During this time of recession, my company’s major objectives are:
- Take care of our people individually
- Keep our company financially strong
- Keep progressing in our vision to be the Biggest and the Best in the Sunbelt.
It is documented and we are doing it. We have increased our new accounts, and we have not layed a single person off or made any major cutbacks (i.e. cutting pension, etc.). Not only have we not laid anyone off, we have been quite creative in ensuring that everyone gets enough hours. During our operating years, we have never had a year where we have ended the year losing money. While we are poised to make it our first unprofitable year, our numbers are at the top of our industry maintaining >99% on-time service and with the lowest claims ration in the past 3 decades.
Having said all this, one thing we are focusing on is Customer Service. We have expanded, increased our technology communications to our customers, and we are also working on a major internal initiative to tune our customer service efforts to a “whole ‘nother level.” Our President wrote and said:
We don’t make or sell anything other than a service, so we all need to understand that we are “here to serve”. The only way we can differentiate ourselves from our competition is through how we serve and this applies to both our internal and our external customers. The key to giving effective service is to have a servant’s heart…which requires each of us to have a healthy does of humility and a passion for taking care of other peoples’ needs.
Serving is truly part of the corporate culture where I work. Awards are handed out on how well we serve one another. For example, I (being in HR) was in a meeting with IT, and throughout the entire meeting the IT folks were like, “Yes, we believe we can do that….Yes! That will be very challenging but I think we can do that….We’ve never done that before so that will be very exciting for us to do.” They truly understood that they were serving us!
Robert Frost wrote,
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
So what are the benefits of Serving?
- Create high level of internal and external loyalty
- Loyal customers pay more and are easily recovered
- Keeps our people working
- Allows company to remain financially strong
- Easy way to differentiate from competition
- Opportunity to maximize pay and benefits
- Mission becomes a reality
So what are our challenges and opportunies. How do we get from here to there? First, we must raise the bar. We must challenge ourselves. While we believe we are the best in our industry and while the numbers say that we are the best, what are we doing to improve on it? We still have a great many areas of opportunities. Second, “optionality” allows for mistakes and poor service. There should be no option. The “optionality” effect creates autonomy, breaks down internal communication, and creates a relative standardization. Third, it must become part of who we are. It must be a conviction. One way of demonstrating this is by how we answer the telephone. We don’t answer it simply by saying, “Hello,” or “Hello COMPANY NAME. This is MY NAME.” Instead we answer the phone, “Hello, this is Travis, how can I serve you?” Or, “Hello, this is Travis, how can I help you?” This has proven rather difficult for me. Twice I have dropped the ball on this: once with my boss’s boss and once with my boss. Ouch! Yet, I strongly believe and love this about my company.
Fourth, it is not just a one time event. It involves every one, every time. It’s revolutionary. And the timing is ripe! And the timing is now. We are in this recession for a reason. We have this window of opportunity to get better. Business is slow so let’s get busy with improving our serve, improving our customer-focus. Let’s identify our areas of opportunities, clean up our issues, and our faulty processes. Fifth, we must move from what is natural to what is unique and from what is unique to what is unnatural. This is a heart issue. Again, customer service and a servant’s heart must be adopted at one’s core being. It is a heart issue. If we wish to move from Good to Great, we must focus up and out. However, before we do that, we must first fix our hearts. We must choose to serve every one, every time. It is a mindset change.
Customer service is an emotion but it is also an action. It cannot simply be empathy or sympathy. It must include some sort of action, something tangible, something measurable. It must outdo process improvement. It must be bigger than process improvement, and it must drive itself.
Customer service affects everyone. It obviously affects our customers, our external customers. But it also affects our internal customers. It affects every department directly or indirectly. And it must involve everyone. Customer service must be based on agape love, love that is actionable and unconditional. Regardless of the customer’s actions, opinions, and perceptions, our customer service must be serving, gracious, and loving, not lazy, apathetic, and indifferent. It must carry a sense of urgency as though the customer was family.
Finally, our customer service must be a shining light to the entire organization, to our industry, and to all customer service persons. It must be something that everyone wants to look in on and see. Customer service is vital to our survival and we must “inspect what we expect.”