I have a couple of quotes that I hang on my office cork board, one of which is this one from the customer service guru, Ken Blanchard:
"Customer service should not be a department, customer service is everyone's job."
Customer service is everyone's job. (Repeated for emphasis 😉 It's not just the job of the customer service agents or the field sales representative, it's everyone's job. We all serve customers of one sort or another, whether they're internal (as the people in my product group I work with and for every day) or the more traditional external customers and partners who use our products each and every day.
Forbes has a link today to a news release [link updated 012809] to a new study from Blanchard's company on customer service and customer loyalty, surveying nearly a thousand line managers, human resources and training executives.
"Blanchard research over the past five years places customer loyalty as the fourth most important management challenge. In the same studies, customer relationship skills were cited as the second most important employee development skill, ranking just behind managerial skills.
"Most participating organizations agree that customer loyalty is a powerful driver of organizational success and one that ties directly to the bottom line. Statistics show that it can cost six to seven times more to gain a new customer than to retain an existing one. Expenses related to customer losses cause many companies to recognize the need to channel resources toward retention."
Blanchard's research showed that skills that were in most need of improvement were...
- Developing systems and processes that make it easy to do business with the organization
- Improving the skills of customer-facing employees to diagnose the customer issue
- Improving problem solving skills
- Empowering people to utilize their scope of authority
All good points. I maintain that you have to go farther, and do more, which I refer to a jumping through hoops for your customer. It's all of the above and more, the extra effort that people take because it's the right thing to do, as noted...
"The findings from the customer loyalty survey support earlier Blanchard research which documented that there is a direct connection between leadership, employee passion, and customer devotion.
There's a Web site I refer to from time to time, customer service manager.com (aka CSM), edited by Ian Miller, a former (you guessed it) customer service manager. Mr. Miller has an interview with Ken Blanchard here, and in which he talks about how customer service leaders put others before themselves...
"What needs to happen is for the pyramid to be flipped over, so that frontline people - the people who are closest to the customers - are at the top. Leaders become servant leaders and are responsive to employee's needs and allow them to accomplish the company’s goals and create Raving Fans.
"... I had one final question for Ken: "I understand you deliver a voicemail each morning to every one of your three hundred employees. If I asked you to send a voicemail to the readers of this article, what would it say?" Ken thought for a moment, then left me with this message: "You become an adult when you learn to serve others not yourself. Look at the job you do and think, who can I serve today?"
I make an effort to focus on that each day, to think about the people I can assist. And it's something I work to improve upon.
Here's a recent example.
I invited a customer to email me (using the email link at left) as they left a comment on my blog post about Xbox 360 repairs. (They had a poor experience with their Xbox repair and return.) I haven't heard from that customer (yet) but I have heard from others and I answer their mails (to the best of my knowledge) and pass their mail onto our customer service staff for formal responses if it involves a product issue or repair.
It doesn't solve all the problems that customers run into -- and as a customer service line I certainly don't scale very well -- but I trust that it helps. As a group example, Windows is nearing the release of Vista SP1 which will address areas we identified through our customer feedback channels, including improved reliability and performance, support for new hardware, and generally offer a better/ improved customer experience.
Additional links: You may download copies of Blanchard's most recent white papers...
- "The Key to Customer Loyalty" that looks at how customer loyalty can impact success, and the often cited notion that it's much more expensive to acquire a new customer than to hold on your current customer.
- "The Leadership-Profit Chain" which outlines how leadership skills are closely tied into to an organization's P&L: "The key to organizational vitality is creating an environment that allows employees to win and be passionate about what they do. By taking care of employees, leaders establish an environment in which the employees take care of the customers at a level that causes the customer to want to return year after year."
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