THE BLOG
11/21/2014 11:40 am ET Updated Jan 21, 2015

Service Excellence: It's Not Just for Holiday Shopping

As a service professional, I used to find myself ranting about my terrible service experiences to friends and family. Then, one day I had a perspective change, and I began raving about my great service experiences -- to the persons who delivered them to me. Today, I will often take it one step further and find their boss so I can rave more. Not everyone understands why I do this, but to me, it's quite simple. If someone can do a job that impresses me, I want him or her to know that people notice. As humans, we will continue doing those things that we are rewarded for. I consider it a "mini-moment" that will make their day and give them the recognition so they will keep doing the things that make them a valued employee, as well as someone that I would be happy to interact with again.

While there is no secret recipe for service excellence, there are a number of best practices that when implemented and followed with a sense of passion and drive will yield great results. Below are the seven steps that I follow with my team(s). While I have tailored these to more of a retail business (in honor of the season), these same steps can be used in any type of business. The important thing is to set realistic parameters, be consistent, measure success and adapt if needed.

1. Invest the time deciding what you want your team to be known for and write it down.

Be specific where you can -- it helps the team to understand what is expected of them. "Providing an exceptional service experience where every customer is greeted with a smile, helped with their question or transaction in a supportive, positive way and given the opportunity to fill out a survey" gives everyone a very descriptive means that they can use to complete their customer interactions.

2. Create a value statement that binds the team together.

"We create happy customers who love shopping with us" tells a story about how each member impacts the business. It also makes it very clear to those who aren't in alignment that they probably don't fit the team, and they will opt out, which is a good thing in my opinion!

3. Talk through the specifics of the experience with the team -- this gives them a clear picture of every part of the interaction.

For example:
  • We open promptly at 9 a.m., and greet waiting customers with a "Welcome!" and a smile.
  • We ask customers if they are finding what they are looking for and if we can be of assistance in finding something for them.
  • When they are paying for their items, we greet them with "How's your day?" followed by "Did you find everything you were looking for?" and offer to assist if needed.
  • We thank them for doing business with us, and ask them to "Please come back soon."

4. Give each team member a chance to practice his or her skills through role-playing and receive constructive feedback on how to improve.

Enforce professionalism, as well as a feeling of being genuine. This should be done in a supportive, non-threatening manner, with plenty of encouragement and positive reinforcement for things done well. Also, look for opportunities to point out things done exceptionally well through the day.

5. Determine how to measure results based on key success factors, such as daily sales, repeat customers, number of transactions, etc.

6. Review results regularly, in a window appropriate for the business to show impact.

Remember -- it can take time for changes to make their mark. Depending on the type of business, you may see results in a few weeks, or a few months. Don't be afraid to modify measurements or adapt if you aren't seeing results after a period of time -- sometimes a small change will net a very big impact, and other times, it can be very subtle. The better you understand your business and metrics, the faster you can make those small shifts and realize the impact you are striving to accomplish.

7. Celebrate Success!

Set a goal and then celebrate with the team. Make it achievable, but meaningful, and then recognize everyone who was part of making it happen. Teamwork and shared success also creates a strong sense of belonging and loyalty to the group as a whole.

Building great service is a keystone for every business. Whether working with retail customers, or business partners and corporate accounts, the persons we interact with daily respond to those who are positive, genuine and professional. I love going into a store where I feel like the people there really care about helping me - and I will go out of my way to continue to visit them because of the experience. This is no different from my cable service, phone service or other services -- we all have choices, and we want OUR business to be the one that people choose to associate with.

If you have any questions or would like to further discuss, please don't hesitate to contact me via email at pamlyra00@gmail.com -- happy to continue the conversation.

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Pam Lyra, Axcient VP of customer satisfaction and operations, has more than 20 years of experience motivating and leading teams.