Reality Check on Customer Enchantment
We love hearing those service champion stories—always laced with awe-inspiring heroics and “happy ever after” endings. These way-beyond-the-call-of-duty stories are generally exotic, extravagant, and frequently involve helicopters, champagne, and penthouse suites. Then, we go back to work, thinking “My boss would kill me if I did something like that.” As the cold reality of work quickly freezes out the story’s warmth, it gets dropped in our brain’s “fairy tale” file.
But, is there another side to these enchanting stories? Could extravagant service have a return on investment of sufficient size to warrant repetition? Should managers challenge their employees to “bring me more lavish bills for unplanned, unbudgeted red carpet treatment for customers!” In this era of tight margins, ferocious waste reduction, and microscopic expense control, how do you cost justify an encounter which is by nature extravagant?
Service extravagance does have an important role in any service quality effort. Power, however, lies first in its uniqueness. A steady diet of extravagance and you not only abuse the bottom line, you turn unique into usual—and the magic disappears. However, what mileage can be gained by going the extra 10 miles? Assuming unique is kept unique, there are advantages to encouraging an occasional service extravaganza.
Three Big Benefits of Customer Enchantment
While the CFO might have to take a leap of faith, there are great payoffs of service heroics. Service indulgence fosters customer love and other benefits.
- Service Extravagance Releases Employee Power. When the subject of empowerment is discussed with leaders, they all bewail that employees have far more power and authority than they typically use. And, it is generally true. Get a group of employees together and they will quickly gripe about their lack of authority. Empowerment (or lack of it) is often code for fear of failure. Celebrating service heroics can encourage employees to “take it to the limit” and “push the edge of the envelope.” When their confidence is matched by affirmation, they learn to take risks. The goal is to encourage employees to experience the limits and, if they go too far, learn that the leader response will be support and coaching rather than punishment and rebuke. Empowerment begins with error; error begins with risks. Employees risk when they believe failure will spark growth, not censure.
- Service Extravagance Keeps Service Quality Top of Mind. The challenge in creating a service culture is how to keep the “shine from wearing off.” The early elation of the “The year of the customer” kickoff quickly turns to exertion when incensed customers make unreasonable demands on an already fatigued front line. How do you insure excitement wins over despair? Part of the answer is celebrated heroics. Effective service celebrations begin with “see.” The telling of heroic service stories provides a graphic pictures of what great service looks like. Too often those witnessing a celebration learn who but not why. They depart with little to emulate. So, tell the story in detail, along with the philosophy or attitude.
- Service Extravagance Builds Teamwork at Its Best. Service extraordinaire events, when instigated and implemented as a team, can raise morale and reinforce important lessons in interdependence. The adage that “nothing pulls a team together more than a crisis” can be expanded to a “celebration” as well. And, since teamwork is a decisive commodity in today’s service, the winners in the eyes of the customers are less likely to be the single acts of excellence, and more apt to be the collaborative efforts of colleagues who craft an experience which customers retell over and over. Simply the act alone can fuel teamwork.
Remember: Celebrate customer extravagance as extra-ordinary. And, teach employees the principle behind the peculiar. Give leeway for the exceptional, and your employees will have exciting standards for excellence that can energize them to produce service performances customers will remember as special.
Experiment with service extravagance and customer enchantment.