The following was originally published at inc.com.
Micah Solomon is perhaps one of the best-known customer service turnaround experts anywhere (candidly, he’s also the only one I’ve met). He’s who you call when your company’s relationship with customers is lagging–or, as he puts it more positively, “When you’re ready to start turning customer service into a competitive advantage and a driver of growth.”
I’ve got to admit that I’m a bit envious of Micah, because he seems to have the most fun with his job of anyone I’ve met in a long time.
A particularly fun part of his work–at least that’s how it sounds to an outsider–is the hands-on mystery shopping he undertakes at the start of every customer service turnaround engagement. When he’s hired to revamp a company’s customer service, Solomon often starts by going undercover, to get a “current state” view of where the company’s level of customer service currently stands.
Where this gets tricky is with the five-star hotels that hire him, he writes in his new book, Ignore Your Customers (and They’ll Go Away): The Simple Playbook for Delivering the Ultimate Customer Service Experience:
When I’m at the hotel’s boutique spa getting a facial (for research, of course!) and have both eyes covered by cucumber slices, it’s a real magic trick finding a discreet time to peek out and observe the customer service interactions that are going on around me. And it’s just as difficult to take notes on the sly while submitting to a massage or a mani or a pedi.
Solomon’s new book is a treasure trove of information and insight on how to improve the customer service their organizations deliver, including hiring and talent management, building “wow” customer service moments, integrating technology–including AI and other high tech–into customer service delivery, and much more.
I asked Solomon to share some pointers on what any organization can do to consistently deliver five-star customer service. He was happy to oblige:
1. Look at your hiring.
Does it fit your customer service values? Or is it only concerned with an applicant’s technical, nitty gritty skills, rather than the personality traits that will make them a good fit with customers?
2. Make sure everyone knows the company’s purpose.
Otherwise, they’ll never know the value of going the extra mile for a customer. A great purpose statement is short enough to be memorable and long enough to be meaningful. For example, Mayo Clinic’s “The needs of the patient come first” or Ritz-Carlton’s “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.”
3. Obsess over developing and nurturing a customer-focused culture.
Put the customer at the center of how you think about your work, organize your day, and design your processes and systems.
4. Obsess over talent management.
How you nurture and allow for the advancement of the people who service your customers.
5. Get your beginnings and endings right.
The first and last moments of a customer’s time with your business will, all things being equal, linger in customer’s memories the most. So, make sure you nail the beginning of your time together–from your voice on the phone to the signage in the parking lot to how they’re greeted at the front desk. And don’t forget about the ending. Be sure to give them what the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company calls a “fond farewell.”