Last week, I told you about three conferences that I thought were worth your time and attention (and my readers added a few more in the comments section!). One of the conferences I mentioned was the Secret Service Summit.
I had a chance to run some questions by the event's founder, John DiJulius. I think you'll find his take thought-provoking.
Drew: Why do so few companies truly offer exceptional customer service?
John: The view customer service as an expense rather than an asset, yet in down economies, the only businesses surviving with long term sustainability are the ones that focus on making the customer experience their competitive advantage. A company’s strongest asset in any economy is customer loyalty.
Drew: What are the top 10 obstacles to providing great customer service?
- Lack of service aptitude.
- Decline in people skills.
- Inability in connecting employees’ jobs and their importance to success of the company.
- Poor hiring standards.
- Lack of experiential training.
- Not letting employees have input on systems.
- Failure to implement and execute consistently.
- Lack of a strong employee culture.
- Lack of measurements and accountability.
- Focus on artificial growth.
Drew: Some suggest that you either have the customer service gene or not. Can it be taught and if so, what are the keys to successfully teaching it?
John: I disagree, most people have low service aptitude when they enter the world of business, because service aptitude is based on one’s life experiences & previous work experiences.
Front line employees do not make enough to drive Mercedes Benz, fly first class, or stay at five star hotels, yet leaders expect those same people to provide a world class experience. They do not have clue what truly world class is.
Service Aptitude: A person’s ability to recognize opportunities to exceed customer’s expectations, regardless of the circumstances.
It is companies & managers responsibility to elevate and dictate new and existing employees Service Aptitude through soft skill training and constant awareness to what world class looks like.
Drew: What do you find to be most surprising when you think about incredible customer service?
John: When someone anticipates your needs before you are even aware of it and when someone handles a challenge even when it is not their fault.
Drew: How will someone be different after they attend the Secret Service Summit?
John: The Secret Service Summit is about creating a customer service revolution, which is; A radical overthrow of conventional business mentality designed to transform what employees and customers experience. This shift produces a culture that permeates into people’s personal lives, at home and in the community, which in turn provides the business with higher sales, morale and brand loyalty– making price irrelevant.
So what do you think? Is he right? Do you think everyone can be taught how to deliver exceptional customer service or is there an innate gift that makes some people remarkable and others just passable?
Great article. It think it’s entirely dependent on the company culture.
I believe some people do have an innate gift for being a people person and for them good customer service is easier. For those of us who do not, I believe if we start with a good attitude and a genuine willingness to help others then as we grow and learn on the job our confidence will also grow and that process will help us to achieve great customer service.
Recognizing John’s comments on employee service aptitude are only a snippet, let’s say service excellence comes first from having customer focused systems for product/service presentation and delivery as well as service recovery (when things don’t go right). And service excellence through people by creating a positive culture that overcomes John’s top 10 obstacles is right on. And I believe it’s more complex than that. Fundamentally, I believe there are considerable numbers of people who cannot be evolved into great service providers given the time/expense companies are willing to provide. So first you have to hire good people using tools that identify the aptitude and more importantly the attitudes of service in new employees. Molding the good clay comes in understanding and engaging employee intrinsic/extrinsic motivation…the most important element being helping the employee to identify, link, and actualize his/her intrinsic motivators…values, deeply held beliefs, strengths, positive experiences, life lessons. And this has to be done at an individual level…and can be done through coaching and experiential training. If that is done well, then developing extrinsic motivators in the cultural environment (the correcting of top 10 obstacles 3,6,7,8,9,10) has a better chance of success. I believe there are only a few companies who do a good job of creating an enviroment of extrinsic motivation. But even fewer help the employee develop and link his/her intrinsic motivation.
Well, how does Land’s End provide such exceptional service? Example – I recently returned a jacket to them I had for 10 years that had a broken zipper. When I called Land’s End about replacing it, I got a live person immediately, who was cheerful and ready to help. When I explained my situation, the customer service rep said to package it up, send it back and I will get a free jacket. He was pleasant and excited for me that they could replace my jacket. He made my day. My sense is he was both trained and had innate emotional hospitality in serving me.
“service aptitude is based on one’s life experiences & previous work experiences”
That’s my experience.
Can it be taught? That all depends on the learner’s willingness to learn.
Not even the best training will make everyone to deliver exceptional customer service, it is necessary to have that spark. It takes a certain type of person in order to like working with other people. Some are made for numbers, programing and no contact with the customer.
Thanks-nice article & timely-I recently did some work with an independent hotel with young staff-and John’s comments about their life experience informing their view of exceptional customer service make perfect sense. Thanks for passing them on…and I will, too.