Exceptional Customer Service Requires Room For Interpretation, Driven by Empowerment by Forbes – Entrepreneurs

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Insecure bosses will lay down rules, brashly and with much fanfare, saying (literally or in obvious intent), 

“I’m spelling this out loud and clear so there’ll be no room for interpretation.”

While this is fine for fire codes and security protocols, great customer service, requires room for interpretation–with your talented, well-trained, and fully empowered employees being invited to work as the interpreters. It’s in the interpretation, powered by employee empowerment, that customer-facing magic happens: If this weren’t true, everyone could read a book on a successful customer-centric company like Zappos or JetBlue or Nordstrom and, stroke for stroke, imitate them successfully.  (But, in fact, if you did read such a book, one of the most prominent things you’d discover is how much room for interpretation these companies give to each and every employee.)

“The first essential for customer service success is to put together a team of wonderful employees; assembling such a team is one of the most important leadership ‘musts’ that there is,” says Sam Patel, a hospitality industry stalwart and the builder/owner/GM of one of the new breed of modern, economical hotels that have been emerging in the industry of late: the Four Points by Sheraton Jacksonville Baymeadow. “But once that team’s assembled, trained, and indoctrinated in the essentials of your philosophy, you have to avoid the mistake of pulling the leash so tight that they can’t do their best work for you and for the customer,” he continues. “You have to trust your employees to strive, in their own style, to bring benefit to your customers to the very best of that employee’s ability.”

A challenge for you as a boss here is that, sometimes, a frontline worker will be wrong, or at least not fully successful, at making use of the empowerment they’ve been given. What’s essential to keep in mind is that as long as the employee has been wrong in favor of the customer, the employee is still providing superior customer service, service that is better than they would have provided by rigidly following some executive-based rule.  Any attempt by an employee to use their best judgment and creativity needs to be celebrated,not criticized, even when it’s a bit awkward or over the top, or, in some other way doesn’t align with your fantasy of how you’d do it yourself if you were working in their shoes.

I’m not asking you to withhold your criticism out of altruism, but because what I’ve seen (both as a customer service consultant and as a company culture consultant) is that if you celebrate pro-customer attempts by your employees, you will become legendary for your customer service. 

If you don’t–if you rule your roost with excessive rigidity–your unyielding ways will sink you in the eyes of your customers.

The choice of approach–and the choice of futures–is yours.

June 1, 2019 at 12:31PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs