A couple of years ago I got to hear a killer talk by best-selling author and consultant John DiJulius on customer service. John is the founder of a successful, upscale Cleveland-based salon chain and consults with a prestigious group of clients such as Ritz-Carlton, Lexus, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Nestle and Mariott to name a few. He is a huge proponent of defining your business by the level of service you provide your customers. DeJulius is an engaging speaker and typically follows his own advice to businesses with whom he consults by avoiding clunky corporate clichés when talking about customer service. He provides very specific, tactical advice on how to train your people to create the optimal experience for your customers and building brand loyalty. Below is a segment that illustrates this from a blog John wrote in 2011.
FAB FIVE – I hate platitudes. Don’t tell your employees to be present or to make or exceed expectations. Tell them how, make it black & white, and make it measurable. One of my new favorite systems for making a customer connection are the “5 E’s.”
1. Eye Contact
3. Enthusiastic Greeting
Why? – I love these for five reasons:
1. They are so simple to do
2. They can be effective with every customer
3. The first four take zero time to execute
4. They demonstrate genuine hospitality
5. No one else is doing them
I’m very interested in companies who are successful at consistently creating a positive experience for their customers for a few reasons. I am a consumer and have sadly learned to lower my standards for service by defining good service as anything that is not bad or disappointing. When I actually receive outstanding service, I tell anybody who will listen to me like a mad man on the street corner prophesizing the end of days. With bad service, I fall into the national average and tell twice as many people. The second reason is that I believe your product is only as good as the service you build around it. Great concepts can be defeated by poor service. This is especially true in the hospitality industry. An elegant hotel can be ruined by an unclean room. A five star dinner can be marred by unfriendly wait staff. Finally, I believe that putting processes in place that promote good service, from hiring and training to regularly auditing your businesses actually helps employees become greater stakeholders in your mission and creates a greater sense of corporate identity.
Black or White Apron
DeJulius believes that if you want to have customer centric employees, you need to hire people who demonstrate the very mannerisms in the interview that you’re looking for on the job. If you have to require friendliness, you’re probably going to struggle to communicate that attitude to each customer that walks in your door. You should hire people that are actually friendly so that asking them to treat customers in that way is not requiring more of them than the simple, natural extension of their personality. When interviewing job candidates, you should note the level of eye contact made, how much they smiled (ear to ear), how much enthusiasm that they had and to what extent they actively engaged in the interview. If you’d like empathetic, altruistic people, you should look for those characteristics on display throughout the interview process.
When I heard John speak, he mentioned how at his salons, repeat customers are given black aprons to wear prior to getting their hair done. First-time customers were given white aprons. For his customers, the color differential didn’t signify anything. For his staff, whether they were seasoned veterans or brand new, they understood that their return customers should be acknowledged and that their first-time customers should be welcomed and engaged. Optimal but differentiated care. His employees were trained to never say “no” to a customer and were encouraged to do the very thing that came natural to them, the reason for which they were hired; treat customers as you would like to be treated. This concept is not revolutionary but it is surprisingly rare. Companies looking to differentiate themselves from their competition should look at their commitment to service first.