Finance and tourism are the name of the game in the Cayman Islands and are both service-focused industries.
These islands have enjoyed a strong economy and have benefited from the opportunities.
These opportunities have created a competitive market that means business owners have to work hard to be successful. Where competition flourishes, customer service is essential to an organisation’s long-term viability. A company can outperform rivals only if it can establish a difference that it can preserve. Including customer service in the business strategy and as a part of the corporate culture is that difference.
Unfortunately, many companies feel customer service is not critical to the success of the organisation. Few companies are able to excel at customer service because it is difficult to control. The level of service will vary from one person to another.
One salesperson may offer great service to one customer, and then aggravate the very next person in line.
This is both the challenge and the opportunity.
The consistent delivery of first-class service requires careful design and execution of a whole system of activities that include people, capital, technology, and processes.
The few companies that can manage this system realise positive results through favourable customer feedback and repeat business. In an article found in the Harvard Business Review, a complete system that enhances customer service is the foundation of what Michael Porter calls the organisation’s sustainable competitive advantage.
Just as important as a whole system of activities focused on providing excellent customer service, is the need to create a strong service culture in your organisation. This can be achieved by following a six step approach:
Recruit the right people – In making hiring decisions, organisations should understand that a service perspective is important for all employees. Having both an external and internal focus on customer service is a separating characteristic of successful organisations.
Communicate expectations – It is very important that all employees understand what your expectations are from the first day of work. Successful service organisations like Ritz-Carlton, Starbucks and The Four Seasons ensure that all employees go through a comprehensive new hire orientation on the first day of work. New employees hear about the company culture, what is expected of them and what behaviour will or will not be tolerated. It is important to ensure employees understand what is expected of them from the beginning of their employment.
Train and develop your staff – One of the secrets to happy employees is ongoing learning and development. Continuing to train your staff not only shows an investment on your part, but it also equips them with the skills to be better at their jobs. By providing new skills and training to your employees, you are arming them with the skills necessary to respond to your customers’ needs, and they are more likely to stay with your organisation.
Reinforce the service standards – The most successful organisations do not just ‘talk’ about their standards, they live it every day. Every leader knows them by heart, can recite them and exude these in everything they do. Many organisations have the standards printed on wallet size cards that employees can keep with them at all times. Spontaneous quizzes and competitions can encourage new employees to learn these standards and focus on them on a daily basis.
Empowering Employees – Organisations that empower employees to take care of the customer’s needs on the spot, enjoy great success. Many successful service companies allow employees to spend a certain amount of money in order to meet the customer’s needs without getting management approval. It is important for management to empower employees to take care of the customer first and then discuss the reasons later. The money you spend on discounting a meal or giving a complimentary night stay will come back to you ten-fold.
Evaluate success – Once you have a total system in place, it is vitally important to measure your success. Many companies are afraid of hearing what customers have to say about their performance. By talking to clients, calling customers and sending out customer service surveys, an organisation can measure the impact of its service culture. This provides important information that can be used to improve and enhance your service culture.
Service-focused industries are dependant on providing exceptional customer service to gain a competitive advantage for their future success.
Creating this level of customer service only happens when an organisation has a Service Culture. Successful organisations that have a service culture must support it with the right technology, tools and processes that allow employees to be the best they can be.
‘Every one of us does render some service or other. If we cultivate the habit of doing this service deliberately, our desire for service will steadily grow stronger, and will make, not only our own happiness, but that of the world at large.’- Mohandas K. Gandi
Karie Bergstrom is a Senior Manager in the Deloitte Human Capital Consulting Department. She is an accomplished Human Resources professional with significant experience in HR consulting, career development, training and recruitment. Her experience incorporates international exposure in various business sectors including public sector, tourism, financial services industry and manufacturing. She is a member of the Cayman Islands Society of Human Resources Professionals, the Society of Human Resources Management and the American Society for Training & Development).