Christmas Eve, and I notice that my family’s flight home from our holiday travel on the 26th is incorrect. Somehow, my son and husband are on a different flight than I, making me feel quite Grinch-y. I sighed audibly as I began collecting my documentation to do battle with the airline to get the flight changed. Just as I’m dialing Alaska Air, I receive a phone call – from Alaska Air. The call is from a customer service supervisor, who found the error herself while reviewing phone calls to monitor service from her staff. After I picked myself off the floor, I thanked her, and of course posted this outstanding service story on Twitter.
We know that going above and beyond, delighting customers and truly connecting as human beings earns businesses loyalty and extremely valuable word of mouth. Unfortunately, today, we’re more often met with apathy, distraction and bureaucracy than true service. Companies like Alaska Airlines, Chick-fil-A and Costco consistently outperform their competitors in service rankings, and not surprisingly, in profitability. These companies demonstrate that terrific service is possible, that loyalty still exists, and that exceptional service has a material impact on profits. No matter your business, you can create similar results. A strategic plan, well executed is key; here are some tactics that will ensure your success:
Your team is key to great service, of course. While much can be automated these days, true human connection is the key to a long-term customer relationship. You can’t fake engagement (How many customers have converted to online shopping thanks to the “Hi! Welcome in!” shouted from an employee buried deep in a store who doesn’t even bother to make eye contact?)
Inspiring your team will only get you so far; the best people can’t deliver terrific service with bad policy. Costco is known for an easy return process; Alaska Airlines actually does review calls for quality. Great service requires listening to customers for any opportunities, and then using the power of your team to find solutions.
Investing in service will deliver a significant competitive advantage. Businesses often under-invest in this area because the return on the investment is difficult to prove. Here are some good reasons to differentiate with service:
Customer delight is not only possible, but highly profitable. Here’s wishing you the success that comes from putting your team and customers first. Now, I’m off to make another flight reservation, I’m sure you can guess which airline I’ll choose.