More than anything else, great customer service is about respect: respect for the customer as an individual, respect for the customer’s time and respect for the customer’s point of view—even when it seems off base.
It’s Not About You
Variations of the statement: “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” have been attributed to Theodore Roosevelt and John C. Maxwell, among others. This phrase has been used time and again to illustrate a fundamental principle in leadership, sales, and customer service. The same principle was restated by Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Effective People as habit number 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
Whether you call it respect, empathy, customer-centric thinking or getting over yourself; great customer service means putting your ego aside to focus on the needs of the customer. It means letting go of being right in favor of moving forward.
HR could learn a lot from great customer service by replacing “customer” with “employee” and embracing this principle.
Feedback is Golden
People who provide great customer service see feedback and legitimate complaint as an opportunity to shine. After all, the most loyal customers are those who’ve been disappointed and then subsequently experience an awesome recovery. Harvard Business Review describes this phenomenon in The Profitable Art of Service Recovery, where the authors write:
“While companies may not be able to prevent all problems, they can learn to recover from them. A good recovery can turn angry, frustrated customers into loyal ones. It can, in fact, create more goodwill than if things had gone smoothly in the first place.”
When customers bring problems to a company that excels at customer service, they are listened to and heard—not patronized or brushed off with phrases like:
- You have to understand that…..
- That’s just the way we do things…
- It’s always been done that way…
- No one else has a problem with it…
The most valuable customer is one who provides feedback, creating an opportunity for improvement or recovery, rather than walking across the street to (or browsing the internet for) an alternate supplier. And just like those customers, employees often have great input to offer a receptive HR department.
HR would do well to cultivate a workplace culture where feedback is golden and employees are listened to and heard.
It is About Marketing
Great customer service is not just for existing customers. It also creates a company brand in the marketplace that serves to attract (or repel) future customers. Let me offer an example.
The other day, listening to the radio while driving, I heard an announcement from State Farm Insurance. The speaker called out to all current State Farm policy holders who had experienced damage due to recent flooding in the area to call a toll free number where adjusters were standing by to process their claims. The speaker emphasized that State Farm’s primary objective was to help its policy holders “get back to normal” as soon as possible by processing their claims promptly. By the end of the announcement (an advertisement in disguise), I wished my home insurance was with State Farm, even though the flood missed us!
Following great customer service principles helps HR build an employer brand that existing employees are proud to be associated with and which serves as a magnet for future talent.
There you have it, three things that HR can learn from great customer service: it’s not about you; feedback is golden; and it is about marketing. When HR harnesses the social and brand-building power of great customer service with current and future employees, it earns dividends in the most valuable of workplace currencies: job satisfaction, employee engagement, retention and recruitment.
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