Best customer service asset is staff, study finds
Organisations that employ excited and passionate people are more likely to create a service-focused culture that delivers great customer service - a situation that leads to happier customers, according to a recent customer loyalty and service improvement survey by The Ken Blanchard Companies.
Having a customer-focused workforce means that companies must treat their people well. They in turn will treat their customers well. Employees are, the study suggests, an organisation's most critical customer service asset, and one that requires focused development and nurturing.
The place of loyalty Blanchard's research over the past five years actually places customer loyalty as the fourth most important management challenge. In the same studies, customer relationship skills were cited as the second most important employee development skill, ranked just behind managerial skills.
Most participating organisations agree that customer loyalty is a powerful driver of organisational success, and that it is tied directly to the bottom line. Indeed, statistics have shown in the past that it can cost six or seven times more to gain a new customer than to retain an existing one. Expenses related to customer losses cause many companies to recognise the need to channel resources toward retention. But the survey found that 74% of respondents' organisations were highly focused on customer service improvement, while only 44% indicated that their organisation had a formal process for achieving service improvements.
Placing the responsibility While respondents agreed that serving the customer is everyone's responsibility, they also agreed that leaders and customer-facing employees have the primary task of creating a positive customer experience. But only 48% said that their customer-facing employees are truly empowered to take action to fix a negative customer experience.
Respondents also believe that customer-facing employees and leaders should be the primary recipients of training in this respect - an idea supported by Blanchard survey data in which respondents cited training as the top strategy for improving service, followed closely by making an organisational commitment to create a service culture.
Most critical skills The survey found that the most critical service improvement skills to address include:
- Developing systems and processes that make it easy to do business with the organisation;
- Improving the skills of customer-facing employees to diagnose the customer issue;
- Improving problem solving skills;
- Empowering people to use their scope of authority.
The findings of this latest customer loyalty survey support earlier Blanchard research that also noted a direct connection between leadership, employee passion, and customer devotion. When organisations create an environment that allows employees to be passionate about what they do, they take care of customers at a level that causes customers to return year after year.