The people service profit chain
The companies with the sharpest customer focus and who have made this into a market differentiator typically enjoy an above average profitability. This is not anecdotal but supported by ample hard data. In other words: Sharper customer focus leads to a sharper competitive edge.
Their brand of customer service is however ingrained in everything these companies do and don’t do, in terms of: Processes, IT deployment, customer management and measurement, organizational leadership and people management. In other words, it is part of their “organizational DNA”.
In this context we often speak of the People>Service>Profit Chain. Tom Peters used to say that it takes turned on people to give turned on service. In the excellent organization everybody has a customer and is focused on partnering with customers, be it internally or externally.
All of this to say that it is requisite to success that everybody – and I mean everybody – in the organization has a high customer service aptitude. Skills can be trained but a person has the right “customer stuff” between the ears or not.
Hence my recommendation to any organization that is intent on (further) sharpening their customer focus, to the extent that it becomes a sustainable competitive advantage, needs to conduct pre-interview customer service aptitude testing and use passing this a first hurdle in the hiring process. Thus, eventually, the entire organization will be infused with people who all have an above average and pre-determined service aptitude and ethos.
There are tools for measuring this. I have experience with a particular one that is soundly pedigreed and proven. In the U.S.this is at times deemed legally risky, but I have repeatedly been assured that this practice is do-able and it is being done. This has consistently been a success factor for South West Airlines.
If you want to make this profit chain work, my advice is: Do the right thing and do first things first in hiring.
Eric Fraterman is a Toronto based Customer Focus Consultant with a wide and deep experience in more than twenty industries and six countries over 25 years. He helps organizations create a customer focus advantage for gaining and retaining business through exceptional customer service and experience. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .