John Tschohl of the Service Quality Institute outlines six steps to creating a service culture, and discusses five critical elements for excellent service.

Most companies think they are in manufacturing and retail, but remember that you are in the service business. It is a paradigm switch. Amazon is successful because it understands it is a customer service company that just happens to be the largest internet-based retailer in the world.

Six steps to creating a service culture:

– Understand that you are in the service business. Starbucks is successful because they understand they are a customer service company that just happens to sell great coffee.

– Look at all the policies, procedures and systems you have in place that make life miserable for customers. You could have the nicest people in the world but also stupid hours, stupid rules or stupid procedures that irritate customers. Stupid policies, procedures and systems prevent customers from coming back.

– Have empowerment. Every employee must be able to make fast and powerful decisions on the spot, and they better be in favour of the customer.

– Be selective about whom you hire. Service leaders hire one out of 50 applicants, sometimes one out of 100, and they are very careful. You have to look for the cream, the A-players, instead of bringing on B and C-players.

– Educate and train the whole staff on the art of customer service with something new and fresh every four to six months. It does not matter if you have 100, 1000 or 10,000 employees, you better have something new and fresh constantly in front of them so when they go to work they say, ‘Fantastic, I am taking care of customers.’

– Measure the results financially so you know the impact customer service is making on revenue, on profit and on market share. You have to track the numbers so you understand that it is worth the time and effort.

It is likely that most successful businesses are doing some of these things already. But it is the commitment to following through on all six that establishes a great service culture.

Five critical elements necessary for excellent service:

First, you have to have speed. How do you shrink the time by 90 percent? Speed allows you to be different in the marketplace. It is not going from 10 hours to nine hours, it is how do you do it within the next few minutes. How do you take care of customers right while you are talking to them?

Secondly, it is important to empower employees. They have got to do whatever they have got to do, on the spot, so the customer walks out of the store or business, puts down the phone or leaves their computer after the interaction and thinks they have gone to heaven.

Thirdly, quality in whatever service or product you are selling is essential.

Fourth is service. Quality service is highly intangible. If you asked 100 customers to define it, there would be 100 different answers.

Finally, I stress the importance of using the customer’s name, remembering the customer and making each customer feel special. Take for instance Apple. I always have a great experience because they combine technology, speed, quality and service. They dominate because they understand how Service Culture works and they always call every customer by name. It is part of their procedure, part of their culture.

John Tschohl is a professional speaker, trainer, and consultant. He is the President and founder of Service Quality Institute with operations in over 40 countries. He is considered to be one of the foremost authorities on service strategy, success, empowerment and customer service.

John Tschohl