The words “customer service” bring to mind specific activities designed to enhance the customer’s experience or to resolve their complaints. The traditional paradigm usually focuses on the transactional aspects of the business-client relationship, narrowing customer service responsibilities to those who have direct client-facing roles. However, in the new paradigm, customer service should be regarded as a fundamental aspect of every job from CEO to frontline employees.
Regardless of the product or service a business offers, regardless of who the ultimate consumer is, building a “beyond customer service” culture creates a competitive advantage and it costs little or nothing to implement. Going beyond customer service bolsters bottom line objectives.
Leaders who practice going beyond customer service understand that the quality of every interpersonal relationship within a business will trickle down and enhance the customer experience. They treat everyone with the same dignity, sincerity and respect they accord their most important clients. This includes employees, vendors, creditors and, of course, clients.
Creating and supporting a beyond customer service culture requires that leaders:
- Identify internal customers. See each interpersonal and cross-departmental relationship in your business as a service relationship. Who are the internal customers of administration, production or sales, and what do they need from others within the organization?
- Put customer service before self interest. At every relationship interchange ask what individual and/or organizational needs can be served to enhance this relationship; what can I do to improve their experience with me or my department?
- Listen first. Listen authentically to understand the needs of your internal customers and then provide appropriate supports to resolve those needs and achieve the desired outcomes.
- Inspire trust by being trustworthy. Focus on the wellbeing of others. Be honest about business realities and urgencies. This will create trusting relationships, which will increase the speed of transactions and lower the cost of your business outcomes.
- Nourish others. Demonstrate genuine care for and acknowledge the unique contributions of each person to the success of the operation. This inspires organizational citizenship and a commitment to go beyond customer service.
A leader’s top priority is to go beyond customer service and address the needs of employees, customers, and stakeholders. Leadership influence flows from these acts of service because they enable the growth of others. They, in turn, respond to that leadership influence with greater commitment, loyalty and productivity.