2 What Is The Difference Between Happening-Truth And Story-Truth Building Your Infrastructure to Sustain Your Service Strategy

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Building Your Infrastructure to Sustain Your Service Strategy

Ever wonder why so many customer service strategies are either short-lived or fail before they even get started? I mean think about it: How many companies do you patronize where you consistently (the operative word here is “consistently”) have a positive and memorable buying experience?

The type of buying experience that you will remember and will influence you to return to that company. So how many companies have you come up with?

I would like to make two points here:

1) I bet it took you a while before a particular company came to mind. I very much doubt that a flood of companies blyzed your mind when you thought about this question, and

2) I bet the companies you come up with can be counted on one hand…and I bet you’ll have a few fingers left over. The sad reality is, consistently getting great customer service is the exception, not the norm. So why is that? I could cite many key reasons, but without question the biggest is the lack of an organizational infrastructure.

Customer Service Infrastructure:

A customer service infrastructure is an organizational structure, including: systems, processes, policies and procedures that facilitate and support a continuous focus on the customer.

It all starts with building your organization backwards from the customer: not the other way around. An organizational structure that ensures continuous, relentless and laser-like focus on the customer. An infrastructure is necessary because there is a distinct and marked difference between implementation and execution when it comes to a customer service strategy.

Implementation is about “being ready” to launch a strategy, whereby execution is consistently performed to a desired standard. Take for example a soda promotion at your local convenience store. The implementation phase will include activities such as: ordering the appropriate level of product, getting promotional signage in place, advertising, possibly creating a store incentive program, and communicating and training store personnel. Once the soda campaign begins, the execution phase begins.

Execution includes: ensuring signage remains fresh (and up!) throughout the promotion period, product displays are full and attractive, inventory levels are maintained, and most importantly, store staff consistently (there’s that word again) promote and sell tips. gives Products to every customer every time they come into the store – not sometimes, but every time!

Just imagine how much soda convenience stores would sell if they mastered the execution phase of the strategy? Good companies execute well, but great companies excel at both execution and execution. The ability to execute consistently is what separates great companies from good companies.

Unfortunately, most companies fail effectively. Why? Because a customer service strategy is process driven versus program driven as opposed to a product strategy, and a process needs a support system to be successful.

Paradigm Shift:

The first step in the process to launch and maintain a successful customer service strategy requires an organization to make a drastic paradigm shift. Most organizations are program oriented versus process oriented. The program has a start and end date.

Metrics are created and results are easily tracked. And at the end of the program period you know if it was successful because you can clearly see the results. A customer service strategy on the other hand takes time before you can easily see results.

Customer service is a process not a program. And a process that requires patience and discipline. Because of this program mentality in many companies, patience and discipline are unfortunately not part of their DNA.

I’d like to introduce 10 key infrastructure elements to facilitate, support and sustain a long-term customer service strategy. Notice I used the words: long-term and sustainable, not short-term and program.

If you really want your organization to stand out for great customer service, you must think in terms of processes, not programs.

Customer Service Infrastructure Components:

1. Commitment:

You have to make a conscious decision – you either commit and stand for customer service or you don’t. You can’t be halfway pregnant with a customer service strategy.

Companies that stand for customer service focus every fiber of their organization on the customer; It is part of their corporate DNA.

Customer service is their north star that provides direction, guidance and directive behavior within the organization.

2. Hire a Champion:

You must drive ownership of customer service throughout your organization: every person at every level.

Ultimately, everyone should own the customer, not just your frontline team who interact with your customers – everyone! But as you can well imagine, ownership will take time to spread throughout your organization, and in most cases it can take years. That’s why in the interim, until you achieve customer service nirvana, you need to assign a champion within your organization to carry the flag, lead the charge, and manage the process.

The person you assign should have a high-level position that has the respect and influence to make things happen within your organization. The higher the level, the easier the road, as it sends a strong message to your organization that customer service is important

3. Identify your moments of truth:

Moments of truth or “touch points” are the points of contact a customer has with your company.

Consumers are constantly making both conscious and unconscious value judgments about every moment of truth. These value judgments are recorded on an emotional report card in your company.

Identify every moment of your company: stores, employees, answering phones, delivery trucks, etc., then build a strategy around each that will ensure a consistent world-class customer service experience.

4. Evaluation: Principles and Procedures – Systems and Processes:

External Thinking vs Internal Thinking: Start with the customer and work backwards.

Do your policies and procedures serve the customer or your organizational bureaucracy? Are your policies and procedures customer friendly? Are your systems designed to make it easy for you to do business or for your customers to do business with you? Do your processes position your frontline employees to succeed or fail in the eyes of your customers?

5. Develop meaningful metrics:

If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it! Meaningful, meaning those metrics that your frontline employees have direct control or influence over.

Things like: store sales, appearance and retail, mystery shopper scores and customer comments are meaningful frontline metrics that drive customer service behavior.

6. Scoreboard your metrics:

Whatever metrics you decide on, communicate them across the organization with a visible scoreboard. If your business includes a retail store, buy one of those large white poster-boards, the kind kids use for school projects. These white-boards can be purchased at any office supply store.

A scoreboard is important because it communicates to employees what is important and how to achieve it. We tell our employees to go out and win, but we tend to keep the rules and scores secret about how to win. Bosses know what the score is – their scoreboard is the P&L or management report. Just like sports, keeping score makes it more: interesting, engaging, challenging and enjoyable. Who plays golf or tennis and doesn’t keep score?

7. Training and Skill Development:

You have to be ready to win otherwise you are just practicing. And today’s unforgiving marketplace practices aren’t going to cut it. Phrases: “The customer is always right” doesn’t motivate employees because it doesn’t tell them what to do for the customer. This phrase is more of a bumper sticker than an operating principle

Training and skill development ensure your employees are prepared to succeed.


8. Contact:

Communication is the lifeblood of any strategy. You simply cannot communicate. Just like infrastructure element #2: Hire a champion, assign someone to own the communication strategy across your organization from headquarters to the store-level. You must drive communication to every corner of your organization. This will provide focused and aligned activities. Communicate topics such as:

* Sales Results * Mystery Buyer Score

* What’s working / not working * Customer comments: good and bad

* Performance expectations * Areas for improvement

* Lessons Learned * Customer Service Stories

9. Recognition and Awards:

Recognize and reward the behaviors you want to see more of. Why? Because what gets recognized and rewarded gets repeated.

But don’t forget to recognize and reward only the right performance and behavior. And remember, recognize and reward results, not effort. At the end of the day the results matter.

10. Celebrate success:

Consistently delivering a great customer buying experience is difficult. If it were easy, great customer service would be the norm and not the exception. And if you think being a frontline employee is easy, take their job for a day.

I’m sure you’ll walk away with a greater appreciation of what our frontline workers go through on a daily basis. When goals are achieved and good things happen, take time with your employees to enjoy and celebrate the moment that made it happen. After all, life is too short, right?

Keys to Success: In addition to the 10-infrastructure elements I’ve outlined, you must have: patience, discipline, and a laser-like focus to succeed. A customer service strategy takes time to see results. So have the patience and discipline to not abandon your customer service strategy midway.* For a free report: “Motivating Non-Performers: 20 Dos and Don’ts of Employee Motivation” visit: http://www.eps-i .com

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