03/03/2015 - 16:17

Getting it right at the pointy end

03/03/2015 - 16:17

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While most business owners understand the need for great customer service, unfortunately not all can deliver on their promise.

Getting it right at the pointy end
UP FOR IT: Stuart McKechnie wants businesses to embrace the customer challenge of our modern age. Photo: Attila Csaszar

While most business owners understand the need for great customer service, unfortunately not all can deliver on their promise.

Anyone who has run a business probably knows how important customer service is; so much so that, when you are a customer yourself and see it done badly by another business, it rankles. How can businesses neglect their customers so badly? Is there no idea what the actual customer experience is like ‘at the pointy end’?

Many thousands of books, magazine columns and blog posts have been devoted to explaining how important customer service is. ‘Great customer service’ is easy to say, but not so easy to get right all the time.

Margaret River-based management and organisational development consultant, Stuart McKechnie, has uncovered an essential truth about customer service he hopes will help businesses deliver what he calls ‘total customer service’.

His book, The 4 Dimensions of Total Customer Service, dissects hundreds of companies and highlights experiences from McKechnie’s 30-year consulting practice in the UK, Europe and Australia.

“In the end, it’s fairly straightforward,” McKechnie told Business News.

“Unless you have great customer service within your organisation, you are not going to deliver it to your external customers.”

In other words, practise what you preach. Your organisation’s internal departments have to serve each other, and be great at it, otherwise you cannot hope to do so with your paying, external customers.

“It comes from the top, from the CEO. You get the culture you deserve. Either you build a values-driven organisation or you don’t,” McKechnie says.

A good local example in my experience would be John Hughes. When someone buys a car from his car yard, they may receive a phone call from the man himself the following Sunday morning. This has happened to me on two occasions.

I was surprised to hear Mr Hughes’ voice on the end of the line, and listened closely as Mr Hughes told me how much he valued my business, and quizzed me on whether the salesperson did a good job.

And, he said, if I ever have a problem with the car, I should let him know.

Instilling customer service values throughout a company starts at the top, and critically, McKechnie argues in his new book, “total customer service has to be observable and believable”.

McKechnie says CEOs must be visible, they must be ‘out there’.

Speaking of CEOs, he says, we have CFOs, and CMOs, and COOs … why don’t we have CCSOs (chief customer service officers), who ensure that total customer service is integrated all through the organisation?

McKechnie calls this the customer challenge of our modern age. In an era of rapid developments in new technology, the dominant strategic issue of our time is to get this right.

“Richard Branson does not have any other strategy except a ‘customer strategy’. All other strategies are irrelevant,” McKechnie says.

The book develops the ‘4 dimensions’ of what he calls ‘total customer service’.

1) Make total customer service your dominant values stance. Without customer service as the main value of the staff and organisation, nothing else that happens matters; without this, everything else fails.

2) Reflect total customer service through service delivery.

The ‘point of contact’ is important (and what all other text books on this subject focus on solely), but it’s not the only important element. Saying ‘have a nice day’ with a smile is not enough. It’s more about ‘how is total customer service demonstrable in everything we do?’

Remember that internal point of contact is important as well as external – how well you service each other within your own workplace.

3) Build long-term relationships with your customers.

Long-term relationships with clients say something about your organisation … the closer and longer they are, the easier the relationships become to manage. Short-term, skin deep relationships are high maintenance and expensive.

Drive decision-making down as far as you can.

4) In the end, perception is reality.

Do your customers actually believe they receive great service from you? How do you know? Do you regularly ask them about it?

How well do you treat your suppliers? Are they truly on board with your mission of total customer service? Talk to them about this. Work with them.

The 4 Dimensions of Total Customer Service makes sense, with McKechnie wrapping the anecdotes and lessons up into a framework you can use.

The 4 Dimensions of Total Customer Service is self published and available from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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