A Key to Customer Service is Keeping Your Promise

This evening our team participated in a group exercise about how we can improve customer service. We discussed the following four characteristics associated with delivering exceptional customer service: keeping promises, active listening, attitude and the power of persuasion.

Although each area drew an equal amount of participation it was the discussion around keeping promises that interested me most.  I discovered three basic elements that every person in sales should know – (1) As a member of the company, you are the expert and the curator of the customer experience (2) that the most important thing any member of any company can do is to deliver proper expectations (3) and that every effort should be made to keep any promise made to the customer.

In order to drive home the point of keeping the promise to the customer we used the following clip from a Seinfeld episode which proved to be a great way to convey the message.

Although obvious when thinking about it, keeping the promises made to your customer will differentiate your company from the rest.

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Innovate & “Amplify Human Imagination”

This morning Vijay Govindarajan of the Harvard Business Review posted a fascinating blog on innovation entitled Reverse Innovation at Davos. The article examines how innovation in developing countries is contributing to unprecedented growth and what that means to their rich, developed counterparts. At the end of the piece  Govindarajan challenges “Western multinationals” to begin to shift their focus, resources and power to these emerging markets suggesting that a failure to do so will result in missed opportunities.

This article reminded me of seeing Gary Hamel deliver a keynote  at ASAE a few years back on “The Future of Management,”  which focuses on the need for organizations (nonprofit and for-profit alike) to think and act differently in order to succeed.  At the heart of his argument was the notion that organizations need to continually innovate and revisit their strategies through new and often very different lenses. This, he suggests, often means redesigning and challenging longstanding management models to accommodate for a new approach to doing business.

It’s been two years since I saw Hamel’s presentation but his message of  “strategic renewal” and a belief that every member of every organization can play a role in “continually generating hundreds of new strategic options” has always stuck with me.  With that in mind, and on the heels of a very enlightening piece from HBR, I found this presentation and thought I would share it for review.  Comments on favorite slides are listed below the presentation.

*This presentation was put together by Mark Sniukas.  His presentation can also be viewed here.

Slide 12 – Strategic Renewal  – Over the past few months I’ve been involved in several board meetings where the teams have reviewed their strategic plans through an innovative lens.  Meaning – they’re taking a look at the gaps in their plans to identify opportunities to develop new ideas, products, and processes.  This, I believe, is a product of strategic renewal.

Slide 13 – I’m not crazy over the repetitive use of the word “strategic” but I do like the idea of rebooting. In my opinion you can reboot just about everything.

Slide 14 – “Continually generating hundreds of NEW strategic options” – this is great.

Slide 28 – Continually reinforce the belief that innovation can come from anyone.

Slide 40 – Amplify human imagination.

In this day and age everyone is afforded the opportunity to innovate.  Leaders, teams and organizations alike should be taking full advantage of it.

Make Them Look Up

The Promise Land

Over the holidays I became a fan of Wegmans Food Markets, a growing supermarket chain that sat atop the 2005 Fortune 100 “Best Companies to Work for List.”  If you’ve ever been to one then you know it has outstanding food at reasonable prices and the in-house market makes you think you’re somewhere other than heading for the baked goods aisle.

As if this weren’t enough the customer service is what some consider to be the best in the industry, and perhaps one of the best in the entire service industry.  Much has been written about the “employees first, customers second” philosophy Wegmans adopted, an approach shared by the likes of Microsoft, Cisco, and Marriott, to name a few.  However, what struck me most wasn’t the free ham being doled out by the charismatic butcher (who happened to keep my daughter and I entertained for over 15 minutes), or the cheese guy with the cool accent who led me to the “brie” promise land. It was the train.

Above the heads and perhaps missed by some was a train that ran inconspicuously throughout a part of the store. I’m not even sure I would have seen it had it had not been spotted by my keen-eyed four year old. Yet when I saw it I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.  Each aisle I turned down I checked to see where it was, whether or not it was still moving, and how far it had progressed since the last spotting.  It was pleasant, fun, memorable, and brought me to another time and place although I could never pinpoint when. It was a perfect compliment to an enjoyable experience during one of the busiest shopping days of the year. So why is this the train so important and why should an organization, a non-profit entity or a for-profit company care?

The Train by Jennifer Nicholson

The train represents a pleasant escape for the customer, the unexpected and added element to whatever experience an organization is trying to deliver.  It is the intangible little thing that may not make immediate sense, or speak directly to a mission or vision, but it manages to breathe a little life into an engagement and perhaps makes an incredible difference in an experience.

For Non-Profits
During last month’s ASAE Technology Conference there was a session on how organizations should consider using online games to increase membership for their organizations.  Generally I agree with this and think perhaps there’s a real opportunity for games (or other things) to change the experience for members. It certainly can’t hurt for organizations to continue to think differently. However, what can’t be missed by nonprofits and for-profits alike are the other elements that also make Wegmans great: its commitment to its employees, to its customers, to quality product and to reasonable prices.  I also think there’s an opportunity here for organizations to over analyze and ultimate kill the idea of using games to engage (not necessarily recruit) members, especially if they think too much about the outcome and not enough about the value of  what I call temporary escape.

For Companies
It’s time for every company to continue to add elements to the experience it delivers to its customer base.  Consumers are faced with so many choices and options that it may just be the companies that concentrate most on providing an escape to their own experience that outlast the rest. By fine tuning the fundamentals (mentioned above) and figuring out how to make them look up, the experience will become unforgettable.