Saturday, March 03, 2007

Solving The Four Most Common Customer Service Problems

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to work with the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Dearborn, Michigan. A highlight of a symposium I attended was hearing a dynamic two-hour presentation by Theo Gilbert-Jamison, the company's Vice President Vice President for Training & Organizational Effectiveness. Immediately afterward, I met Theo, and told her that no one else could have kept the after-lunch crowd as interested as she did.

Soon afterward, Theo left the Ritz-Carlton to form her own company, Performance Solutions by Design, based in Conyers, Georgia, adjacent to Atlanta. Check her Web site:

She has gained an international reputation as a customer service expert, and I recommend her book, The Six Principles of Service Excellence, to my clients and newsletter subscribers. Recently I asked Theo to discuss the four most common customer service problems that organizations face. She replied:

1. No common vision or mission for the organization – Senior leadership has not articulated with the purpose, vision, or mission of the organization. Therefore, employees are lost without any directions on how to properly provide excellent service or how to help the organization move forward. If by chance there is a written organizational vision and mission, oftentimes I find it is outdated, poorly written and lacks any elements that contribute to creating a culture of service excellence. The only way to overcome this common problem is to sit down as an executive team and iron out the service philosophy (vision, mission, service standards) of the organization.

2. Lack of Leadership Alignment – Senior leadership often has varied definitions of what excellence within their organization is or means. Because they have not invested the time in synergistically defining the purpose of the organization, every leader, department and employee is left to their own devices to figure out with it is. The result is that in one or two areas of the organization there is a heightened awareness because the leaders continually emphasized service excellence; while in other areas of the organization leaders are not aligned with the concept of service excellence and it is not a priority for them. This leads to pocket of excellence, inconsistency in service, and employee disengagement and frustration. To overcome this problem, once the service philosophy has been established, every leader within the organization should be aligned with it. There can be no compromise.

3. Service Excellence Not Linked to Business Strategy or Goals – When service excellence is not measured, it is not strategically linked to achievement of the business goals. When service excellence is not part of the strategic plan, it falls off of the radar screen after 2-3 months. Leadership begins to focus on the latest trend in technology, and often neglects the human aspects of good customer service. To overcome this problem, make service excellence one of the key indicators on the strategic plan. Also, make service excellence a business goal. Remember, what gets measured, gets done.

4. No Long-Term Commitment to Drive Excellence – Unfortunately, most leaders are not looking for a long-term approach to enhancing the customer’s service experience, they want the quick fix. A half-day customer service training class will only create a temporary awareness about customer service or service excellence. Only a long-term approach that involves varied interventions (i.e. training, process improvement, employee accountability, and communication) will fix the problem forever. Remember, service excellence is a journey – not a destination!

I'm grateful to Theo for contributing her expertise to my blog. Again, I encourage you to order her book, The Six Principles of Service Excellence and visit her Website, where you'll find a description of her services, along with her contact information:


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