What Inspires Excellent Customer Service?

Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten.

Gucci Family Slogan

Last weekend Andrea and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary in Ottawa – the capital city of Canada.  It was a wonderful two days, and a large part of the experience was the hotel we chose.  As we drove up, Andrea commented on how plain it looked on the outside, but as soon as we walked in there was a different look and atmosphere.  As we approached the concierge’s desk, we were greeted warmly with smiles and efficiently checked in. While the attendants spoke with us, they learned we were there to celebrate our anniversary.  Immediately, we received congratulations and a suggestion for dinner.

 After dinner, we watched the light show projected onto the capital building at Parliament Hill.  When we finally made it back to the hotel, we were again greeted with warm smiles and told that there was something in our room to help us celebrate.  To our surprise, we found a nice card, a plate of fresh fruit and another plate with freshly made chocolate truffles in our fridge.  We felt so grateful to be there and for the thoughtfulness and excellent customer service of the employees in that hotel.  The next morning, the different employees running the front desk still provided high-quality customer service as we were again greeted with smiles before and after checking out.

While we were in Ottawa, the hotel in which we were staying just “felt right.” The excellent customer service we received contributed to that feeling but there was more. Margaret Wheatley, one of the leading experts on Organizational Behavior, suggests that in each organization where great customer service is prevalent, there is “a leader who, in word and deed, filled space with clear and consistent messages about how customers were to be served.” (Leadership and the New Science, pg. 89) This leader helped to create congruency through a clearly articulated vision statement of how the organization “is”, not will be, which is matched by his or her own behavior.  When this vision is focused on great customer service, it’s possible for this “feeling” or principle to permeate the organization, creating the desired culture just like we experienced at the Hilton Garden Inn in Ottawa.

Margaret Wheatley’s words bring up two questions in my mind:

  1. As a manager, what kind of a culture am I creating with my words and actions? And is this where I want my organization to be?
  2. How do I enable a shift in the quality of customer service that we offer, if needed?

Most of us are eager to improve our workplace, but we all have different ideas about how improvements should be achieved. For instance, for a high-level executive in a publicly traded company, the bottom line might be what’s most important. After all, economic success was the reason for the company’s creation, and it is important to provide shareholders with the value they have come to expect for their investment.

Another person within the same company might view the greatest success as having happy employees. And yet another person may view corporate social responsibility as the most important goal. That person may believe that it is essential for the company to make philanthropic contributions. 

There are many other priorities that could be championed as “the best” goals, and each point of view is likely not shared by all.  To see past our own biases, we need to find methods that will give us raw, uncut opinions and observations where clients, employees, supervisors and coworkers are less influenced by external factors and social niceties.  This type of feedback is gold.

Here are some suggestions and methods I am going to try as I build my awareness of how I influence my workplace:

  1. Have a 360 Degree Feedback survey performed and consider the results openly.  There may be both pleasant and not-so-pleasant surprises that come from this.  Setting goals and working through some of the feedback with a coach could prove very beneficial.
  2. Reflect on your work day each day and write down any thoughts and insights you have.  Think about:
    1.  Your interactions with employees, coworkers, customers, managers and vendors.
    2. Consider how you gave direction and how this guidance was received.
    3. Analyze your actions to understand why your guidance was received in a certain way (whether positively or negatively).
    4.  Consider what could be improved and what you did well.
  3. Practice “radical humility” – be open to all forms of feedback that come to you throughout the day.  This could include: body language, expressions of gratitude, frustration, confusion and anger. Be aware of these emotions, whether they come from yourself or others.  Consider this feedback a gift on your road to awareness, and take the time to consider the events that lead to these emotional reactions.

I would love to hear what you find as you try any of these suggestions, leave me a note or email me at richard@empowerpotentialcoaching.com to let me know how these suggestions have helped you on the road to excellent customer service.  Thank you again for reading!

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