6 Steps To Launch a Successful Customer Service Initiative That Lasts
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6 Steps To Launch a Successful Customer Service Initiative That Lasts

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 fizzle out and die, leaving management frustrated and cynical and employees skeptical about what the next program of the year, flavor of the month, or management by bestseller will be. The following is how we ensure that 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 tasked with this project. Most commonly known as a steering committee, the team ideally is composed of 12 to 18 people. It should consist not only of management, but also representatives of nearly every department, as well as some frontline employees. This will ensure the group is working for the best interests of the entire company.

This project also must have a leader, a champion (CXO) who reports to the CEO or president and who will lose sleep over the success of this project at every stage – not only in the short term, but also 6 to 18 months from now. When creating an initiative, the project champion must convene the steering committee for an initial workshop and, at a minimum, a follow-up. To create the best outcome possible, create homework and exercises. Between meetings, the project leader must manage regular communication between committee members to ensure 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 nearly as important as executive sponsorship is frontline sponsorship. This is where a major mistake is commonly made. The steering committee may assume everyone in the organization will have the same passion and commitment to this initiative. But no one outside the committee has been immersed in it, so there typically is a disconnect with the rest of the organization. This is why it is so important to have a launch that gets everyone on board and understanding why this initiative is so important to the company’s success.

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. It may be the competition, the status quo, price cutters, or the pain the customers are experiencing. The hero is easy: it’s the initiative and how it will solve the problem(s) at hand. You must be able to sell the purpose of your initiative to all your employees and get them to rally around it, rise up, and defeat the “villain.” You also must ensure that 100% of your employees partake in the launch, either at the live presentation or by watching it online.

3) Certify it. Just because your employees attended 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 new information. 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 just another good idea that never amounted to anything after the pep rally. Implementation requires a rollout calendar of phases (crawl, walk, run) and must be synced with training and support materials.

5) Measure it. Every department, manager, and employee must know the key metric that measures the initiative’s success (retention rate, number of referrals, re-sign rate, closing ratio, conversion rate, customer satisfaction score, NPS). They also need to see it daily and know exactly what affects it. Management and employees must obsess over this metric. Celebrate those hitting the goal loudly; coach and convince underperformers that this is the way you are operating, now and forever.

Measure who is doing it consistently, recognize it, then coach all employees until it is executed 100% consistently. To ensure that employees know it is serious and non-negotiable, it must be measured immediately following the rollout. Also measure that it has an impact on customers. Do they recognize the value? Is it affecting satisfaction levels and your key metrics (average tickets, conversion rates, retention, referrals, NPS)? To see the impact it is having, this can’t be measured for about 30 days and then at 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 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.

You’re never done

Customer service systems evolve, and the steering committee must continue to meet regularly to develop new systems and evolve existing ones, constantly evaluating progress and defects. Most of all, new initiatives must be part of new employee orientation and training so 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 info@thedijuliusgroup.com.

Published: April 12th, 2022

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