TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – At some level, most of us have customers we work with or serve, making customer service a key component of operations. Customer service, often simplified to friendly exchanges upon customer transactions, must go beyond this. Consider how the following examples can also relate to customer service since interpersonal transactions are occurring: Meetings that habitually start or end late, suspenses that are regularly not met and unpleasant team members who remove politeness from communications.
Taking these considerations into mind, chances are there is room for improvement in our organizations when it comes to customer-related programs and customer experience. This commentary is too brief a forum to provide a comprehensive customer service model, but it should provide a few useful thoughts.
While a customer service refresher is good for all, many members enter the service with little interpersonal communication experience. We must not assume all members know these concepts because some might be hearing them for the first time. Establish training for members in your organization whose skills may not be up to par in this area. Establishing a first-class customer experience culture is a complex topic involving a great deal of training. That said, some basic recommendations are listed below for enhancing an organization’s customer experience culture. These will be no-brainers for many people, but they have seemingly become uncommon sense, as we are confronted daily with poor customer experiences in too many settings:
- Use the “Platinum Rule” whereby others are treated as they would like to be treated.
- Sharpen effective listening techniques and limit distractions and devices.
- Instill from day one a customer-focused mindset staff easily remember; for example, new members at David Grant USAF Medical Center hear at orientation they are there to “heal, protect and train heroes.”
- Adhere to fundamental customs and courtesies: Use “Yes, ma’am” and “Good morning, sir” and walk lost patrons to destinations vice telling them how to get there.
- Expect supervisors to model all of the above.
A mark of great unit customer experience culture is customers who want to come back for service or assistance. In an article about customer experience, Bruce Temkin explained “How a customer feels about an interaction with a company has an enormous impact on his or her loyalty to that company.”
Further, in a Forbes article about customer experience, Blake Morgan said, “is your customer experience forgettable…your company must be more creative in making memorable customer experiences.” All good thoughts for enriching customer experience culture.
Technology is another consideration in customer experience discussions. Organizational leaders would do well to ensure technology is not making customer experiences forgettable. In an era when people commonly prefer texting over talking or choosing the self-check-out line at the supermarket, technology has not necessarily helped matters with the removal of the face-to-face component.
In the article, “Why Can’t We Get Customer Experience Right,” Noreen Seebacher offered we should remember many people care less about the “latest and greatest digital tools” because “they want human connections and great experiences that make them feel valued and respected.”
It was once stated: “People may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
Under pressure to invest resources in implementing initiatives and innovation programs, when we are scarcely resourced for mission compliance alone, we must remember amidst the tumult our most important priority—people. If your customer-related programs and processes have rusted rough, be mindful of the concepts above to promote a positive customer experience culture. In doing so, we will increase both our connections with people and loyalty to our organizations.