The breakdown of customer service was not caused by poor management, although this was given as a possible reason. It was actually deeply affected by the internet and its ability to provide everything immediately and almost always perfectly.
The sheer amount of ways to promote a business became easier and it therefore became more difficult to treat every customer differently. At the same time the rapid explosion of choice left many demanding that everything should be cheap. Companies were seen to cope by hiring lots of people who were poorly trained, badly supported and under pressure. This in turn brought in a high turnover, the business hired the cheapest people and the customer felt they no longer knew the really be to each of their customers? The same thing everyone else is having, but different. Different prices on the menu, more attention than the table next to them, a reservation at a sold-out event and being noticed, but not too noticed.
Historically there are some businesses in the industry that have some stand-out stories for bringing the best experience to the customer: Ritz-Carlton – ‘Joshie the giraffe’; a child left their favourite stuffed animal in a hotel room after a stay. The father told his son that Joshie was having a few extra days on vacation and told this story to the hotel. The hotel staff then took photographs of the stuffed animal enjoying the hotel’s activities and sent the child back his giraffe along with a booklet of the pictures. Marriott Hotel – Gaylord Opryland received a Tweet from a repeat guest who enquired where she could buy the alarm clock in her room, which played light music often heard in spas that helped her sleep well. The hotel’s version of the alarm was not on sale to the public and they suggested an alternative. Unfortunately, that clock didn’t play the same music, so the guest gave up. After returning from a conference, she discovered the hotel had given her the alarm clock she loved so much as a present. Morton’s Steak House – A customer Tweeted a chain of steak restaurants after catching a flight on an empty stomach and jokingly asked if they could meet him at the airport with one of their steaks. Morton’s saw the Tweet and organised a full meal to be delivered to the airport, ready for when the customer landed, who was naturally shocked but delighted to have received it.
Some modern businesses have witnessed the changes that occurred with customer service and have solved this issue or were able to bypass it. The solution they chose was to change how the company approaches its customer service and transform the desire to perform all customer service in real time. If a business is respected and has built a reputation of providing a good service or resolving any issues, then the customer won’t mind waiting however long is needed because they trust the company and know it will be handled properly. Wait for a guaranteed service or wait with those who cannot help, the obvious choice stands out.
Using a problem as an example, a system where issues move up a pyramid works effectively. Each person who handles the problem takes responsibility for solving it and then if they can’t, it passes up the hierarchy and so on. This allows a company to monitor who solved which problems and therefore who delighted the customer. Suddenly it becomes clear where an employee should work based on their skills in the field. This should in theory then become a competitive advantage.
Customers are armed with a wealth of choice when it comes to selecting hotels, restaurants and other services. An insight-driven approach where companies sell products and services based on the value they offer to particular segments of customers, might not mean the cheapest offer for the customer, but it’ll suit different customer needs. The best know how to design, introduce and reinforce customer service. If an employee knows why the service is of value, the emotional response they want to receive or how the customer feels and the way to create this, then the business is ticking most of the right boxes.
Enjoyment shouldn’t be overlooked when considering the customer experience. Happy employees who have decided to enjoy their jobs rather than pretend to enjoy them to suit a marketing effort are poles apart. This starts with employing the right people for the right roles. But following this occasionally tricky task, the next task a company must take on is training their team and individuals to do a good job in order to better enjoy themselves. It is a real shame that many companies do not grasp this concept, and the worst possible example is when a business doesn’t provide a good service and a customer shouts at the manager who in turn shouts at their staff. If a business wants to stand apart they have to have employees who enjoy themselves, in the whole hierarchy.
There are, sadly, only a few businesses that provide remarkable service. Why? Being remarkable lies on the edge – the biggest, fastest, slowest, richest, easiest, most difficult. There is only space for one company on the edge and it doesn’t matter which edge. Those with the few insanely focused customers who will spread the word and become brand advocates are also sometimes more effective than the thousand people who are mildly interested, so a business should use them. Those at the top use these brand ambassadors – they may be on the edge now but they are constantly aware that they can easily become unfashionable. Those that reinvest and reinvent will always stay one step ahead.