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Customer Service MUST start right at the top!

OK – I’ll try and keep a L-O-N-G story nice and short.

Last year was not my best effort in terms of keeping well and, sure enough, I ended up having surgery to remove my gall bladder. But I’m well on the road to recovery and, not wanting to dwell on things medical, let’s talk about this in terms of Customer Service – or, in this case, Patient Service!

Allow me to clear right from the start here – I have always believed that nurses are simply angels waiting to go to their greater rewards in the hereafter. I have NO idea where they come from; how they get to be so good at what they do or how much they get paid – I only know that it’s NOT enough!

But, of course, hospital service and patient care depends on a whole team of people – not just the nurses.

So my “experience” began on Monday morning at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, when I arrived, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and appropriately starved.

And there’s musicians playing a variety of instruments all around the reception and coffee areas! The area I was booking into had a saxophonist playing gentle jazz while people joined a queue to start their way on I’m sure a variety of gruesome but essential treatments. Did the music help them to feel calmer and less distressed? I can’t speak for them all – but for me it certainly did!

The reception staff were efficient and more smiley than you find in the average 4-star Hotel. I asked mine if the music bothered her whilst she was trying to do her job and she told me that with only one or two exceptions it was as delightful for them as it was for patients. She was particularly impressed and pleased when she saw the harpist who, apparently, has almost rock-star status with everyone who hears him play!

Up to the Day Surgical ward and into “the system”. And at NO point did it feel like a system. I was treated with care, patience and, despite wearing some of the most bizarre clothing known to humankind, with considerable dignity.
And EVERY nurse I came into contact with told me his / her name and what their purpose was in my treatment. Even if they were only filling in one form!

Michael and Susan were the two (?) anaesthetists who would be in the operating room – didn’t ask but I assume that one was to knock me out and the other to wake me up again…???

When I regained consciousness I was “introduced” to another group of nurses in the post-op care unit – all very efficient, friendly and offering their best level of patient care.

Spot anything missing? Any reasonable cause for me to be anything other than totally impressed?

Back to the title of this missive…

At NO point did the person who was going to cut me open in, it turned out, four places; insert several gadgets and instruments into my body and subsequently remove the offending gall bladder think it was even vaguely necessary to show his/her face and say “Hello Alan. My name is XXXX and your life is in my hands this afternoon!”

Would have been nice! Not to say reassuring!

And yes I do know that they’re very important people and that their time is quite precious and that, therefore, I can’t expect them to meet all the poor sods that are coming their way!

WHY NOT???

I really believe that is no upper threshold to the delivery of Customer Service. It’s great that Directors / Partners / Owners / Senior Managers of your companies “walk the talk” by truly believing in great service. That they support what you’re doing and provide all the resources necessary for it to happen is fabulous. But how many of them can actually come out of their corner offices and help you to DELIVER that same great service.

If they can’t / won’t or don’t walk a mile in your shoes, then how the hell can they claim to know what’s actually involved in you consistently being the best you can be for customers or clients or, in my recent case, patients?

Come on BOSSES – get down and dirty with the team and let them SHOW YOU what great service looks and feels like. I promise – It is a marvellous use of your expensive time!!!

PS – OK, you will have noticed a “trend” in my postings. I’m heavily into Customer Service! I make NO apology for that – but it’s probably enough already! The next blog will be about staff engagement – but I’m not saying there isn’t a Customer Service element to that… 🙂

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EOFY 2016/17 –>NFY 2017/18 – Time for some Customer Service Res(v)olutions…!!!

Yes, it’s that time of year again when we start thinking about the NEW Financial Year and as, we don’t seem to make many (any!) New Year’s resolutions, maybe we should at least THINK about making some NFY resolutions.
Although it’s not as common an occurrence here in Australia as it is in other parts of the world. I’ve asked lots of people why we don’t make New Year’s resolutions and the general consensus seems to be variations on the theme of “Why set yourself up to fail? You know you’re not going to keep them – so why bother making them in the first place?”
Whilst I fully understand the logic, it’s seems a little depressing and defeatist to me – but I also acknowledge that keeping ALL of your resolutions is a challenge that most will fail.

So here’s a “menu” for you to choose from – why not pick just THREE that you can and WILL keep?

1. Finding, Getting and Keeping customers is what EVERY business is all about. Marketing and Sales takes care of the Finding and Getting – but how much time, effort and money do we really invest in the Customer Service that is the Keeping part? In 2016 commit to investing (and it IS an investment – NOT a cost) x% of the total revenue generation of your business in EFFECTIVE Customer Service strategies. “x” can be as large as small as you think is necessary – I would recommend 10%, but even if it’s only 2% it’s a start and you will see results almost immediately!

2. Look closely at the mathematics of your customers. What is your customer churn? What are the main causes and effects of losing customers to your business? How hard is it for you to find new customers to replace those you lose? Translate those figures into hard $$$s and then look again at the first item in this menu and think again about that percentage!

3. Make 2016 the year when you REALLY work harder to engage your teams in your business. If they aren’t actively engaged with you, what are the chances that there are actively engaged with customers? Limited to non-existent I would say! Engagement doesn’t have to be expensive – but it does require clarity and transparency of mission; a commitment to listen; and management whose mission is to help people to achieve their potential.

4. Recruit with Customer Service skills front and centre. It is NOT a skill that should be bolted on to the side of their “technical” skills. You would be amazed at the number of people I talk to in retail who will openly admit that they don’t like people very much! And that’s pretty much their 9-5 isn’t it? You really don’t want a “pulse-optional” person to be anywhere near a customer (external OR internal!

5. Speaking of recruitment – make better use of EQ (Emotional Intelligence) monitoring tools (DISC / Myers Briggs et al) and use them to make sure you don’t have square pegs in round holes. And don’t limit that to new recruits – use them on your existing staff as well and follow up with training / coaching where necessary.

6. You already know my views on Customer Service in this wonderful country – it’s falling and some might say plummeting! Don’t settle for mediocrity in Customer Service – you really don’t have to do so much to look BRILLIANT in a market that’s as low as this. But set that bar higher and strive to be seen and acknowledged as the VERY BEST in your industry – the results of that investment will show you what you’ve been missing all these years.

7. Take EVERYTHING you know about Customer Service and link it all together into a coherent, achievable STRATEGY. Important though they are, it’s not just about smiling and answering the phone in three rings etc. It’s about everything you and your teams do that interacts with Customers. And it needs to be strategic!!!

So choose any three from seven and COMMIT to them (resources/people/systems/$$$s) and I guarantee that 2016 will be a better year than 2015.

I wish you all an embarrassingly prosperous NFY 2017/18 and look forward to blogging again soon…

Alan

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