Culture, part 6: Service
I believe that Service is not simply a department or an activity, but that — more fundamentally — it is a cultural value. Firms that are delightful to work with have a service-oriented culture. This culture infuses everything they do and is embodied by every person in the company, no matter their role. It is at the heart of putting the customer first and having a primary goal of delighting the customer. We are all involved in Service. Sales, for instance, is a form of service. This is easily seen when you think that customers don't want to be sold something; instead, they want to buy things they value and enjoy. Sales is fundamentally to help the customer buy.
Care! To truly serve customers, you must truly care about them and care about doing a good job. Compassion and empathy for customers and pride of workmanship are both critical. Excellence is caring and cannot be achieved without it.
Be curious. Caring is half the battle. The other half is to know what to do in order to serve well. That comes from really understanding our customers, what their business is, what they care about, what their challenges, opportunities, hopes, and fears are. You need to be able to see the world through their eyes, and that can only happen if you are curious about customers and their business. You also need to thoroughly understand our own business and our products. Value is created only when you connect demand with supply, customer needs with your products and services, in the right way. And to do that, you need to be deeply curious about your business and products. You need to train yourself, ask questions, and listen.
Be confident. Meek service is not satisfying service. We all feel best when interacting with people we respect. Earning respect requires confidence. Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking if we simply concede to all our customers’ demands, we will delight them more, but often the reverse is true: when we’re seen as pushovers, customers lose respect and we lose their loyalty rather than gain it. With meek behavior, we encourage them to mistreat us, and that’s not delightful for either side.
Remember which team you're on. You serve customers, but don’t make the mistake of thinking you are on their team. It is too easy to think that you can earn loyalty by simply siding with the customer and throwing your company under the bus. When I call any company's service desk to complain about something, I hate it when the rep just agrees with me and insinuates that their company is negligent but that’s not their fault. That infuriates me. I know that rep wasn't personally responsible. They don’t need to convince me of that. But I do want them to acknowledge my complaint in a professional way, and take responsibility on behalf of their firm.
Be proactive. The best service anticipates your needs and wants. With curiosity and caring, you are positioned to get ahead of your customers, see things through their eyes, and deliver on things they are likely to want before they even ask.
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Philip Brittan is the General Partner of Crazy Peak LLC
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