In Chapter 5 of The Secrets of Business Mastery, Mike Agugliaro covers several different steps that a service business must take to establish themselves for long-term success. We can use the same six steps as we figure out how to inject the ideas and practices of excellent customer service into the core practices of our business. We will now take a look at how to use the six steps to build the best customer service.
#1 Dream about Service
The first step in building service into our business is to dream about the level of service that we want to provide. In our companies, we don’t just offer a service or a product; we are responsible for providing our clients with an experience. Everything from our advertising to our initial contacts to our book practices to our product installment or repair are all part of our service experience. Implementing excellent service in our company starts with dreaming about the experience we want our customers to have when they choose us.
When dreaming about the service experience you provide, don’t be afraid to have grand or even oversized dreams! While keeping your vision in the realm of what is possible, don’t be scared to think about how excellent your service could indeed be and what your customers will feel and believe as they do business with you. If your dream is to always schedule for a specific time rather than a 4-hour block when you may show up so your customer won’t have wasted time, then write it down. If you want your customer to always feel respected and genuinely listened to or if you want anyone who does business with you to feel they are your complete focus in the time you’re with them, and they can contact you for anything in the future, then make a note of it. Dreaming about the best service you can provide will fuel you with high hopes and ideas for your company.
As you dream about the services you will provide, it’s important to remember your personal vision for yourself and the business. You don’t want your service plans to be at odds with your vision. For example, if your vision is to be more present for your family, and you have a similar idea for how you will provide time for your employees to be with their families, your dreams for constant availability for serving your customers may either need rethinking or reworking to be more realistic.
Don’t get caught up with too many roadblocks yet though. As you are dreaming about the service experience you want to provide for your customers, the obstacles to achieving our dreams will tend to pop into our mind. Those difficulties will try to deter us from pursuing our dream further and could cut us off from the great potential that is in our vision. If you need to make a note of a potential roadblock to your dream, that’s fine, but don’t let it stop you from thinking big.
The best way for you to dream about the service experience your company can provide is to schedule a significant period to get away on your own to hash it out. In their book Wired to Create, Kaufman and Gregoire point out that creativity thrives in solitude, and that many highly creative people like Steve Wozniak, Zadie Smith, Henry David Thoreau, and Isaac Asimov, made time to get alone in a particular place to do their best thinking and creative work. Dreaming about your service experience is highly creative work. Consider getting away to a place you love where you can be alone for an extended period to dream about the service you can provide.
A great question to ask in the dreaming process is what service are you able to provide, what care can you give to your clients, that no one else is currently offering. What service can you provide that will set you apart? What feelings or experiences can you make available for people that they won’t get if they choose another company over yours? Teaming the needs that others feel they have with your deep passions and dreams for your company will be a surefire way to make your mark.
Implementing excellent service in our company starts with dreaming about the experience we want our customers to have when they choose us.
#2 Create a Service Blueprint
To help make your dream a reality, you need a strategy, a blueprint, or map. Without a plan, our vision will stay as a dream. The first question to answer in creating your plan is what are the main pieces or components that will make up your service experience. Are there a few big pieces that you can identify in your overall dream, things like going above and beyond, your company will feel like family, or we are always there for you? Recognizing the significant pieces of your service experience is crucial.
Once you identify the significant pieces, what are the smaller aspects that make up the bigger picture, and what steps will you need to take to make it all happen? If one of your big pieces is that your company will feel like family, what exactly will you do to make that experience a reality? What are some of the positive components of a family that you want your clients to experience? For your company to feel like a family, you may choose to say that your employees will know clients names before, during, and after jobs, and that there will need to be a level of familiarity and comfort, vulnerability even, that your workers need to take part in when it comes to client connections.
Now that you know the big picture and the smaller actions that you want to take to make your dream a reality, you should make an extensive plan regarding what activities will happen at all stages of the service you provide. To use the earlier example, how will your company feel like a family in marketing efforts, in first contact and appointment bookings, in the initial visit, and the follow-up efforts? Get as many specific actions down as possible for the multiple areas of contact and service in your company that you want to see your people doing. These will be useful for a later stage in this process.
