Customer Service is Rising to the Top

Customer service is all the rage these days. Organizations talk about it. People talk about it. A quick search online will return results of both good and bad customer experiences. Videos, product or company reviews, news stories—the list goes on and the stories spread like wildfire. The stories that spread the fastest are usually the negative ones—in other words, the ones that will have the most impact on an organization. We humans are social creatures and tend to “follow the herd,” so if we hear about a bad experience, we may try to avoid that organization when we can. And that mass memory and avoidance can spell failure for brands.

Like it or not, customer service is more important than ever for organizations to succeed. Social media and constant connectedness mean brands must prioritize the overall customer experience at all levels of an organization—or suffer the consequences. As customer service expert, Shep Hyken, has pointed out, a lot of brands are adding a Chief Customer Officer to the C-Suite to ensure the focus of all decisions is the customer. It’s important to focus on the business and the customer, with the customer being paramount.

I’m a firm believer that everything flows from the top down. Hopefully it’s a focus on the every: impressing every customer in every interaction, every time they interact with the organization. That focus on the customer, from the CEO to front-line customer service staffers, may soon come easier.

More people from customer service backgrounds are rising through the executive ranks to lead companies—and that changes the focus at the top.

Traditionally, CEOs, presidents and other company leaders have come from business or financial backgrounds. They majored in finance or economics and have MBAs or other advanced degrees. Those leaders tend to focus on the numbers aspect of the business, because that’s what they are trained in and familiar with. Focusing on the numbers is certainly important—but how do the numbers change when there is a shift in focus to people?

If a brand increases its focus on customer service and improves the customer experience, its bottom line will likely improve. There will be more repeat customers, who usually spend more than new customers. Those repeat customers will tell others about their good experiences, leading to new customers. And since there isn’t a driving need to find new customers to replace those that have been lost, that means there are reduced advertising costs as well as reduced service costs. And the ripple effect spreads.

One example of leading from the top is Richard Branson. He’s well-known for using his companies and services as a regular customer to see what a regular customer experiences. There are stories of him calling the contact center for Virgin Airlines asking to speak with the CEO (himself), and traveling on the airline to see how customers are treated. He made changes based on his experiences and believes all leaders should regularly check on how their customers are treated.

Every brand wants to be successful and there is more than one way to get there.

The increased roles that social media and social interaction are playing in society will increase the need for leaders who understand and empathize with customers. It’s easier to empathize if you’ve worked in customer service and understand how it works from both perspectives. I believe we should make it simple: ask ourselves “How do I want to be treated?” and treat customers that way.

This shift to an increased focus on customer service in the c-suite will gather steam over the next few years. Personally, I’m eager to see the impacts of this shift and how it will shape organizations moving forward. After all, there would be no customer service without customers.

–  Vasili Triant

Photo Credit: Shep Hyken