Ahead of the curve

When it comes to customer service, do you
know the rating for your company?

Probably not, but that’s not
surprising considering that most
CEOs don’t know how to measure their customer-service-aptitude level (C-SAT) beyond anecdotal feedback. If you don’t
know your C-SAT, it’s difficult to
determine where your strengths
lie and what opportunities exist
to get your company’s customer
service to the next level.

Listed below are the five levels
of customer service. The defining characteristics of companies
at each of these levels apply to
all organizations, regardless of
product or customer base.

Level 1 — Unacceptable

You are at the bottom of the
customer-service curve. It is
very difficult to do business
with your organization. Your
hours of operation are limited, policies are not consumer-friendly, and it is impossible to
get a call returned. You probably don’t provide ample training to your team, and you are
more worried about hiring
bodies to fill your needs
than concerning yourself
with who are those people.
The technical skills of your
existing staff are limited to
minimal product knowledge, and you compete by
having the cheapest price
or no competition. As a
result, employee turnover is
high at all levels.

Level 2 — Below average

Not surprisingly, your
company is difficult to do
business with. You may
have stringent policies for
things like returns or cancellations, and it is difficult to
speak to a real person when someone contacts you. Training
is limited to technical and operational activities. Turnover is
high, only the owner or senior
management has the authority
to fix a problem, and management gets defensive with inconvenienced customers and little
or no attempt is made to rectify
the situation. As a result, your
service is extremely inconsistent
and totally dependent upon who
is dealing with the customer.

Level 3 — Average

The good news is that your
employees are technically proficient, your customer service is
consistent, and you have flashes
of above- and below-average service levels. Some employees will
occasionally go above and beyond. However, training is often
devoted to technical and product knowledge, and only managers have the authority to make
things right for the customer.

Level 4 — Above average

Technically, your company is
best in class. Employees perform some great acts but lack
day-to-day consistency. Unlike
lower levels, experiential training is provided, including soft
skills, how to deal with customers and service recovery.
Because of this, you are able to
charge above-average prices.
Internally, your company has a
strong inspirational service
vision, and above-and-beyond
situations occur often. New
employees receive solid training, and you have lower than
normal industry turnover. All
front-line employees have the
authority to make the situation
right for the customer.

Level 5 — World class

It is extremely easy to do business with your company. Policies
are customer-friendly, and when
they aren’t, front-line associates
can override them. Technically,
you are best of class. The full
range of experiential training is
provided; your employees are
taught and tested on standards
for every point of contact with
the customer, including possible
service defects and on how to
identify above-and-beyond opportunities. In most cases, your
company has certification training, which employees must pass
in order to receive promotions.

Internally, you have a strong
inspirational service vision, profile your customers and share
guest information. Every department in your organization is
aware that supporting each
other affects the customer.

Great systems are designed
and implemented. Customer-service training is constant.
New employees receive solid
training, and there is very little
compromise when it comes to
hiring only those who believe in
delivering great customer service. There is a strong implementation process and follow-through on initiatives.

As result, you have low turnover, your company has a great
corporate culture and a reputation for superior customer service. Typically, your prices are
higher than the competition.

So how can you measure your
company’s customer-service aptitude to determine where you fit
along this curve? Drop me a line,
and I’ll send you a link to a test
you can take to let you know.

JOHN R. DIJULIUS III is the author of “Secret Service: Hidden Systems That Deliver Unforgettable
Customer Service” and “What’s The Secret” (due out April 2008). He is also president of The DiJulius
Group, a firm specializing in giving companies a superior competitive advantage by helping them differentiate on delivering an experience and making price irrelevant. Reach him at [email protected].