I recently gave a talk to ISSIP (pronounced IZip and stands for International Society of Service Innovation Professionals) on Service Value Creation. Jim Spohrer of IBM asked me how we get the service culture mind-set inculcated.
Here is the answer.
In my previous post on Service Culture versus Customer Culture, I wrote that often frontline service people were very good with Customers. The lack of Customer Culture at the top levels of the company prevented a great overall Customer experience.
Most companies focus on the processes and systems to help the service people become Customeric. Unfortunately the nuts and bolts of these actions do not impact the mind-set of the front line people.
To get a Customer culture, the service culture must also permeate to the top level people, into the C-suite.
How do we do this:
We have to work both with the top level people and the frontline people.
We form Customer Centric Circles, where frontline people along with staff people (from HRD, IT, Finance, logistics. etc.) let their hair down and just talk about their job, their Customers, the difficulty they have with Customers, the opportunities, and what they should do to make the Customer happy. The staff people are there to help them with systems and procedures to allow them to do the right things for the Customer. An example is if the frontline person notices there are many queries on an inaccuracy in the company’s website, they might suggest a change. The staff people and the frontline people discuss the best possible way to change this and then the IT department takes over to improve the website.
The results we see from Customer centric Circles, which we started in 2004 in various companies, include: Tata, Godrej and others.
- Increase the self-esteem
Most of these people, particularly in third world countries come from a different class or strata of society than those they serve. They need to feel adequate, and capable of serving in a mental fashion not just a menial fashion. They have to become proud of themselves, their achievements, and their ability to do a good job and provide happiness. Part of this comes from skills training, part from experience. But a big part is just discussing why Customers are so difficult. As they do this, they start to realise many of the causes for the irritation of the Customer are due to the fault of the company, or the frontline people. Examples are the part did not reach on time, or did not work; or the service person has not come on time, or someone had promised to call back and there was no call.
A discussion on why these problems happen, how they can be prevented in the future and action steps are taken.
The frontline people’s awareness of the Customer and his problems increases. The frontline people become more perceptive and having an awareness of resolving Customer issues causes them to become pro-active.
Once we build the employee’s self-esteem and his awareness, the frontline people become more proactive.
The role of the staff people is to enable the frontline people to become pro-active by giving them the help, the support and the tools to make them pro-active. These are also discussed in the Customer Centric Circles.
- Continuous Customer Improvement Program CCIP
This then leads to an ongoing CCIP and with follow-up meetings of the Customer Centric Circles to see if progress is being made, where the system failed and what further improvements to make.
- The Customers Bill of Rights
The Customer Centric Circles start to look at the Customers Bill of Rights, whether they are valid or should change, whether the rights can indeed be honoured, and if they are not being honoured what prevented them from happening and the preventive action.
- The Circle of Promises
An examination of the Bill of Rights with the staff people shows that many other people in the organisation are involved with making the Bill of Rights a reality. These people are invited to the Customer Circles and often become an important part of it.
The staff people work with higher layers of management in making this happen and in changing the mind-sets.
Service Culture at top levels:
As we said earlier, the service culture has to be present at the top levels.
What do we need to do?
- Build the CEOs self-esteem or self-confidence (self-value):
The CEO has to stand up against the short termism dictated by many shareholders. Just as frontline people have to present the company’s Customericness to Customers, the CEO and the CXO have to present to the shareholder team why long termism is important and why Customericness or the Customer culture will lead to better business results. Only CEOs with a good self-confidence can do this.
- Inculcate the Service Culture at the top levels:
This has to be done with a Customer strategy/service strategy that brings all C-suite and VPs/senior GMs into the Customer strategy building and their sharing various tasks. Thus the head of manufacturing may also be in charge of the Customer First strategy, and the tactics associated with it.
- Lead from the front:
CEOs and CXOs must spend 15% off their time or more on Customers. They should take one call a day coming into the call centre. They will then get a better sense of the Customer and his needs, and whether the call centre response system is adequate or requires changing. They must become part of getting the Customer to love their company.
- Measure Customer scores and report them in to drive bonuses:
By linking bonuses to Customer scores, and reporting them to the Board of Directors along with the financial scores is a great idea. Companies like State Farm and Castrol report Customer Value Added scores, coming from the Customer.
The Customer Value/Customer Centric criteria can form part of the Balanced Scorecard. Many of our clients have Customer Value Management as the top item some as high as 25%
Doing all this will make the service culture emerge as important and the company will become Customer-centric.
Does this make sense, Jim?
President, Customer Value Foundation and Inter-Link India
Founder editor, Journal of Creating Value jcv.sagepub.com
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Customer Value Foundation (CVF) helps companies to Create Value and profit by Creating Value for the Customers, employee and for each person working with the companies.
Total Customer Value Management (Total CVM) transforms the entire company to focus on Creating Value for the Customer by aligning each person’s role in Creating Customer Value and getting shareholder wealth and Value.