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ARTICLESManagement & Service

IF THE CUSTOMER IS HAPPY YOU ARE DOING YOUR JOB RIGHT

This is a service philosophy I learnt while working with AIR CANADA. It is mentioned in their theme song on Customer Care.

It is ‘the logic’ in today’s business, where the focus is on Customers. While the world is fervently buzzing ‘Customer Service’, ‘Customer Satisfaction’, ‘Customer Delight’, ‘Embrace your Customers’, ‘Customer is King’ and so many other theories this is something simple to understand and gives a clear direction to all employees.

Under normal circumstances every company wants to see happy customers. Every one is aware that customer satisfaction is what results in success. This is the end result all organizations strive to achieve.

But the question is how do you keep customers happy? How does one go about this Herculean task?

I call this a Herculean task because, as simple and straightforward this may seem, it is not really so. There is no single formula we can adopt. We need to bear in mind that customers come in different colors, shapes, sizes and temperaments. They exist in the North Pole, as much as they do in the South. East differs from West.

As a matter of fact if you look around in the local environment, you’ll find customers from various countries and cultures. They all have their wants and expectations varying in direct proportion to their diversity. Is it possible to say that a set standard of service will satisfy all? Is there a formula that could result in customer satisfaction?

No, there is no formula to satisfy such a diverse lot of customers.

A fact we need to understand and remember before stepping in the service bandwagon is that ‘services should vary in direct proportion to wants’. Service needs to move rapidly to meet these fleeting wants. The only industry that is presently keeping pace is the electronics industry. They do not meet wants. Instead they go ahead creating wants that never existed. Their offerings give birth to wants.

Can quality service provide customers with experiences that they never dreamt of?

EMPOWERMENT

Customer service is a creative art where employees try various ways and means to ensure happy customers. But to meet or exceed expectations you often need to go the extra mile. And to go the extra mile you need staff to be ready, willing and confident to serve. And for staff to serve well you need to equip them with necessary powers that ensure happy customers.

No two customers are alike. Given this fact you will have to amend or alter your service strategy as the situation warrants. This can only be done when you empower your employees. Give them the authority to break rules prudently. Between company policy and customer satisfaction, let them think judiciously and take decisions. Decisions, that leads to satisfaction of the customer and not that of the company. For if the customer gains, then the company gains. The reverse is also true.

EMPOWERED

Mr. King and his family are going on a holiday. They are flying business class. They have their maid Nancy accompanying them but seated in economy. The flight is full barring a few seats in business. As a matter of fact it is overbooked. Anita during check-in observed the appearance and mannerisms of Nancy and decides to upgrade her to business and give her economy seat to a waiting passenger. She consults Mr. King and goes ahead with the swap.

Her decision to upgrade Nancy went thus. The revenue from a group of four business and one economy class logically made sense to upgrade Nancy than any other economy passenger. This got Nancy closer to the family in case they needed any help. Mrs. King was happy, as Nancy was closer to the kids. Nancy seemed a good choice to be seated in business class. On the emotional front, Anita wanted Nancy to have a business class experience. The supervisor while studying the final manifest and the upgrade situation agreed with Anita’s decision and called it prudent.

Anita could have gone like a horse with her blinds on and approached the supervisor to decide on whom to upgrade. They could have had a discussion, worked a quick contest and come with the ‘upgrade’ winner. Instead she decided to use her discretion, save time, balance customer satisfaction to company’s policy. She decided on behalf of her company. She was confident that her decision would not be considered wrong by her supervisor.

ACT THEN REACT

Empowerment also means Act then React. It is important to get your act together and ensure satisfaction of that customer in front of you. Do whatever it takes to provide exceptional service and see him off - Satisfied. We can later react, analyze situations, work out justifications and learn from the experience.

PITFALLS

While empowerment is critical to a successful service strategy, it is also the most difficult, for any company to implement. Some of the important reasons for this would be -

- Lack of confidence

Employers are often under the misconception that employees do not have the prudence to analyze situations as best as they do themselves. They feel employees may give everything away to customers.

Overcome this with training, throwing responsibility, showing confidence, and monitoring situations. Help your employees to think and balance situations and then act.

- Taken for a ride

Companies fear that empowerment could lead to situations where customers can cheat and take advantage of gullible frontline staff.

Well, once you have trained your staff and shown trust they would not be gullible anymore. They would smart up to keep a check on customers. They will work around customers from taking undue advantage of the company.

- Shying from decisions

Empowered decisions means taking risks, something employee’s wish to avoid. A wrong decision means getting into trouble, getting reprimanded, getting fired, cut in salary.

Employers will do a great service to their employees and themselves when they assure their staff that they will not get fired or pulled up for a wrong decision to solve a customer satisfaction issue. Such assurances encourage employees to be more responsible and focused on customers.

Also, as much as a company wishes to empower its employees, employees must reciprocate by taking on responsibilities and working towards growth and success. Remember a tortoise goes places only when he sticks his neck out.

- Insecurity

Managers feel their importance and role is diminished when frontline start taking decisions. They start getting insecure.

On a positive note, he now has a team of dedicated frontline force taking pains to satisfy customers, giving him the opportunity to concentrate on other issues. Then why look down and feel insecure. Concentrate on bigger issues and look up towards growth.

After all it costs much less to empower your employee to take care of that customer and have him come back to you, than drive him to your competitor.

Imagine a customer’s perception when he realizes that a decision was taken or a problem solved on the spot by frontline. Something he thought required manager’s intervention. He would definitely be impressed and happy in the manner decisions are made.

So, if the customer is happy you are doing your job right. Go ahead, do your job right.

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Gangadhar Krishna

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