In today’s economy we have to earn the right to serve our customers every day. After more than a few years of experience I’ve learned that nothing can be taken for granted. As a customer, we all “vote” with our dollars. Our choice to buy may be based on several factors. It could be the product or service itself, or perhaps the location, but invariably, whether we stick with a company boils down to: “Am I being taken care of when I need it the most”.
Customer Service or Customer-no-Service
When a company rules exclusively by process and policy, real service can hang in the balance. There are times when we’re in a situation that requires special assistance from a service provider. Often when this is the case the reply is “I’m sorry, but that’s just our policy”? On a recent business trip, my airline reservation was in dire need of a modification. In fact, the ticket called for me to return home even before my first appointment. Obviously, this would never do. I was expecting to have some policy quoted to me that would allow them to deny my request, and was prepared for a fight. Fortunately, the attendant was obviously skilled and well trained and to work under pressure. With self-confidence and poise she took the time to understand my predicament and then took ownership of my problem, resolving it on the spot. The key factor in all of this is she was not hindered by process and policy. She was able to provide real service when it was needed most. This is what I like to call the “Moment of Truth”.
As a service provider, we have to make sure our front line is versed in policy and procedure. More importantly, though, is that each representative have a solid understanding of the long-term value of a customer. This is vital–as is empowering the front-line staff to make decisions within a predefined but flexible policy framework. When the decision to make an exception is placed at the point closest to the customer, we feel much better about the overall experience and are more likely to return. If we have to jump through hoops and wait for a manager to make an exception, we think, ‘I am not going through THIS again”.
As Service Providers, we’re best served by training and encouraging the front line to embrace the problems that our customers bring to us. It’s in these Moments of Truth that business is won or lost. We can lock in a positive experience for the customer when we turn our thoughts and energies outward toward solving their problem, rather than inward to thoughts of how we’re going to explain why we strayed from company policy. The self-confidence that’s born of competence and defined latitude on the front line—at the Moment of Truth—is what can make the difference between a customer and a fan. Making the right decisions when it counts is what will win business over the long term, and what will foster loyalty in your subscriber base.