Creating an Above-and-Beyond Culture of Customer Service
The following is one of my favorite stories. It happened years ago at the first business I opened (and still own today), John Robert’s Spa. It really defined the type of above-and-beyond organizational culture I want every employee to have.
A client shared a story about the time she walked into one of our salons for her 1 p.m. manicure appointment. The receptionist said, "We have been trying to contact you all morning because the nail technician who was to do your manicure went home sick." The client responded, "You had better find me someone who can do my nails because I have an important meeting this afternoon and my nails look horrible. I don’t care who it is, but you had better get someone.” A few minutes later the receptionist returned and said, “I apologize. Unfortunately, we have no one available to do your nails, but we called the salon a few doors away. They have an opening now, so we booked and paid for a manicure with them."
Above-and-beyond is a mentality
I have heard many frustrated leaders say, "We have a few employees who go above and beyond all the time for their customers, and we have many who never seem to. The ones who don’t say the opportunity never presents itself."
The truth of the matter is that everyone gets the same number of above-and-beyond opportunities. The only difference is some employees see the opportunity and act on it, while others fail to even see it. To build an above-and-beyond company culture, you must be proactive about creating awareness by constantly advertising stories to your employees.
5 steps to creating an above-and-beyond culture
1) Empower employees with the autonomy and confidence to aggressively go the extra mile without being second-guessed by management.
2) Train employees to be able to consistently recognize above-and-beyond opportunities that occur.
3) Inspire them on how to think outside the box to provide exceptional positive experiences for each and every customer.
4) Acquire and document all above-and-beyond stories that happen in your organization.
5) Advertise and recognize those stories and employees throughout your entire organization – daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually.
Now here’s the crazy thing: You only have to do three of the five steps!
Steps 4 and 5 take care of steps 2 and 3. When you put systems in place to catch all the above-and-beyond stories (step 4) and then continuously celebrate and advertise them to everyone in your organization (step 5), you start training your employees on where the opportunities exist (step 2), and on how to deliver above-and-beyond service (step 3). The more that happens, the more it gets recirculated and can become self-perpetuating. It becomes positive peer pressure – provided you keep documenting and celebrating.
An above-and-beyond culture starts with documenting every above-and-beyond story that you hear from someone in your company. You can’t just hope to find these stories; you must solicit them. For example, you must have communication channels set up that ask and make it easy for employees and customers to share how someone went above and beyond for them. All these stories can be solicited and collected through email, snail mail, voicemails, social media, or where the customers check out.
Every above-and-beyond story must be stored in a central place, so you can track that they have been reshared company-wide and celebrated. From the master list, you can choose the best above-and-beyond stories of the month and quarter. Some companies give prizes to these winners.
Finally, out of the top stories chosen monthly or quarterly, create an award for the top above-and-beyond story of the year. This award should be voted on by all employees. This honor meets two objectives. First, it’s a great way to recognize the individual for outstanding heroic service; second, you are educating and advertising to all your employees the different opportunities for them to deliver world-class service.
During new employee orientation, share with them your all-time top 10 above-and-beyond stories. This helps set the tone for the type of customer-obsessed culture they are joining.
When you do all of this, you will see a dramatic increase in the above-and-beyond stories your employees are executing. Your entire organization will be on a mission to constantly exceed customer expectations.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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