Customer service excellence
Customer service excellence is an aim for many but how does one characterise it? What are the key elements that a company must get right in order to achieve true customer service excellence. We have examined the wisdom of many in the “field od excellence” and interpreted their message to see how relevant they are for customer service. Everyone will have a different take on it but surely amongst these you will find one which express how you, as a customer, would like companies to deliver excellence. For companies, we hope this will be a usefull resource to help decide where to prioritise their efforts and help determine what is key to customer service excellence:
Excellence is not an accomplishment. It is a spirit, a never ending process. -Lawrence M. Miller
This definition of excellence is aspirational and in a way better applied to customer service as it reflects the continuous improvement, the permanent state of readiness that companies should be in if they want to achieve customer service excellence
Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence – only in constant improvement and constant change. -Tom Peters
Tom Peters supports the same concept, a company needs to maintain service excellence over time. It is not measured in a given instant but service should perpetually evolve to reflect the new needs of customers.
Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way.― Booker T. Washington
We particularly like this quote as it applies extremely well to the field of customer service where companies are always struggling to balance the need to have procedures and rules (the common thing) with the desire to leave initiative and ownership in the hands of customer service employees (the uncommon way) in order to leave them equiped to deal with unconventional situations. This notion is perfectly well illustrated in our selection of greatest customer service stories (https://blog.verygoodservice.com/greatest-customer-service-stories/) where the differentiating factor is pretty much always the initiative taken by one individual to above and beyond what is expected.
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not a single act, but a habit. -Aristotle
Similar concept again. Attaining excellence should not be a one-off effort but more a state of mind. To succeed, companies need to instill this customer service excellence culture in the mind of their employees so that they deliver it as a matter of course, in an effortless manner.
“We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started.”― Henry Ward Beecher
Ward Beecher is making a slightly different point here about excellence being the recognition of the ability to change.
“People of excellence go the extra mile to do what’s right.”― Joel Osteen
This is a very powerful statement because of its balance. Yes being prepared to go the extra mile is a key attribute of customer service excellence but not under any circumstances. Determining what is right is of course a judgement call and the customer may have a different view from the company executive but if one is able to make that determination, in some instances “everything” must be done to deliver the service to the customer but in other instances there is a strong argument for standing firm and not succombing to customer pressure
“If conforming to everyone’s expectations is the number one goal, you have sacrificed your uniqueness, and therefore your excellence.”
― Hope Solo
Another very powerful principle which highlights the need for differentiation if you want to stand out. Run of the mill service is not going to be enough for organisations whishing to achieve customer service excellence. It also highlights the need to innovate as and when possible in order to gain some form of leadership versus competitors by offering something that others have not thought about and which goes beyond customer’s expectations.
Customers today want the very most and the very best for the very least amount of money, and on the best terms. Only the individuals and companies that provide absolutely excellent products and services at absolutely excellent prices will survive. -Brian Tracy
This “elitist” statement not shows that companies should always aspire for quality at the best price but the concept of service should play a part. Challenging of course but in short if you do everything right, you will succeed
“Excellence is the Result of Caring more than others think is Wise, Risking more than others think is Safe, Dreaming more than others think is Practical, and Expecting more than others think is Possible.”
― Ronnie Oldham
This post would not be complete without some element of blue-sky thinking. Whilst none of the above suggestions by Ronnie Oldham might be realistic or very cost effective, they should not be dismissed outright. Some element of aspirational design is what will make customer service excellence achievable. Without a little stretch, some lateral thinking and a desire to do what is commonly perceived to be un-attainable, how can one even begin to claim that they are remotely approaching excellence.
We will continue to add to these during the course of 2014, so please do not hesitate to leave a comment with suggestions to best describe customer service excellence.