, such as Ritz-Carlton, Nordstrom, Disney, Singapore Airlines, Southwest,, Nokia, Apple, Amazon, and Zappos. What’s their strongest muscle? It’s a culture based on service—an uplifting service culture.

Join Ron Kaufman at his Service Leadership Workshop on Tuesday, April 16th, 2013 in Dubai. Visit www.ronkaufmandubai.com for more details & to register you & your team.

 

Source – [Ron Kaufman]

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The Six Levels of Customer Service

405764_338908089551369_488844152_nLast month I met a client in Indonesia. We went to lunch at a nearby mall where music poured into the public area from every shop. Just as we passed one storefront, the music stopped and the shopkeeper let out a growl. I looked inside and saw something most of us have not gazed upon for years. The shopkeeper had been changing the music in his boom box and as he pulled out the old cassette, all that thin metallic tape came spilling out in a dusty mess on the floor.

Remember that? But when was the last time you saw it? Do you remember phonograph records that scratched and screeched? Or cracked CDs? Today’s music is skip-free, scratch-free, instant, mobile—and never gathers dust.

Of course, it’s easy to see how advancements in technology are constantly changing our lives. Companies that manufacture products understand they must always be introducing something new, faster, easier, or better to keep their customers engaged. If they don’t, they will be left in the dust when their customers upgrade to the next new product.

Very few companies, however, understand that service is exactly the same—it’s always changing, and your job is to stay ahead of the competition and ahead of the curve.

Here’s what I mean. To start, let’s figure out the level of your current service. Basically it fits into one of these six categories.

• Criminal service is really bad. It’s service that violates even minimum expectations, the kind of service that your customers remember never to use again, and are angry enough to call you and complain about.
• Basic service is disappointing. It’s the point of frustration that can turn into anger—but when it’s over the customer is not disappointed enough to complain. However, he will tell his friends, and will remember not to call you for that kind of service again.
• Expected service is nothing special. It’s the average, the usual, the norm. The customer might come back to you, but only if no better options exist.
• Desired service is what your customers hope for and prefer. They’ll do business with your organization again because you do things for them just the way they like it.
• Surprising service is something special, like an unexpected gift. It gives your customers more than they expected. This makes you an organization that customers enjoy and will come back to again and again.
• Unbelievable service is astonishingly fantastic. This is the level of service your customers can’t forget, the legendary treatment they will tell all their friends about.

Can you see where your service stands today? Great. Now consider this: Each level of service is just like a step in a staircase. Companies that truly understand the power of great service are continuously looking for ways to climb to the next level.

But here’s the rub: Moving up is not another step on a solid staircase; it’s like trying to climb up a down escalator. Each level is consistently sliding downward because your competitors are also working to raise their service. One day you offer surprising service, but the next day everyone in your industry is doing the same thing—oops, you just slipped down to Desired. Wait another day, and oops, you just fell to Expected. The next thing you know, you’re the cassette player of service trying to compete with the iPod. Keep your service stepping up, or find yourself lying in the dust.

How can you step up your service? Three ways. First, keep service improvement as a key focus of your business. Don’t just hit the service target; aim for one or two steps higher. Next, ask your customers what else they would like, appreciate, or value. What are you not yet doing that they would love you for if you did?

Finally, benchmark your competition and those outside your industry. What’s new in one arena soon finds its way to others.

Ron Kaufman is coming  for a day of Service leadership workshop in  Dubai. Book your tickets now - http://www.facebook.com/events/115258795305816/

Source – [Ron Kaufman]