Thursday March 19, 2009
Mary Jane Flanagan - Training Director
I run learnpurple's business services division. We work with many large City organisations who want to achieve consistent five star service but aren't sure how to make it happen. Our expertise comes, in the main, from working with five star hotels.
I believe that delivering excellent service is a choice, you cannot make your teams do it; you can only inspire, encourage and enthuse them to want to do it.
For the past 18 months or so, I've been running a national customer service excellence programme for the support / facilities teams of a well respected, global organisation. Some of the the sessions have been delivered to non-customer facing teams such engineers; catering; reception; management; cleaning and security teams. These groups have certainly inspired and delighted me over the past year - despite the fact that I was warned I would never be able to capture their attention/ interest because they are a cynical bunch. (I think that told me more about the people that made the comments rather than the delegates).
Interestingly, of the 520 supposedly resistant and cynical people trained so far, only one person reported that they did not like the development. And a recent service measurement survey saw a 4% increase in excellence rating, taking it into the nineties, with one department achieving a staggering 99%. So I think it's safe to say they were most definitely engaged.
It has been the delegates' enthusiasm that has impressed me most and, despite their challenging jobs, (would you clean lavatories all day?), they have retained their sense of humour and goodwill. It is not only the customer facing teams - but also those that grease the wheels so that everything works - that ensure a company is successful. The adage's people buy people in companies is so true.
My favourite story however has to be from a security guard who, when asked if he liked his job, he said that he did and to keep motivated, he finds ways to make the work more interesting. He relayed the following: This man's job is to stand in reception all day looking smart, alert, helpful and enthusiastic, even when nothing much is happening. His reception area looks onto a telephone box near London Bridge. Often when it is really quiet, he notices the tourists who are inevitably looking a bit lost next to it. So he telephones the box and let's it ring until they answer and then says: Hello London calling, are you lost? Once they establish there are no hidden cameras they tell him where they are trying to find; he gives them directions, wishes them a great holiday and sends them on their way. Usually after they have told him they love London!
Although I should be discouraging this behaviour and saying something about not making external calls and paying more attention to the job, I cannot bring myself to - I can't help thinking it's fantastic. And the same attitude that makes him do this will be the one that ensures his customers are safe, secure and well looked after. (He is also a better person than me: I would be tempted to also dish out fashion and other advice to those tourists. i.e. ring ring. Is that really the right coloured scarf to go with that coat?!)
What is the satisfaction rating for your organisations service? Is it still way back in the 90's? If not, do you hire for attitude or skills? You can train a skill, but it's much harder to change an attitude.
Don't underestimate your teams' desires for development. Even those who seem cynical can still be engaged or achieve value from a session that reminds them exactly what excellence means. Experienced trainers will be able to bring it alive for them in a way that will be fun, relevant and cross all barriers.
What's the most unusual or amusing customer service story you've heard?