6 Steps To Launch a Successful Customer Service Initiative That Lasts
Every company is guilty of having a bunch of great ideas and incredible initiatives born in a meeting room – only to see them eventually fizzle out and die, leaving the management team frustrated and cynical and the employees skeptical about what the next program of the year, flavor of the month, or management by bestseller will be. The following is how The DiJulius Group ensures our consulting clients are seeing tangible results 12 months, 3 years, and even 5 years later.
1) Create it. Whether you are creating your Customer Service Vision Statement, your Non-Negotiable Standards, or your Service Recovery (Zero Risk) Protocols, you must have a team that is tasked with this project. They are most commonly known as a steering committee, ideally composed of 12 to 18 people. This group should consist not only of management, but also representatives of nearly every department the company, as well as some frontline employees. This will ensure the group as a whole is working for the best interests of the entire company.
This project also needs to have a leader, a champion (CXO), someone who reports to the CEO or president and will lose sleep at night over the success of this project at every stage – not just in the short term, but also 6 to 18 months from now. When creating an initiative, the project champion must convene the steering committee together for an initial workshop, and at minimum a follow-up. To create the absolute best outcome possible, homework and exercises must be created. In between meetings, the project leader must manage regular communication between the steering committee members to ensure that everyone is collaborating and staying on target with outcomes and deadlines.
2) Launch it. Creating your initiative can be exhausting. It should be exhausting, otherwise it won’t be taken seriously. Now the hard work starts. The only thing that is nearly as important as executive sponsorship is frontline sponsorship. Here is where a major mistake is commonly made. The steering committee can assume that everyone in the organization will have the same passion and commitment to this initiative, but no one else outside of the steering committee has been immersed in it for weeks, debating with passion what will help take the company to the next level. So there is typically a disconnect between the group that gives birth to the project and the rest of the organization. That is why it is so important to have a launch that gets everyone on board and able to understand why this initiative is so important to the company’s success, the customers’ well-being, and your employees’ future.
A launch involves communicating with everyone, and in that launch, you must tell a story. Every story has a villain and a hero. The villain is what’s wrong with the way it is currently being done. The villain may be the competition, the status quo, price cutters, or the pain the customers are experiencing. The hero is easy; the hero is our initiative and how it will change the company, the industry, our customers’ lives, and solve their problems. You must be able to sell the purpose of your initiative to all your employees and get them to rally around it, to rise up to defeat the “villain.” You also have to make sure 100% of your employees partake in the launch, either at the live presentation or watching it online within a certain time frame.
3) Certify it. Just because your employees were in attendance or watched the presentation online doesn’t mean they retained anything. There must be a certification component. It is important to test each employee to make sure they learned and retained the information that was taught/launched. There are many ways you can do this. One of my favorites is gamifying it, making it a competition between teams, departments, or locations. This makes it fun and a team-building activity.
4) Implement it. This is where most plans, projects, and initiatives fail – at the implementation phase. You can create the greatest idea and get everyone to rally around it. But if you don’t have a solid implementation plan, it will be another good idea that never amounted to anything, because no one made sure there was a plan to roll it out effectively after the pep rally. Implementation is a rollout calendar of phases: crawl, walking, and running. This calendar must be timed with training and support materials.
5) Measure it. Just as the project leader must lose sleep at night over the success, now every department, manager, and employee must know the key metric that measures the success of this initiative (retention rate, number of referrals, resign rate, closing ratio, conversion rate, customer satisfaction score, or NPS). Not only do they need to know what it is, but what it has to be, and they need to see it daily and know exactly what affects it. Management and employees must obsess over this metric. The ones hitting the goal must be celebrated loudly; the ones who are underperforming must be coached and convinced that this is the way we are operating now and forever. Live it, love it, or leave it.
a) Measure who is doing it consistently, recognize it, then coach your employees until it is being executed 100% consistently. (This must be measured immediately with the rollout to ensure that employees know that it is serious and non-negotiable).
b) Measure that it has an impact on the customer. Do they recognize the value and is it affecting satisfaction levels and affecting the key metrics (average tickets, conversation rates, retention, referrals, resigns, NPS). To see the impact it is having, this can’t be measured for about 30 days and for 90 to 120 days.
6) Sustain it. Be relentless. There is no ribbon-cutting ceremony for a world-class customer service organization. You never arrive; you just need to keep branding and advertising your customer service culture back to all your employees. Bring it up in daily huddles, recognize and celebrate employees who are modeling the desired behavior. Continue to play games and post your ROX (return on experience) results to show performance of the company, teams, and individuals.
Customer service systems evolve. Some things work, many things need tweaking, such as better training, support, technology, communication, and awareness, for example. The steering committee must continue to meet regularly to develop new systems as well as evolve the existing ones, constantly evaluating progress and defects. Most of all, all the work done and rolled out must be part of new employee orientation and training so the future generations get it, provide consistency, and understand the legacy the company is built on. Then your company’s customer service will be your single-biggest competitive advantage.
John R. DiJulius III, author of The Customer Service Revolution, is president of The DiJulius Group, a customer service consulting firm that works with companies including Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, Ritz-Carlton, Nestle, PwC, Lexus, and many more. Contact him at 216-839-1430 or email@example.com.
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