Moving Beyond Customer Satisfaction

There is a big difference between customers who are satisfied and customers who are raving fans—people that feel so strongly about your product or service that they brag about you to others. But too often companies are lulled into complacency by above-average scores—“Hey, we’re getting a four out of five. Isn’t that great?”

“It’s not,” says Kathy Cuff coauthor (together with Ken Blanchard and Vicki Halsey) of the new book, Legendary Service, scheduled for release later this month. “Even with a four out of five rating, customers will still jump ship. Good customer service isn’t good enough to drive the type of loyalty that binds a customer to you and your brand. We have to constantly be driving for fives—and the emotional connection that level of service creates. It doesn't mean we will always get there, but we have to keep moving toward that goal.”

Everyone Needs to Be Involved

In order to create a first-class, top-to-bottom customer experience, Cuff believes you have to address it from three different levels within your organization.

“Frontline people are important of course. They are the ones having direct contact with the customer. At an individual level, you want people to see how they contribute and make a difference.

“The next level to focus on is the management level. Managers play an important role in leading others. It’s important for them to be a good role model for the organization’s service initiative. It’s also about empowering people and providing them with the skills to take care of customers.

“Finally,” explains Cuff. “We focus on the organizational level. Customer service needs to start at the top with senior leaders embracing any new service initiative and communicating the importance of having a culture of service within their organization. For senior leaders, the goal is to create an environment where associates feel like they are a valued internal customer of the organization so that they in turn want to take care of the external customer.”

Creating an Intentional Culture

In a recent Forbes article, Barbara Porter, an executive director for Ernst & Young, says that leaders must acknowledge that culture and employee engagement are their responsibility. “Rather than simply focusing on HR, entitlement, or employee happiness, companies must create a culture that aligns peoples’ intrinsic values and behaviors to the guiding principles of the organization. Culture is the driving force within every organization, department and team.”

According to Porter, creating an intentional culture requires aligning the environment, communication, and emotional drivers to a company’s strategic vision and brand. Porter writes, “To build a culture that supports the brand experience, leaders must bring the corporate vision to life and help employees link what they do every day to the key elements (values, objectives, goals, key performance indicators, and behaviors) of the organization’s guiding principles and strategy.”

Mitchell Osak, a managing director of Quanta Consulting, Inc., agrees. Writing in a column for Financial Post he identifies that “Management should set high expectations for how they want their customers treated.”

However, he warns leaders that “Employees won’t take care of customers if they are not trusted, treated with respect, or listened to through formal and informal mechanisms.”

Some Things Are Different, Some Are the Same

Vicki Halsey, Cuff’s coauthor and fellow facilitator of the Legendary Service training program, explains that working with three different levels within an organization at the same time means recognizing where issues and needs are going to be the same and where they are going to be different. People at all three levels—individual contributor, mid-level manager, and senior leader—have to look at their own beliefs and behaviors and how they come across to customers and fellow team members.

“What we've done differently in our Legendary Service training program,” says Halsey, “is that we've gone a lot deeper than just teaching frontline skills. What differentiates our approach is that we have people take a look inside and examine their beliefs about serving others. We believe good service is an inside-out proposition. What are your beliefs and values around service? Are those beliefs and values getting you the results you want? Do you even believe that customer service is part of your job?”

Sam Silverstein, author of the book, No More Excuses, identifies that many companies train on tactics without ever taking the time to do the important work of looking at beliefs that are driving current behaviors. In a recent blog post, he shares, “Before tactics can ever matter it is critical for the leadership of the organization to take the time to figure out what they believe. What do they believe about how revenue is generated, how production is handled, how employees are treated, and yes, how customer service is valued? Then, leadership must continuously communicate the expectations around those beliefs to all the employees. People perform based on expectations. If you don’t share your beliefs with everyone then they will not know how to act.

“Great customer service is not about tactics. It is about an organization’s culture that has been specifically defined in terms of beliefs, effectively communicated to everyone in the organization, and continuously reinforced over time. Action follows belief and great customer service follows those that believe it is a critical part of how their organization should run.”

Customer Service Is Everyone’s Business

Cuff believes that for any customer service initiative to succeed, every single person in the organization must be on board. Customer service has to be seen as everybody's job—not just that of the people in a customer service department. “Now, of course, some people push back and tell us that they don’t deal directly with customers. That’s fine, but it doesn’t excuse you from having a customer service mindset. It just means that your focus is on serving your internal customers. When people see it from that perspective, it opens their eyes.”

At its heart, a customer service initiative is really a culture change in your organization. To do it correctly you have to have everyone in the organization buy into this idea, so you have consistent performance across the board.

From a Class to a Culture Change

For organizations looking to become more customer centric and provide a superior service experience, Cuff recommends thinking beyond the traditional half-day customer service training mindset. As Cuff explains, “You can put all of your frontline people through a half-day customer service module. And while that can help to teach people some basic skills, it won’t create the type of radically changed customer experience that you need in order to differentiate your organization from the competition.

“You need to move beyond that so it’s not just a flavor of the month service initiative. Instead, use the initiative as a jumping off point for something new that actually becomes a part of the organization’s culture.

“It takes time to share information, explore beliefs, and create alignment between employees and the service goals of the organization. But if you can get people to understand the importance of customer service to them, to their team, to the organization, and ultimately to the customer, and how everyone benefits, then you can start to change people’s beliefs and get them to understand, ‘This is my job and this is part of what I do.’”


Would you like to learn more about building a culture of service within your organization? Then join us for a free webinar!

Creating a Customer-Focused Organization

Wednesday, April 16, 2014
9 :00 a.m. Pacific Time / 12:00 p.m. Eastern / 5:00 p.m. UK & GMT

In today’s competitive business environment, if you don’t take care of your customers, someone else will. Organizations looking to attract and retain loyal customers have to constantly improve their level of service. Customers are increasingly demanding. A company that wants to succeed in the long-term has to go beyond just satisfying customers. Today you have to create customers who are so excited about the way you treat them that they would recommend you to all of their friends and never consider another service provider.

In this webinar, Kathy Cuff, coauthor of Legendary Service: The Key is to Care, will show you how to create loyal customers by consistently delivering Legendary Service. You'll learn that the keys to attracting and retaining loyal customers are

  • Recognizing the importance of ideal service and its value to the organization
  • Creating a culture of service in your organization
  • Communicating with customers more effectively
  • Expanding the power of frontline employees
  • Creating an action plan

Equip your organization—and the people in it—with the understanding, knowledge, and skills to deliver customer service in ways that keep customers coming back and recommending you to others.

Don’t miss this opportunity to discover what everyone in your company can do to provide better service and retain customers.

View On-demand