The Big Idea with Ron Davis
Everyone Can Agree on Customer Service's Impact
If you had just one really great idea you could share with the alarm industry, what would it be?
This month we feature leaders from the Texas Burglar and Fire Alarm Association.
TBFAA'S BIG IDEA:
Extraordinary customer service is the cornerstone of any successful alarm company. Any interaction with the customer is an opportunity to display this attitude.
have to attribute this month's idea to not one, not two people, but rather a whole bunch. A few months ago I wrote about an idea to get more people involved in creative thinking. Since I'm invited to speak at 20-25 meetings a year, I thought it would be fun to end my talks with a "big idea" brainstorming session. The gist is to break the audience into smaller groups (eight to ten people per group) and give them a starter such as, "the industry is changing, what does this mean for the independent alarm dealer?" The group would brainstorm, one person would serve as moderator, and the group would offer their best idea. Then, the audience would select one to be used in a column. Seems simple, right?
Well, not exactly. We did this recently with the Texas Burglar and Fire Alarm Association and with four topics, 15 groups and more than 100 people expressing their thoughts, everything — and I mean everything — pointed to service, providing better service, etc. So I made the quick decision to declare everyone in the room a winner. the overriding message: Customer service is the cornerstone of any successful company in the alarm business. By extension, it is the foundation for any individual in the business.
In other words, everyone — clerical, operational, sales, service, etc. — needs to be in a position to provide extraordinary customer service, Any interaction with the customer is an opportunity to display this attitude, and you must do so to really succeed. Usually, customers of alarm dealers stay around, year after year. Business consultants call this customer stickiness. I call it customer satisfaction — with the business, with the service, and with the products.
MANAGEMENT CAN TAKE THE LEAD
Someone much brighter than me has said: "Treat everbody as though he or she were the most important person in the world." If we practice this, we'd automatically be adopting the concept of always providing good customer service.
Perhaps this mindset has to be taught. It's rather easy to do so. At an employee meeting or training session, identify situations where customers have not been taken care of satisfactorily, describe that situation to the group and ask each individual how they would've handled it differently. From that kind of a meeting comes an attitude that is relatively simple to follow. It's an attitude that happens when management empowers everyone within the company to do what is necessary to satisfy a customer.
How far can people in your company be empowered to resolve a problem? Think about it. Can they make refunds? Can they change a phrase in a contract? Can they provide a service call with no charge? And will the person making that decision later be challenged for it or will he or she be applauded for daring to be proactive? Guidelines do have to be set. Training does have to be done. Role-playing can be an important element of this learning. But ultimately it's going to be because top management has encouraged everyone in the company to be the person who "makes a difference" in the company.
Here's a little exercise. Bring employees together and ask them for their ideas on how to provide better customer service. Focus in on some of the better ones, compliment the people who provided some that weren't particularly beneficial, and see if you can start setting up guidelines that empower people in your company to do the right thing when it comes to customer service. It may take time, but in the end the company will benefit, the stickiness will increase, and senior management's happiness with employees may improve dramatically.
Ron Davis is Security Sales & Integration's "What's the Big Idea?" columnist and contributing market analyst. He is president of Davis Group, a full-service consulting firm serving the security industry, which also includes GraybeardsRus. He has 35 years of industry experience, including founding Security Associates International in the 1980s.