When you think of the worst customer experiences you have had, does travel leap to mind? Some lost baggage here, a delayed flight there, a reservation snafu, and all of a sudden you’re dealing with customer service reps who have absolutely no power to solve your problem. Small problems turn into big ones, and you’re continually sent up the chain of command until eventually someone arrives to offer a half-hearted solution that you have no choice but to accept.
While travel isn’t the only industry where customer experience is important, when you find an airline or other travel accommodations that exceed your customer service expectations, you’re probably going to stick with those companies, right?. And what any great experience boils down to is how you’re treated by the people that represent those companies—the employees.
The Key to Excellent Customer Service
JetBlue wins a ton of awards for customer service, and generally has a reputation as one of the most customer-friendly commercial airlines. Mixed in with those customer service awards, you’ll find that JetBlue also consistently wins awards for how it treats its employees. This is not a coincidence, because treating employees well and empowering them to solve problems is ultimately what leads to great customer service.
Another good example of a company that pays attention to customer experience is The Ritz-Carlton. For many years they’ve been working on customer service as part of their brand, with a level and style of delivery that comes from closely monitoring customer feedback. Customers today demand an authentic, genuine customer experience, which cannot be delivered with canned responses to every situation. Sometimes employees need the latitude not to have to go up the chain of command to get things accomplished.
Here are a few reasons why it’s so important to empower employees (in any industry) to deliver the best customer experience:
- Happy Employees Mean Happy Customers – A terrible customer experience is bad news for everyone involved. Employees get frustrated and overwhelmed when they are treated poorly in high-stress situations, which perpetuates the cycle of poor service. So doing the little things to make your employees happy and building a positive, tight-knit culture can ultimately make a big impact on the quality of the service they deliver.
- Empowering Employees to Make Decisions – If you want happy, productive customer service reps, you need to provide them with the training and empowerment necessary to make customer service decisions in the moment. No matter the industry, it takes a real investment of time and money to train employees effectively. Forcing employees to stick to the script even when it’s detrimental to do so is only going to lead to frustration, disengaged employees, and poor reviews. Equip your employees with the tools for success, then allow them to put those tools to work to cut through red tape whenever possible.
- When Breaking Rules Is Okay – In many cases, a simple, straightforward customer service process is enough to solve a problem when executed effectively. Yet the companies with the best reputations for customer service also know that sometimes employees need to “break the rules” to get the job done. Employees need to understand where the parameters are and shouldn’t feel that they’re risking their job when bending the rules to help customers get the best experience possible. Bake this latitude into their training and company culture, and you’ll soon see the results in customer loyalty and advocacy.
- Bridging the Digital Divide – Most major brands now offer both digital and face-to-face customer service, which is a great mix when deployed effectively. Yet too often the digital side is prioritized over the human-to-human stuff. No matter how great your app is, it’s not a cure-all for every customer service challenge. Customers need to be able to reach employees quickly, easily, and directly when they need assistance, and employees need to understand how to assist customers coming from the digital and social side.
How not to do it, DO NOT follow the example of Best Buy (the tweets speak for themselves)…
The biggest takeaway here is that no matter how much it goes against the risk-averse nature of big business, employees need to be able to break the rules sometimes in order to provide excellent customer service. In order for you to have confidence that employees will break the right rules at the right time, you need to give them the training, empowerment, and support to do their job effectively. Providing great customer service isn’t easy in any industry, which is why the brands that do win so many loyal, long-term customers.
Previously posted at TedRubin.com