THE REVEAL: Fixing the customer service conundrum: Step 1
Over the last month I have published the following tales from the front line of customer service:
The retail assistant’s perspective
In each of those posts every ‘stakeholder’ blamed the other for the poor levels of service and its impact on the state of retail.
There is a point to be made about all that – and a remedy to suggest; but first things first:
There is a much talk about ‘customer experience’. In fact, Motorola advertises here on Inside Retailing that ‘Customer Experience is the new Black’. It is worth thinking about what your definition of customer experience is. It is NOT just a new name for customer service. (Watch this if you need some stimulation to help you understand the difference.)
So, customer service is the new black. It really is. In fact we make a living training & consulting for it. But – and it is a very big but – there is a proviso.
Customer Service is not Customer Experience, but Customer Experience is built on the foundations of Customer Service; and by that I mean the old-fashioned customer service: smile, listen, be helpful, solve their problems – you know the drill.
You cannot deliver an experience if the service fundamentals are not in place.
You will not have the service fundamentals in place if the relationship between customer, employee and owner manager sounds like and looks anything like what I have written about in the last four weeks.
If you want to successfully adapt to the new retail rules you have to learn to create an experience, which presumes that the necessary service foundation is in place.
Which brings us to this core problem: How do you get the (old-fashioned) customer service basics in place?
Every retailer I know understands this is a core part of their business. Every retailer I know has tried to put it in place – with varying degrees of success. (I read a statistic that 80% of managers believe they offer great service but only 8% of customers believe the same.)
The actual process of doing so is quite complicated, whether you want to hear that or not; because it requires a culture change. But the one thing that every successful transformation has in common and the one thing that is an absolutely non-negotiable first step is this:
Yes, I am talking about a paradigm shift. Most people understand the idea of a paradigm shift, but few people actually ever go through a paradigm shift.
Employers need to shift their thinking about employees and employees need to shift their thinking about working in retail.
‘Think different’ sounds like an advertising tagline (oh, wait – it is… sorry Apple) or worse, like consultant speak.
To help you understand what I mean by shifting our thinking into a new paradigm, consider this little thought experiment.
Most people would agree with the following statement:
You are what you eat.
DO you agree?
Do you understand what that means? Take a few seconds to ponder it and interpret it again. You may have heard it so much that it may have lost all meaning.
You are what you eat.
Now, to shift your thinking. This statement is incorrect. In fact, to believe it is quite harmful and it is the worst mindset to have when making any dieting or lifestyle decision. The truth of the matter is this:
You eat what you are.
Think about that. Ponder it. Do you understand what I mean? Do you understand the difference between those two statements?
If you do, you will have a completely different mindset. You will have shifted your thinking. (I am not going to explain the statement, because that would obviate the thought experiment.) Unless you actually compare the two statements and understand the differences, the post will make no sense.
My son’s cricket coach was explaining this to the boys the other day: “When you go out to bat, you have to look around the field and see the gaps. Don’t look at the fielders are, look at where the gaps are.”
He is wise man indeed. He was trying to initiate a paradigm shift. I am not sure how many of the boys got that, but he knows that you score runs by hitting the ball in the gaps, not too the fielders. Looking at the gaps instead of the fielders is a paradigm shift.
Which brings us to the second and most important part of the solution: What must we think different about?
…YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE
You must think differently about who is responsible for customer service – and ultimately the success or failure of your business. If things are not going well, and if your customer service sucks; you are responsible. In fact, to put this more harshly; you are to blame.
Not the internet. Not the customer. Not the employee. Not the supplier. Not society. Not this generation or that generation. You are responsible.
You can ‘scan’ over that statement – or you can shift your thinking.
I can promise you, unless you actually make the shift, customer service will never improve. You will keep failing at your diets and you will keep hitting the ball to the fielders. (Read Penny’s comment in this post – she is 100% correct.)
But if you do and if it does, YOU will deserve – and get - the credit too. We are quick to claim the accolades when something goes well, but slow to accept the blame when things go badly – instead looking for a scapegoat. (In Social Psychology we refer to Attribution Theory.)
You eat what you are.
You are to blame for the poor or great customer service in your business. And only YOU can fix it.
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