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Customer service expert John DiJulius says customer service should be redefined for a tougher, more competitive business environment full of fast changes.
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — The state of customer service in America depends on whom you ask.
A recent survey showed that 80% of businesses polled claimed to deliver good customer service. But out of 3,000 customers polled, only 8% said they got good customer service.
The reason: Many service providers don’t know what clients want, said John DiJulius, a customer service expert and author of What’s The Secret? To Providing World-Class Customer Experience. “There’s a different perspective with too much routine. When’s the last time your chauffeurs were in the back seat? Driven around? Do they know what it’s like to get up early, go to the airport, fly, get luggage, and wonder where their vehicle is?”
DiJulius threw out those challenges on Sept. 14 to a room full of operators attending the 2011 LCT Leadership Summit at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach. The owner and founder of The DiJulius Group has consulted for such big names as Ritz, Lexus, Starbucks and Nordstrom. “How can Ritz-Carlton, Disney and Nordstrom get thousands of employees to be motivated and do extra customer service? What is the secret?” DiJulius asked.
The best world class companies do two things, he answered:
1) Train for service aptitude.
2) Put themselves in the shoes and pressures of customers.
1: Aptitude and attitudes
In Miami Beach, for example, many front line employees don’t make enough to afford living there, flying first class, or staying at the Ritz-Carlton, DiJulius said. “Yet we expect them to deliver those types of experiences to customers and clients.”
Enter a concept that is hard for many businesses to understand: Service aptitude — an ability to exceed customer expectations regardless of circumstances.
“Service aptitude is not something we are born with,” DiJulius said. “The younger generation doesn’t get it. They can’t, and we didn’t either. But most people have the potential.”
Previous work experiences inform the ability to give world class service. Business owners must recognize the genuine potential for hospitality and increase their service aptitude. Prime employee minds to pay close attention and see things. “It’s easy to miss something you’re not looking for.”
“Business has never been tougher today,” DiJulius said. “Are you truly fanatical about differentiating yourself through customer service? Customer service training is like deodorant. It smells good for a while, but then wears off, and the smell returns. That applies to customer service and VIP experiences.”
2: From empathy to excellence
DiJulius got right to the point about what operators should focus on: “Make price irrelevant. Do not engage in price wars. Fight the experience wars instead.”
That means creating stellar and memorable customer service experiences. “What would a movie look like for one day in the life of your customers?” DiJulius asked. Role playing can be helpful in getting employees to understand clients.
“You can be more empathetic and compassionate when you know the circumstances and needs of customers and the pressures they face,” DiJulius said. “There is creativity in solving problems.
“You can build an experience because you know and respect where they are coming from, and the stresses they get from all directions.”
Key to excelling in service is creating a “Department of Customer Intelligence,” DiJulius said. Chauffeurs and reservationists should take notes on customers. They should jot down “customer intelligence” on clients and keep them on record to anticipate their needs.
Consider what you want to do differently now, and by six months from now, he said. Operators should plan out or anticipate future face-to-face conversations with clients.
The chauffeured transportation industry is a mature one, which can be good and bad, he said. He warned: “What got you here, won’t get you there. What got you here is going to keep you stuck. [Change and adapt]. Too many people are like blind sheep.”