It needs a target, a finish line, an image of perfection to strive toward.
Without some tangible goal, it just flounders around like some amorphous amoeba. You can’t pick it up and look at it because it slides through your fingers. You can’t describe because it’s always shifting and changing and only broad adjectives will work.
If you give it a goal, if there are real images of the perfect customer interaction, then you have done something truly different. You have separated yourself from most businesses. You have branded yourself and you are on the path to create a different experience for your clients.
So where do you start. Let’s start with the experience you want to create for your customers
* Customer Experience: Spend some time thinking through great customer experiences you have had. They are probably few and far between. Get your staff involved, but don’t call a meeting. Give everyone a couple of days to turn in examples of great experiences they had with various businesses and what made them great. If people are struggling then have them write out the bad ones and what made those miserable. Sometimes it is just easier to know what to avoid than what to do and add.
Recently I had a great experience with a local body shop.
Unfortunately we had a handful of minor dings that needed repaired. Of course, I asked around to find someone good and fair. First this place was beautiful as body shops go. Everything was clean, and all the employees were in perfect uniforms. They didn’t talk down to me or treat me like I was stupid (because I am, knowing nothing about cars). They gave me options on fixing the damage. They gave me a time frame for completion and an estimate on price.
So the day came to take the car into the shop, and by day’s end the phone was ringing letting me know it was complete. We drove over to the shop, and there it was, no scratches, clean and shiny. Surprisingly they completely cleaned out the interior of the vehicle as well (impressive). I walked in the office to settle up, expecting the price to be a good 10% higher than they said. Of course, I thought, they found something wrong or ran into some roadblock that cost a little more money. No, no, no, it was actually less than quoted. Only by a dollar, but it was still less. We drove away happy.
On the other hand, I battled it out with a phone company recently, receiving nothing but poor service at every turn. I will spare the gory details, but I decided to change phone companies to lower some of my bills. I called and got everything setup to start. They told me it would be a week before they could make the changes, which didn’t bother me. I hung up the phone, and crossed my fingers. A day later, I had questions and thought I would ask about my order. I called back, and it took several folks before they could find it. Then I began getting different answers about whether my number would be changed. One said no, the other said yes. One did some magic button pressing and placed me on hold. Someone transferred me to the division that would get it straight, yet they couldn’t. Eventually I cancelled the order, willing to pay more with my current carrier, just because of the hassle and incompetence.
I guarantee you have had similar good and bad experiences. Spend some time collecting stores and deciding what made them good and bad and how you could apply them in forms of do’s and dont’s within your own agency.
* Agency Behaviors: After you begin to collate your experiences into a workable list, turn them into true agency behaviors that everyone can accomplish:
smiles while on the phone, don’t let the phone ring more than twice, call backs in less than 12 hours, birthday cards for all customers, proposals emailed to customers within 2 hours, etc.
Make sure they match the things that you and your people value in your own experiences. During this exercise, you can even ask every customer about their own good and bad experiences. You and your staff may value different behaviors than your customers, and ultimately it is about them.
* Service Outcomes: List out real outcomes of the service experience you want to create. What does a satisfied customer look like. Define their experience after talking with you.
Then determine what impact will this have on the agency: increase in policy counts, increase referrals, improved retention, etc.
Make things as tangible as possible so they can be evaluated for effectiveness.
After you finish this exercise you should have a clear picture of what “great customer service” means, and you have created a target for your office.
It is tangible and something everyone can grab and hold. Communicate it to the agency and even your customers. Review periodically. Don’t be afraid to be creative and even a little weird. Throw in some random surprises that you would like to do for people.
Establishing customer service goals creates a tangible brand that your people and customers can embrace with delight.