Ever wonder why so many customer service strategies are either short-lived or fail before they get started? Think about it: how many companies do you patronize where you consistently (the operative word here is “consistently”) receive a positive and memorable buying experience?
Two points I’d like to make here. First, I bet it took awhile before a particular company came to mind. I doubt very much that a flood of companies blitzed your mind when you thought about that question. Second, I bet the number of companies that you came up with can be counted on one hand. And I bet you have a few fingers left over. The sad reality is, consistently receiving great customer service is the exception, not the norm. Why is that? I can cite many root causes, but without question the biggest one is a lack of an organizational infrastructure.
Customer Service Infrastructure:
A customer service infrastructure is an organizational structure, which includes: systems, processes, policies and procedures that facilitate and support a continuous focus on the customer. It all starts by building your organization from the customer backwards: not the other way around. An organizational structure that ensures a continuous, relentless and laser-like focus on the customer. An infrastructure is necessary because when it comes to a customer service strategy there is a distinct difference between implementation and execution.
Implementation is about “getting ready” to launch a strategy. Execution is about consistently performing to a desired standard. Take for example a soda promotion at your local convenience store. The implementation phase would include activities such as: ordering the appropriate levels of product, getting promotional signage in place, advertising, creating a store incentive program, and communicating and training store personnel. Once the soda promotion kicks off, the execution phase kicks in. Execution involves: ensuring the signage stays fresh (and up!) throughout the duration of the promotion, product displays remain full and attractive, inventory levels are maintained, and most importantly, store employees consistently (there’s that word again) promote and suggestive sell the product to every customer every time they come into the store - not sometimes, every time! (*) Just imagine how much more soda convenience stores would sell if they excelled at the execution phase of the strategy?
Good companies implement well. Great companies excel at implementation and in particular execution. The ability to consistently execute is what separates the great companies from the good companies. Unfortunately, most companies fail miserably at execution. Why? Because a customer service strategy unlike a product strategy is process driven vs. program, and a process requires a support system to succeed.
To launch and sustain a successful customer service strategy the first step in the process requires an organization to undertake a drastic paradigm shift. Most organizations are program oriented vs. process. Programs have a start and end date. Metrics are developed and results are easily tracked. At the end of the program period you know if it was a success or not because you can clearly see the results. A customer service strategy on the other hand takes time before you can readily see results. Customer service is a process not a program. And a process requires patience and discipline. Because of this program mentality among many companies, patience and discipline unfortunately is not exactly part of their DNA.
This article is part I of III.