A piece of meat…rare and uncooked. That’s how I often feel when running errands with my thirteen-year-old son. We go to simple places – the bookstore, bank, car wash, dry cleaners, post office, grocery store, and of course, the movies (a favorite of mine during my downtimes). The service people don’t smile. They act as if I’m a bother. As a consumer, I feel used. “Give us your money and be gone,” is the message from many service establishments. They don’t say these words of course, but the vibrations I pick up speak volumes. Here I am, spending my hard-earned dollars, and all I’m wanting is a smile, a “Hello” and a little “TLC.” Can you relate?
I’m not one of those needy customers who demands that everyone hop to their feet when I walk into the room. I just want someone to “own” me as a customer for a moment in time. And it’s not just about me, either. I wonder what these encounters are teaching my son about how customer service is supposed to be given and received.
In another instance, my wife called a service business to ask that they fix a problem. She was passed around to three different people, but the problem was never resolved. So, she called back and asked to speak with a manager. She was put on hold and no one ever came back to the phone. When she called a third time and explained her situation and what she needed, the person hung up on her. That’s right! There was no power failure or dropped call. The person on the other end simply didn’t want to talk to her or help resolve her issue. Can you imagine? I wish I had to make this stuff up, but it’s 100% true.
Now mind you, we’ve paid this company thousands of dollars over a number of years. But the one time we needed them to fix a problem, we reached people who didn’t care – people who were unenthused, unmotivated and uninspired to take ownership of the situation and make something happen.
I could have picked up the phone and called the executives that I knew at this company to complain about their horrible customer service, but I didn’t. Why? They’ve heard it before. They already know they have bad service. They know their employees don’t take ownership of problems and instead pass the buck. They know that a bad attitude permeates the nooks and crannies of their organization.
Would you believe that we received a phone call a few days later from a survey company asking about our experience with this service provider? Well, you know me by now. You can probably imagine what I told them! Needless to say, we’re exploring other options and will be making a change.
I’m convinced that an unhappy work environment creates unhappy employees who don’t give a rip about customers. These employees consider each interaction with a customer as nothing more than a transaction. Their thinking is, “There’s no need for me to engage this customer in dialogue because he/she will be out of my hair in a few minutes, and I can go back to thinking about what I’m going to do after work.”
I’m equally convinced that organizations with high morale, enthusiasm and mojo instill a sense of customer ownership in the hearts and minds of their employees. These organizations understand that customer service is a direct reflection of leadership and training, so they hire for attitude and train for success. As a result, their employees gladly take care of their customers because they have an ownership mindset instead of a transactional mindset.
According to The Wharton School’s David Sirota and Louis Mischkind, who based their findings on 30 years of research involving 2.5 million employees in 237 companies, organizations with high morale outperform their competitors by roughly 20 percent. In contrast, companies whose employees are discouraged and do only enough work to get by, suffer when it comes to results.
To sustain a customer ownership mindset, organizations have to continually teach employees that long-term success comes from owning the customer relationship. Employees who deal with customers on a transactional basis fix problems for the moment (if even that).
Conversely, employees who embrace customer ownership go beyond fixing problems and create solutions that provide long-term value for the customer. These service professionals become experts in meeting customers’ needs. The result? The customer relationship expands, bringing the customer back time and time again. I know this is common sense, but successful organizations make it common practice and therein lies the difference.
Here are some additional ways to create a customer ownership mindset with employees:
Create and conduct a financial intelligence course for your employees. Educate them about how money is made in your company. As a part of this training, teach employees what customers are worth to the business so they will clearly understand that everything that happens in the customer experience ultimately affects their personal wallets. If they don’t know how to save money by “saving” customers, they will squander it.
Set service employees up for success by equipping them with the proper tools to own the customer. This could mean implementing a customer-relationship software system that provides customers’ histories, their preferences and perhaps even their likes and dislikes.
Empower your employees to fix customer problems immediately instead of having to seek out a manager for approval. If employees receive a complaint, they should own it and accept personal responsibility for solving it. If they encounter a challenge, they can ask for help, but they should still own that customer and that problem.If passing a customer call from one person to another is an absolute necessity, make certain that the customer is transitioned smoothly from one service professional to another and that the customer’s needs and expectations are fully explained.
Ask employees for ways the customer relationship can be improved. Find out what they’re hearing from customers. Pay attention, because what you don’t know can cost you dearly in the long run.
Simon Says…Customer Ownership is just good common sense. Go ahead and make it common practice.