Applying “outside” in thinking is at the heart of Service Design thinking and it is actually not as complicated as you may think. First of all, it is a question of shifting perspective as I have already explained in my previous post. But then what?
We can learn the theories, understand the principles and all that good stuff. But nothing much happens if we don’t do something. And if we are looking for change well then we obviously need to do something that we have not been doing until now.
Here are a few ideas for you to get started.
1. Talk to your customers
Most of the service businesses I encounter do not build this into their service delivery time with the customer. By that, I mean encouraging front line staff to talk with customers. This is hugely important. Research has proven time and again that a superior service experience from a customer point of view is an experience where the person serving you talks to you about something that does have anything to do with the transaction. Small talk. This applies to Doctors, Libraries, Restaurant etc Always the same pattern. The obvious presupposes that you are delivering the basic product – If you can’t serve the hot food hot and the cold food cold as Bill Marriott writes then you need to go back to basics first
2. Actively harvest their feedback
While your front line staff is talking to customers, train them to harvest what the customer is experiencing. Asking questions that explore the customer’s need. This requires more than just ‘ Is everything alright here?’ from a passing waitress. What is needed is genuine interest, questions that show empathy. Make sure you have a way to capture what they are learning. This can be electronically on a notice board or you can gather teams of front line employee for a brief team session and ask them the question: What is something new or unexpected you have learnt about our customer this past week?
3. Act on their feedback
A hotel that I have been staying at quite a lot over the past years asked me to fill out feedback cards in my room. On one occasion, I mentioned that their tea mugs on the self-service coffee tray in the room had no handle, and so when I filled it up with boiling water for tea, it becomes impossible to hold. On my next visit, there was a different cup in addition to the standard ones and a small note “Hope this works better”. And 4 weeks later, the handle-less mugs had disappeared. When we show our guests that we are listening, it encourages them to talk to us. On the note, make sure that someone answers comments on TripAdvisor, Facebook, etc. This is a basic psychology of reinforcing feedback loops. If you give nice feedback in return especially to people who praise you, and you thank them in a personal way, you are encouraging others to also want to give you positive feedback.
4. Make a fuss of your most loyal customers
Mechanical loyalty programs don’t cut it here. You need to show your most loyal customers that you actually do care about them, that you recognise that they are special. The only airline I know that does this really well is Air France. Yes, they have the frequent flyer miles and all that jazz, and that is fine. But when the stewardess singles me and maybe one or two others out on an otherwise full flight, addresses me by my name and then initiate some small talks about how it must be nice to be on my way home, I’ll be honest, I feel special. Much more than at my new barber shop that insists on stamping a loyalty card every time I come but still can’t remember my name, or that I actually do speak half decent French. Forget the bloody loyalty card, get personal with me and I will be loyal forever….
What else? What are some of your favourite customer centric actions? Click here and drop me a note. Take the opportunity also to let me know if you are finding these blog posts helpful. It is always fun to hear from my readers, and hey! I got to take my own medicine… No?