Anything You Need It to Be

Written By: Kim - Jan• 19•11

How many of us hear those words from our vendors? From our employees to our customers? The places we shop? Sure, we can customize our fast food, NFL football jersey and license plate. But, really, who actually says these words to you? From a customer service perspective, why can’t they say this to you? Why aren’t we empowering our employees to deliver exceptional service?

I like to mix up classes with traditional walking or treadmill workouts to avoid workout boredom. Since I am new to yoga and unsure how other instructors handle their classes, I have noticed my yoga instructors saying, “This class is anything you need it to be.”

For the naysayers in the group, this doesn’t mean we’re a bunch of wishy-washy students. It simply means that each of us is there for a different reason. Some are there to improve their finely-tuned bodies or yoga skill; some to relieve stress; some to learn.

But as I hear this from my instructors, it got me thinking (after class) that this is an exceptional approach to customer service. Who does this best? Why are most industries so slow to adapt this philosophy? Can this kind of client service mentality ever be the norm?

Nordstrom’s and the Ritz Carlton are two companies that continually get noticed for their approach to customer service. Nordstrom’s employee handbook, for years, was a single gray card with this rule: “Nordstrom Rules: Rule #1: Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.”

Ritz Carlton’s employees, or members as the company prefers to call them, are allowed to spend up to $2,000 to bring instant resolution to a guest’s problems. Do any of you know of other companies who do this? How great would our customer experience be if more companies did this? How much more loyal would we be?

I am brand loyal, given a good experience. Eighteen months ago, I purchased a new phone. Since then, the phone had to be replaced by the mobile company five times due to defective merchandise. It happens. But the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over expecting a different result. When I asked for a different handset, I was told,“Our policy is only to replace defective phones with the same model.”

This policy helps prevents customer fraud and is common at every mobile carrier. But in an effort to prevent fraud, how many of us have walked away from a mobile company we were happy with because the handset was crap? Could this have been prevented? Absolutely. Oh sure, we could upgrade to another model to the tune of the non-contract price, but who wants to do that? More importantly, who should do that?

I have been with the same mobile company for eight years. I am extremely pleased with my coverage, my plan (I have two kids who text all the time) and do not experience dropped calls. Years ago in the mobile telecom industry, customer churn was 18 months, on average. Now, it’s even less.

I pay my bills on time. I have four phones on my account and am authorized for up to six lines. So, why can’t the customer service rep give me a different phone model at a reasonable price? Because she has not been empowered by management. No one has given the front-line employees any authority.

Listen up corporate America: Your customer service reps are on the front lines.

They deal with all sorts of people at every stress level imaginable. And, they are often the lowest-paid employee you have. Empower them to use good judgment. Not only does this make for happier employees, it makes for better customer service, which builds brand loyalty. All of which contributes to a better bottom line.

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