Sunday, March 6, 2011

Not Just a Button, Not Just a Number

As I read a recent post by John Custy about "buying" customer service ratings I also thought of how many companies make the mistake of looking only at some number without putting it in the proper context. "We need to get 9's for customer service" is not the same thing as "We need to offer excellent customer service." So many organizations make the mistake of thinking of Customer Service in the same way they think of, say, quarterly sales projections. Providing good service that keeps customers coming back is difficult to measure at best. Although customer surveys are mostly created carefully and analyzed by experts in the field, customers are basing their feedback largely on feelings. "It took longer than I expected" may not mean the same to me as it does to you. "The salesperson wasn't nice" may be based on a completely different set of expectations for two different customers. (I usually don't like a whole lot of extraneous chat while I'm making a purchase. Other people may perceive chat as being more personable.)

This past week, I spent a couple of days at a hotel that was smack in the middle of a Customer Service campaign. For whatever reason, their survey team chose 7 as their top rating, and all the employees had buttons with a star and the number 7 on them. (Every time I see employee buttons, I think of the famous "15 pieces of flair" scene in the movie Office Space.) I thought, "Oh boy, here we go. I'm going to be very sick of the number 7 before I get out of here." I was completely wrong.

Every single employee I passed in the hallways greeted me with a smile and a hello. Housekeeping was careful not to disturb me while I was working, but quickly made up my room while I was out of it briefly. Even though the hotel dates back to the 1920's, it was impeccably clean and comfortable.

My friend and I wanted to go to a top rated restaurant a short distance from the hotel, and I stopped at the front desk to have them call a taxi. "Oh, we'll take you, sir," the clerk cheerfully said. The hotel shuttle took us to the door of the restaurant, and the driver gave us his cell phone number, so that we could reach him to come back. When we called, he appeared within a few minutes and asked us how we enjoyed our meal. (It had been delicious, by the way, and never once were we interrupted by a waitperson asking how we were doing. Water glasses were refilled silently, and the waitstaff knew exactly when we were ready for a glass of wine or our coffee—because they were paying real attention.)

Throughout my stay, every indication was that all the employees were really attentive and focused on making sure my stay was pleasant and comfortable.

They weren't asking for 7's—they were delivering 10's.

Does your organization focus only on the numbers when you consider Customer Service, or do you create a culture of Customer Focus that shines through the actions of all the employees?

Give it some thought.

Disclaimer: I am employed by the company that published the post by John Custy.