#3 Branding and Service
The brand of our company is the primary method we have to communicate to prospective clients who we are, what we do, and how we go about our work. Our brand is like the face of our company that people should see in places like our logo, our uniforms, our social media posts, and the sides of our work vehicles. Your brand should include or highlight the big pieces, or core values, of your service dream and blueprint. Our brand, or a lack of branding in some cases, sends a loud message.
Our focus on our branding, when it comes to service, should be on what we do uniquely well. How can we communicate our unique service—whether it be our family-feel, our specializing in old home repair, or our genuinely caring staff—through our advertisements, storefront, uniforms, communications, and more? Through effective branding, we can show, over and over, what it is our company stands for, and what it is we provide consistently and passionately through our services. Intentional and strategic branding will bring the right people, those who will most benefit from our specific service, our way.
We have to make sure that any promises we make in our branding are promises that we can keep. We should never use words that we can’t live up to in describing what we do. Hollow expressions in our branding that we don’t live out will do much more damage to our reputation than having no branding at all.
What does your branding say about the service you provide? Does it reinforce the experience you desire for your clients? Does it counteract or sabotage what you are hoping to do in any way? You want your brand to be a memorable and accurate representation of your company, your service or product, and your people.
#4 Systems for Service
Once you’ve planned out the above details, it will be necessary to develop and implement consistent systems and processes that you want to take place at each level of service your company provides. For example, what are the practices you want to see the people who answer the phones do consistently? What are the crucial behaviors for your employees when they first get to a job site? What do you want them to do each time they finish an installation or repair at someone’s house. Figure out what practices need to take place for you to provide excellent service at all levels and then put those tasks into your system.
Checklists will significantly benefit you and your employees at this stage. As you identify crucial practices, tasks that must take place at particular places and times in your service plan, consider compiling a list of these expected practices for your employees to refer to and familiarize themselves. Not only will you empower your employees to make good decisions (more on this later) and to perform with excellence, you will also have good standards to use when it comes around to employee performance review and feedback.
Leave time regularly to review how your practices and systems are working. Give your workers an opportunity to speak into the methods you’ve set up, leaving them space to express their concerns or to share their ideas as to how to improve your processes. They are the ones who have to implement them, and if they struggle with them, regardless of how essential you feel they are, a change may need to take place.
#5 Decision-Making and Service
An essential aspect to your being able to provide excellent service for your customers is making sure that you empower and enable your workers to make real-time decisions about service while interacting with customers over the phone, through social media, or in person. The best way to do this is to be clear with your employees what your primary values are and to create an environment where employee initiative is reviewed and corrected or encouraged as need be. If our workers know the fundamental values and essential practices of the company, they can make informed decisions about how to provide excellent service in whatever situation they face.
#6 Improving Your Service
It’s vital that we are willing to ask ourselves if there is anything more that we can do when it comes to the service we provide. Is there anything we can improve on? Is there something that we do that, if we were to eliminate it, would enhance our customer's experiences?
Do you have a method for acquiring feedback from your customers? Do you have any way to get feedback from people who are not your customers who are part of a demographic or group of people you are hoping to reach? We can learn important truths about the service we provide from both the people who have experienced it and from the people who have either not heard of it or who have decided not to use our services or product. We should never assume that our company doesn’t need to improve. While we must acknowledge the good that is going on within our company, we have to make sure the success we see never takes away from our quest to be better.
One of the things we can learn from client feedback regarding our services is whether there are services we don’t provide which people consistently ask us about. For instance, if we install underground irrigation systems, in areas of the country that have colder winters, do we also provide blow out services in the fall? If we repair install and repair furnaces, do we also offer duct cleaning or other repairs? While some services people request from us are things we shouldn’t do if they don’t align with our purposes or if they are a very different or time-consuming service, discovering what we could provide or another company we could partner with or whom we could recommend will help us deliver high-value service to our clients.
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