Today’s interview is with Steve Curtin, Customer Enthusiast, who has recently published Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary. This interview follows on from my recent interview: It’s all about customer service, customer service, customer service – Interview with Tom Walsh CEO of Staycity and is number sixty-five in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things and helping businesses innovate, become more social and deliver better service.
Here’s the highlights from the interview I did with Steve:
- Steve has recently published: Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary.
- Steve wrote his new book to add another voice to the conversation about the current (unacceptable) state of customer service in much of the world. While there have been many excellent books on the subject, I set out to answer three important questions that are on the minds of most managers who are grappling with day-to-day customer service issues.
- 1.) Why is customer service so predictably poor? The reason that you and I, as customers, consistently receive predictably poor customer service is because exceptional customer service is voluntary. Employees don’t have to deliver it. And most don’t.
- 2.) Where do we (companies wanting to improve customer service quality) start? The first thing I would do to improve customer service quality in any business is to individually pose the following question to employees: “Would you describe for me, from your perspective, what you do – what your job entails?”
- 3.) How can we make this stick? (Knowing that most improvement efforts wane over time) In order to normalise exceptional customer service so that it occurs reliably, over time, by design (rather than inconsistently, here and there, by chance), incorporate job essence into job function.
- Incorporate Job Essence Into Job Function
- Customers don’t want “outrageous” or “over-the-top” customer service at every turn. In everyday service situations, most customers simply want to be acknowledged and appreciated.
- Each of the 7 simple ways (highlighted and explored in depth in the book) to raise customer service represents a “little thing” that a service provider could do to make a big impact on a customer. The difference between ordinary and extraordinary really is that little extra!
- The 7 behaviours that will improve the quality of customer service are:
- 1.) Express genuine interest
- 2.) Offer sincere and specific compliments
- 3.) Share unique knowledge
- 4.) Convey authentic enthusiasm
- 5.) Use appropriate humour [e.g., to build rapport (bartenders are known for this); to enliven an ordinary process (advertisers do this with product packaging/commercials; and to reduce tension]
- 6.) Provide pleasant surprises
- 7.) Deliver service heroics
- Steve explains that there are two halves to an employee’s job role: Job function AND Job essence. (The fact that many managers overlook the second half of every employee’s job role – job essence – contributes to the rarity of exceptional customer service.)
- To build this sort of culture Steve believes it starts with leadership. What they (employees) see (leadership’s modelling), is what you’ll get (in terms of performance).
- However, Steve adds that every employee also leads him/herself. Managers and supervisors cannot determine an employee’s performance/behaviour. They can only influence the employee’s performance/behaviour. Ultimately, an employee chooses for him/herself whether or not they will express genuine interest in a customer or go out of their way to serve them.
- Steve would also like to see firms start to measure an employees performance relative to nit just their jib function but their job essence too.
- Steve goes on to emphasise that the most important thing to remember is that exceptional customer service doesn’t happen by chance. It happens by choice.
- Check out Steve’s book: Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary and his blog, which can be found at: www.stevecurtin.com
Note: Steve was kind enough (as noted in the interview to send over his notes for the interview to help me with transcription. What a great guy! As a result, there’s loads more insight in the actual podcast than there is in the highlights).
Steve worked for Marriott International for 20 years in a variety positions at hotels as well as at corporate headquarters. The first half of his career was spent at the property level working in hotel operations, sales and marketing, and human resources. The second half of his career he spent working for headquarters presenting national core programmes for management associates until 2006.
In 2007, he started his current company, Steve Curtin, Customer Enthusiast! Since that time, he has been speaking, writing, and consulting on the topic of customer service for clients in the hospitality, tourism, healthcare, and retail industries.
You should check out Steve’s book: Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary, his blog (www.stevecurtin.com), follow him on Twitter @enthused and connect with him on Linked here.