When engaging your team to deliver consistently excellent red carpet customer service, it takes more than a program. It takes real organizational change.
Which is why it’s no surprise that our clients are always asking, “how do we sustain the change?” You know the drill. Every year you look for a new “program” to focus on because the old one “didn’t take.”
Everyone was excited in the beginning and you saw some real improvement. However, eventually the enthusiasm faded and people went back to their old ways of thinking and acting. Habits that were developed are dropped. Best practices have gone by the wayside, and everyone is left wondering why it didn’t work.
Or did it? More than likely, it did work. The problem is, people stopped working it.
Transforming your customer experience takes more than a one-time effort. It takes a commitment to organizational change.
I’ve been thinking about this a great deal as I wind up my first 30 days on the Whole30 food plan. Without going into too much detail, this is a commitment to eating only whole foods including fish, meat, veggies, fruit, and good oils & fat. Gone are dairy, grains, sugar or sweeteners of any kind, legumes, and my beloved Chai Lattes.
The authors advise you to stay really strict for 30-90 days and then re-introduce foods one at a time so you can make educated decisions about what you’re feeding your body.
What does this have to do with organizational change? There is a point to this I promise!
Once you begin to reintroduce other foods back in, most people will stay pretty true to their new eating habits with a few indulges. However, the author’s of the Whole30 say, there will come a time when you will wake up and find that you’ve slid back into your old habits. It might be that the sugar dragon has taken over again; or you indulged during your vacation and now you can’t stop. Whatever the reason, this can be handled with a “Whole30 Reset.”
When people ask me about sustaining the organizational change, my response used to be “Just keep practicing your new habits and you’ll be able to sustain it.”
However, now I realize that may not be realistic. The truth is, something always gets in the way. A new project, an “Act of God” or some sort of regulating body that is taking all your attention. Or you just get bogged down into the day-to-day minutiae and eventually let go of every best practice you learned. Communication wanes, recognition goes by the wayside, and you are no longer focused on keeping people accountable to your customer service standards.
When you notice that happening, it’s NOT the time to say, “We tried it. It didn’t work.” Instead, it’s time for a “Customer Service Reset.”
Give yourself a time goal and commit (as a leadership team) that for the next 30 days, 60 days, quarter – you’re going to regenerate enthusiasm about rolling out the red carpet for your customers. This may mean:
- Revisiting your stated customer service standards and proactively praising when you see them in action.
- Creating a fun, engaging event to re-energize your team around those service standards.
- Taking note of what standards specifically need revisiting, and rolling out training about that training.
- Getting back to your shift meetings to improve workplace communication flow.
- Look for stories worth sharing (employees delivering on your service standards) and share them in meetings, on bulletin boards, in employee newsletters.
- Put together a group of role model employees and ask them to come up with ideas for keeping enthusiasm around those service standards.
- Start a customer service book club with your leadership and staff.
- Review customer satisfaction scores and get everyone’s input as how to improve them. Then take ACTION on those ideas.
- Host a customer experience contest and challenge departments to come up with the best ideas for improving customer happiness and loyalty.
- Issue a customer service challenge such as “This week, we’re going to challenge ourselves to ask “While we’re here, is there anything else I can do for you?” after every interaction.” Or “Learn the name of one new customer and come up with a way to surprise & delight them. Share your story at our next meeting.”
You can also do a Customer Service Reset by asking yourselves the following questions:
- Have we been committed to hiring practices that ensure we’re selecting customer service superstars?
- Where have we fallen down on best practices that worked, but have stopped working because we stopped doing them?
- How can we better role model red carpet customer service for our employees?
When it comes to organizational change, it’s not a one-and-done deal.
There are fits and starts and that’s okay. When you’ve find your message has gotten stale, don’t look for the next “magic pill.” Simply look for ways to regenerate enthusiasm and get back on track. It’s not about starting over, it’s about a Customer Service Reset!