Great Customer Service: Strengthening Every Link in the Chain of Service

Posted by Bruce W. Woolpert on Mar 18, 2015

2012 April Editor’s Note: On February 14, 2014, Graniterock Celebrates 114 Years of Business. In celebration of our Company Birthday, we publish this article by Bruce W. Woolpert, who served as President and CEO of Graniterock from1987 to 2012.

How does your business manage customer feedback? Your feedback could arrive in a letter, a phone call, a face-to-face meeting, or a formal customer satisfaction survey. Most organizations focus nearly all their time and energy on what didn’t go well. If your goal is to be the best at earning a customer’s business every day, you’ll work to attack problem areas and correct them. You may think that by eliminating any negatives, your customers will want to continue to do business with you. Actually, this approach is far from complete.

If you weren’t already doing most things right, you would already be out of business. Yet what may be missing is a clear understanding of just why your customers like doing business with you. If you were to ask, “Why did Customer X choose to spend money with us today?” the quick answer might be, “Our sales representative has a great personality”, or “We have a very likeable private work estimator.”  But a more thorough consideration recognizes the importance of the entire team’s success in meeting customer needs. Every member of the team carries out an essential function in serving a customer, and no business can allow weak links in the chain of service.

There are countless links to the customer satisfaction chain: quickly answering telephones and taking responsibility for the caller’s complete needs without passing him onto someone else; being available to a customer whenever she needs something done; keeping jobsites, materials and equipment safe, clean and in good working order; having enough product and service knowledge to give effective and valuable advice and support; doing what you say you will do and keeping 100% of your commitments; taking care of problems with even greater courtesy and professionalism than you did in taking the order in the first place; always abiding by the organization’s core values; using honesty and integrity in all dealings with customers, co-workers and members of the public.

Once you have defined your service chain and fixed any links that may be broken, it is essential to discover and reinforce what is working well for customers. Here’s an example. A customer complains in a face-to-face meeting about invoice timeliness and accuracy. What the customer may be thinking is, “You did a great job for me up until invoicing, so keep on doing what you’re doing well.” This unspoken message needs to be heard so that you can discuss with your team each step of the customer service process and strengthen the positives so that they are consistently done well by everyone. Never allow your strengths to be taken for granted - they require continuous nurturing and improvement.

The quality of an organization’s service delivery, like a strand of metal chain, is only as strong as the weakest link.  To strengthen this customer satisfaction chain, we need to not only fix broken links but also reinforce positive performance, or positive customer service will gradually weaken. That’s why you may hear the comment, “years ago their service was much better than it is now”. Customer satisfaction links will weaken over time. Their importance must be consistently celebrated, re-enforced and re-taught.

When we use customer feedback to teach only what is wrong, we miss a very important opportunity to build cohesiveness in delivering service quality. 

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