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Achieving excellence through customer service

While most executives and managers attempt to control the customer experience, ultimately, the task of providing great customer service falls on their employees. In this chapter excerpt, customer experience expert Lior Arussy explains how the way organizations approach customer service excellence is changing, and what executives need to do to make sure their employees are striving to provide excellent customer service every day.

Excellence Every Day
Chapter 1, In Search of Excellence?

 

While most executives and managers attempt to control the customer experience, ultimately, the task of providing great customer service falls on their employees. In this chapter, customer experience expert Lior Arussy explains how some organizations are changing the way they approach customer service excellence, and what executives need to do to make sure their employees are striving to provide excellent customer service every day.

Excellence Every Day, Chapter 1
Table of contents:
Achieving excellence through customer service
Employee-driven customer service success

As I was waiting to check in for a flight on a major U.S. airline, the person in front of me began acting rudely toward the airline representative handling our line. The nature of the problem was not clear to me, but the passenger was screaming and yelling, and, occasionally, I heard a profane word being uttered. The airline representative remained calm and composed, making a conscious decision not to respond in kind. Watching this interaction from a distance, I was amazed by her ability to stay calm despite the customer's repeated verbal assaults. When it was my turn, I smiled and congratulated her for the way she had navigated the storm. "If that happened to me, I would probably have lost my temper and responded to this rude guy in an even ruder fashion," I said encouragingly. She looked at me unmoved and replied dryly, "Don't worry, sir; his luggage is going to Alaska." She then asked if I had any luggage to check—to which I responded with an unequivocal "No," while tightly clutching my bag.

 
Copyright © 2008 by Lior Arussy. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Published by Information Today, Inc., Medford, NJ 08055. For more information or to order contact: 800/300-9868 or 609/654-6266, visit Information Today or email custserv@infotoday.com.

 The scene I witnessed at this airline counter is representative of the shift in power taking place in organizations across the spectrum. Individual employees are taking power away from the top executives. In spite of efforts by executives to control brand and the customer experience, excellence is being determined—and delivered—by individuals, on their own terms. In a world where the importance of personal connections is increasingly emphasized, an organization's strength comes directly from its employees who choose to deliver superior performance. Organizational excellence (or lack thereof ) is, ultimately, the sum total of the accumulated impact of decisions made every day by individuals. Taken together, these decisions—what I call "Daily Choices"—are the key to an organization's competitiveness and strength.

My experience on line at the airport is a great example of the Daily Choice: At the moment of truth, an employee made a decision that defined the company's success in the eyes of a customer. Every day, millions of similar choices either to deliver superior service or to sustain mediocrity by following generic rules and processes are being made by individuals. It is these millions of daily choices, not corporate strategic decisions, that ultimately account for companies' superior performance and success.

To drive excellence, your organization does not need another topdown strategic plan, but, rather, willing employees who have been given permission to perform. Excellence cannot be mandated from above, it rises from the bottom up. Your employees need to want to deliver excellence. So, don't rush to appoint a CEO (Chief Excellence Officer) in your organization; this will not be one of those top-down, enforced activities. At the same time, excellence will not result from the random actions of your employees. (Random acts of excellence will not be sufficient to keep an organization going.)

The roles of organizations and managers will not disappear, but they will evolve in the pursuit of excellence. These changing roles will serve to define and create an environment that encourages employees to choose excellence. Managers need to create an excellence-enabling environment, an environment in which delivering excellence is not the exception to the rule or something in the domain of the "suckers." Enabling excellence will require you to give employees permission to perform. You'll need to provide them with sound information for decision-making, and empower them by granting authority and the freedom to make mistakes.

Continue to the next section: Employee-driven customer service success

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