When the Marketing Donut asked me to make a short contribution to their customer service manifesto for small businesses, I struggled to keep it brief. That's because I think there are three customer service ingredients that are critical to every business, and they are all connected - leadership, communication and motivation.
The first, leadership, is easy to sum up concisely: it's about having a vision of where your business is going.
Communication is very strongly linked to leadership, because every piece of communication between your workforce and your customers has to be aligned with your business vision. When I say communication, I don't just mean what you say and write, but everything you convey to your customers. It's the impressions and experiences they take away with them.
The third ingredient in good customer service is what I call 'aligning the motivators'. Let me explain: what I see in most organisations is that they have a great vision of what they want to be and they have lots of communication around that vision. Then they motivate people to do the wrong things.
I'm thinking, for example, about the call centre with a strong customer service promise that gives people bonuses based on the number of calls they make per hour. The result is that if someone gets a difficult call, it's in their interest to end the call as quickly as possible rather than to deal with the problem properly. So what about the customer service promise? The rewards you offer your team for work well done have to promote your vision, not undermine it.
So we have leadership, communication, motivation – the three ingredients of effective customer service. Then I thought about integrity. Really, what we're talking about here is integrity - of vision, of communication and of practice.
You can't be saying how important customers are to you and then slating them behind their backs. Nor can you say that your people are your greatest asset and then call them your 'staff' and not your 'team'. You certainly can't sell a product that's not right for your customer. Whatever you do, do it with integrity and strong customer service will follow. Believe me, the customer soon knows if the integrity isn't there.