Write a Powerful Service Culture Plan

By John Tschohl

One of the major weaknesses of most organizations—including banks—is the top management’s lack of a service strategy. They fail to realize the strategic opportunity in using superior service as a vehicle to differentiate, build market share, and achieve market dominance.

Once upon a time, Sam Walton created a service role model in Walmart. And it became one of the most powerful retailers in the world. These days, however, Walmart is known for price only. The prominence of the company as a service leader has dropped dramatically—because they’ve lost their focus on customer service. I’ve always had trouble understanding why the new management for Walmart has eliminated the customer experience and has simply focused on price alone.

But when organizations know what is important to their customers—and when they realize the shortcomings of their current service—then they are ready to write a service plan.

Along came Amazon.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, is officially the world’s richest person as of November 2017. He built his company to become far and away the most trusted and well-liked brand. According to a survey conducted by The Verge in partnership with Reticle Research, Amazon even surpasses its current smart-home rivals Apple and Google. At the moment, no one can touch Amazon.

The lesson for banks?

Consumers trust Amazon, freely sharing personal details with the company, not only about very specific purchase information, but also data about their interests. And the one thing that is claimed by most customers is this:

By far, Amazon has THE BEST customer service of any company they have ever dealt with. Customers have said that they only had to explain half the problem for Amazon to solve 200% of it.

Mr. Bezos has been responsible for creating over 100,000 new full -time jobs over the past year for the American economy and is on schedule to create more with the new ventures he is working on. No doubt, Amazon definitely has a working service plan.

If you don’t have a service plan, you need one now.

Here are some guidelines to help you get started.

  1. Under-promise and over-deliver.

Set customer expectations at the right level. As defined by McGraw-Hill, “under-promise and over-deliver” is a service strategy in which service providers strive for excellent customer service and satisfaction by doing more than they say they will for the customer or exceeding customer expectations. Deliver on your promises. Don’t make a promise you can’t keep, and keep the ones you make.

  1. Only the customer knows what he or she wants. Here’s how you identify what that is:
    • Make it easy to do business with your company.
    • Provide speed of service.
    • Allow customers to talk to a real live person.
    • Return phone calls immediately.
    • Always deliver on your promises.
  2. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Not all customers who buy the same service or product have the same service needs. Be like Amazon and have a “relentless” focus on customer service through regular communication, and make sure you can deliver on their individual needs.

  1. Continue to drive the plan strategically.

According to Jeff Bezos, “Focus on the things that don’t change.” Bezos built Amazon around things he knew would be stable over time, investing heavily in ensuring that Amazon would provide those things—and improve its delivery of those things.

Training is key.

Management must drive a customer service program with continuous training for all employees. It should also provide reinforcement by means of rewards for high-performing service employees, and with management standards that are regularly reinforced.

When management is committed to customer service by daily word and deed, the result is a well-established infrastructure that facilitates free communication interchange internally and that yields organizational service culture.

Long-term strategy must be developed and then implemented by hardheaded analysis, talented management of people, intense concentration and commitment—and serious spending.

Strategy, objectives, and support systems are essential to building a foundation for a service plan. That said, the entire program probably will wilt like an un-watered lily without:

  1. A corporate culture to sustain it, and
  2. A chief executive who is just as committed to customer satisfaction as he is to stockholder satisfaction

Just look at Jeff Bezos.

John Tschohl is a professional speaker, trainer, consultant, and the author of Achieving Excellence through Customer Service. He is the president and founder of Service Quality Institute in Minneapolis, Minn. He can be reached on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.