Is achieving a remarkable customer service top priority for your business? If so, you should be looking for a better combination of examples of employee empowerment and trust. There are many examples of great customer service companies: Wegman’s, Ritz-Carlton, JetBlue, Disney, and Zappos, just to name a few.
Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it.
– Peter Drucker
Check out our thoughts on customer focus.
So, let’s examine some great examples of employee empowerment from a few businesses as a way to best illustrate what we mean.
Employee empowerment … PF CHANG’S RESTAURANT
My wife and I stopped by our local P.F. Chang’s Restaurant for lunch recently. It was a beautiful Florida spring day, and since it was mid-week the restaurant wasn’t too busy, so we decided to sit on the patio. However, when we asked the hostess to be seated outside, we were told that it would be 15-20 minutes before we could be seated. However, we could be seated immediately if we wanted to sit inside.
When I asked why we couldn’t be seated immediately … since about half the tables were open, we were told that there wasn’t enough staff scheduled on the patio to serve more tables.
Clearly, this service staff did not have the decision-making authority for creating good customer experiences!
If there were enough staff in the restaurant to serve the total number of customers, then why couldn’t they simply reallocate some of the inside staff to serve outside on the patio?
If the hostess was delegated the decision-making authority to take initiate to make every customer experience a good to great one, then perhaps this might have resulted differently?
Employee empowerment examples … MARRIOTT
I stayed in a new Marriott Courtyard hotel a while back. The situation was that it was recently opened and should not have been opened until the problems were worked out and management was ready. There were many problems, believe me, and it started as a significant customer failure.
But not only did the staff take care of the issues for me, the manager, once he got me back to ‘even,’ continued to build the relationship with me. His techniques included exceptional, personalized service … using my name in face-to-face greetings, and continued follow-up and attention to detail. He made me believe I was the best customer he had ever had. Not only did I forget about the earlier problems, but I was feeling great about the entire three-day experience.
Service recovery requires remaining with your customer, through follow-up, and through unexpected contact well after the issue. All customers deserve our best service … but the ones that have a negative experience represent an opportunity to define a business.
Such an opportunity represents an opportunity to turn customers into enthusiasts and maybe even advocates. And that requires going beyond the ‘break-even’ point for that customer.
Research has shown time and time again that customers who reported a problem and were delighted with the outcome have higher satisfaction with the business than the ones who never experienced a problem. So these results show the importance of turning customer failure into full customer recovery.
Why should any company not want to seize such an opportunity?
Try it … the next time you have a customer who has had a back experience with your business. You will be amazed at the results.
Here another great example … of how Zappos employees are empowered to use the element of surprise with customers so effectively. Note this story is told by a customer:
When I came home this last time, I had an email from Zappos asking about the (returned) shoes, since they hadn’t received them. I was just back and not ready to deal with that, so I replied that my mom had died but that I’d send the shoes as soon as I could. They emailed back that they had arranged with UPS to pick up the shoes, so I wouldn’t have to take the time to do it myself. I was so touched. That’s going against corporate policy.
Yesterday, when I came home from town, a florist delivery man was just leaving. It was a beautiful arrangement in a basket with white lilies and roses and carnations. Big and lush and fragrant, I opened the card, and it was from Zappos. I burst into tears. I’m a sucker for kindness, and if that isn’t one of the nicest things I’ve ever had happen to me, I don’t know what is.
Those kinds of examples are justified by almost any cost, and the cost hit Zappos takes by doing this is paid back multiple times over by the customer loyalty they generate from making people happy.
So … a company’s brand communicates every time an empowered employee takes the initiative on behalf of a customer.
This is a story of JetBlue’s customer experience strategy built on its employee empowerment culture. I experienced it first hand and was duly impressed.
The story started a while back while I was sitting on the runway in Orlando as my homeward-bound Jet Blue flight was about to taxi toward takeoff. Like just about every other flight that hadn’t already been canceled that day on the Eastern seaboard, ours was a couple of hours late departing. The lead flight attendant gets on the P.A. system and says something very close to:
Ladies and Gentlemen, we know we’re late taking off, and even though it’s the weather and not something we caused, we’re going to comp everybody movies for this flight. We know you’ve all had a long day and we want it to end with something nice and relaxing. And for those of you who were supposed to be on the Continental flight and ended up here, we don’t ever want you to go back.
The mood on the flight which could have been a rather dreary late evening affair took an immediate upswing. People joked and smiled and made eye contact. They were noticeably brighter and calmer as the flight progressed.
What enabled this relatively small act of kindness and allowed it to become a major brand statement? Midflight, I went to the back of the plane and asked. I wanted to know the policy that allowed a flight attendant to make such a call.
We’re allowed to make almost any decision, the flight attendant explained, as long as we can justify it by one of the airline’s five core values: Safety, Caring, Integrity, Fun or Passion. If we can tie doing something back to one of these principles, the decision is going to be supported by the company.
What JetBlue is saying to its employees … if you act in support of the values that matter to our business, we want you to take risks to care for our customers.
This is a very simple concept, eh? But how many of us put such a thing into practice with our people? Sit down today with your employees and do what Jet Blue did. Start building your employee empowerment culture today.
Create a culture of empowerment based on the values that YOUR business is built on.
We must revive the feeling of empowerment and trust in our employees. When we can empower them to act in the best interest of customers, reflecting the goals of the business, and trust them, then they are accountable and act responsibly. When this happens – we create an environment that propels a sense of community that is trustworthy and where employees thrive and love their jobs all the more.
So what’s the conclusion? The conclusion is there is no conclusion. There is only the next step. And that next step is completely up to you.
It’s up to you to keep improving your customer attention and focus. Lessons are all around you. In many situations, your competitor may be providing the ideas and or inspiration. But the key is in knowing that it is within you already.
All you get is what you bring to the fight. And that fight gets better every day you learn and apply new lessons.
When things go wrong, what’s most important is your next step.
Try. Learn. Improve. Repeat.
Are you devoting enough energy to improving your continuous learning for yourself and your team?
Do you have a lesson about making your customer focus better you can share with this community? Have any questions or comments to add in the section below?
Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he writes about topics to help improve the performance of small business. Find him on G+, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Digital Spark Marketing will stretch your thinking and your ability to adapt to change. We also provide some fun and inspiration along the way. Call us for a free quote today. You will be amazed how reasonable we will be.
More reading on customer focus from Digital Spark Marketing’s Library:
10 Laws of Customer Experience Design
What Little Things Small Businesses Can Do To Build Customer Relationships
Customer Experience Improvements Begin with Understanding Their Value