What are the Secrets of Profoundly Remarkable Customer Service?
“When you felt really good about your work, what was going on?” That question was the key query that unlocked the secret to the true motivation to work. Industrial psychology professor Dr. Fred Herzberg, author of the landmark book, The Motivation to Work, used that question. His article: “One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees” is one of the most reprinted articles ever to appear in the Harvard Business Review. Dr. Herzberg can help us unlock the secrets of profoundly remarkable customer service.
Herzberg learned from the answers he heard that the features leading to worker motivation were not the extreme opposites of those leading to worker dissatisfaction. They were completely different features. For example, a poor salary or lousy supervision were clearly dissatisfying to workers. But, paying people more money or providing better relationships with their bosses, while removing a source of dissatisfaction, did not result in motivated workers. Motivation came from features like achievement, growth, recognition and the work itself.
What if that same research approach was used with customers? Let’s assume customer loyalty comes in many forms. Loyal customers return more often, buy more, and forgive more. Some show their loyalty by wearing the brand like a Harley-Davidson jacket, a Marriott shirt, or a Bass Pro Shop cap. But, the pinnacle of customer loyalty is advocacy, remarking favorably to another person face-to-face, ear-to-ear or click-to-click.
So, what insights would you gain if you asked your customers: “When you felt so good about a service experience that you told a story about it to others, what exactly was going on?”
The Anatomy of Profoundly Remarkable Customer Service
Think back over the greatest service experiences of your life; the ones that impacted you so profoundly that today you still enjoy remarking about them. Not, those great experiences you enjoyed and then forgot after a week. Rather, those you will remember the rest of your life – the experiences that touched you in a deeply compelling way. What were the features of these profoundly remarkable customer service experiences? What implanted them deeply; so influentially they are enthusiastically shared?
For the last two years, my colleagues and I have asked clients and keynote/workshop audiences these Herzberg-like questions. The search was for something more than just good service. In fact, we were not particularly interested in customer delight. We sought incidents that became an integral and permanent part of a customer’s life stories. The hundreds of stories shared by customers were organized around six consistent themes.
Enchant: The Core of Value-Unique
Customers reported some experiences that seemed enchanting and magical. These reported experiences all contained an element of unexpected surprise. They were more than the typical exceed-your-expectations, value-added experiences; they were value-unique. While a few experiences could be labeled service heroics, the great majority of the experiences were simple, yet ingenious. When customers witness unpretentious inventiveness it signaled an authenticity they could trust. Symbolically, it is the difference between store-bought and homemade. There is a piece of the server in their captivating gesture.
Enlist: Customers Care When They Share
Granddaughters light up the room when asked by a grandparent to help make pancakes for breakfast, especially when that task involves allowing some risk-taking and not just performing a chore. That sentiment of meaningful inclusion characterized some customers’ profoundly remarkable stories. The gesture of collaboration made them feel like an insider with special privileges. It signaled a recognition and respect for the fact that all service experiences are co-created, not “factory made.” It surfaced for them the timeless protocols of effective partnering.
Enlighten: Creating a Growth Emotional Envelope
Author Dan Pink updated one component of Herzberg’s theory features by labeling the “growth” motivator as actually “the pursuit of mastery.” Customers today enjoy a sense of accomplishment that comes with the capacity to demonstrate confident competence in aspects of their lives. Experiences that enlighten are less about capturing a “teachable moment” and more about inviting customers into a service context of curiosity, judgment-free acceptance, and collective learning. Since learning seems like a door opened only from the inside, when a fellow learner (not just a server) serves the customer, they feel enriched, not just educated.
Ease: Focusing on the Pursuit of an Unconstrained Solution
Flow is a word we don’t hear much about in the service world. It is very prominent when discussing athletic or artistic performances. And, service is truly a performing art. Instead of flow we talk about effortless simplicity and being easy-to-do-business-with. In reality, none of these capture what customers really desire.
Most customers are just fine with the complex and even with the difficult. What they seek is the elimination of all arbitrary, illogical, and inane constraints that prevent a service provider and customer from “flowing” to a solution, not just a task. They care as much about the elimination of angst and worry as they do about quashing bureaucracy.
Endear: Delivering the Antidote to Indifference
The opposite of good service is not bad service; the opposite of good service is indifferent service. In fact, customers reported that indifferent service (a signal of a lack of caring) was actually worse than bad service. Customers often explain away bad service as a careless mistake. Service that endears grows from generosity, a spirit of abundance and kindness. Part of customers’ elevation of endearment as a feature of profoundly remarkable customer service exists because of their fatigue with mechanical service reported as long on efficiency but short on emotional connection. They crave emotional connections that indicate an affinity for customers rather than the quest for closure.
Engrave: The Soul of Profoundly Remarkable Customer Service
When we examined the brand names of the popular service providers frequently cited as deliverers of profoundly remarkable customer service – Nordstrom, Disney, Starbucks – most had a well-known brand promise and purpose. “They know who they are,” said one customer, “and, it is noticeably reflected in how they do what they do.” The takeaway was that most customers today value substance over superficial, character over cosmetic. While they may enjoy service providers with charm; they trust service providers with soul.
Customer motivation, just like worker motivation, is not a feature that is given, commanded, or directed. We unleash it! Smart customer service providers know that the secret lies in creating remarkable customer service experiences that encourage deep loyalty to emerge.