In Service, A Clear Process Matters

Besides having a clear brand promise we need a clear process for staff to be able to engage effectively with customers. Processes and Standards enables your staff to make decisions. It enables flexibility and/or agility in handling customers. I ask John Goodman the Vice Chairman of Customer Care Measurement and Consulting, if he thought this limited customer service as part of a podcast.

Related Podcast and Transcription: Connecting Strategy and Customer Service

An Excerpt from this Discussion

John Goodman:

“This is another thing that we suggest besides the clear brand promise; you need to have clear processes, and this goes back to your question about the McDonald’s frontline employee. The employee has to see where they fit in that process and has to see the logic of it, and when the customer disrupts that process by making a weird request. You know, “Can I have the burger without pickles?” The employee has to either know how to fulfill that request or in this again is something that most of the world doesn’t describe to; the employee has to know how to say no to the customer.

Then there’s the standard score that the customer is always right. No, the customer is not always right. The customer asks, makes a stupid request and they don’t read stuff, so our contention is it’s perfectly fine to say no to the customer if I can give you the clear, believable explanation as to why the answer is no. It leaves the customer feeling like they have been treated fairly. My favorite example is if the airline pilot gets on and says we have a one hour delay due to a mechanical, or they’re a bunch of pileups. On the other hand, if he said there’s a leak in the hydraulic system, everyone says, “I want a good hydraulic system. Take an extra half hour if necessary.” We joke at Lexus when you say no to the customer or giving him bad news. The object of the Lean is to tell the customer to go to hell in such a way that he looks forward to the trip.”

Joe: I think that’s a great explanation.

John Goodman:

“But you need to arm the front line employee with that clear, believable explanation and we find most frontline employees can articulate the policy. If they’re asked why you have that policy, in most cases no one has ever told them, and this goes back to your process map. Here’s the process map, here’s why we do what we do and here’s the range of flexibility you have to go off script if the customer makes sort of a weird request.

This whole term of flexibility came up about probably five years ago at American Express when the head of customer experience said, “You know; I wish we could just get the frontline to be willing to break the rules for good customers.” I had fought for him, and I said, “Okay, give them Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance. It isn’t going to happen ‘cause if you break the rules, you go to jail. However, if you redefine the rules at the issue level, for this issue, there are four ways you can handle it depending on who the customer is and the circumstances. Use your best judgment.

I can break the rules without breaking the rules. It’s what we call “flexible solution spaces”, and you don’t need to have that for everything but for the top 5 issues which at McDonald’s maybe, “I would like this without pickles”, you need to have “How do I respond to that?” It might even be if there’s not a line; it’s a slow time of the day; we’re going to ask somebody to pick the pickles out. Otherwise, we may say, “Well we can’t pick the pickles are because I’ve got 30 people standing behind you but feel free, there are going to be pickles in it but feel free to take them out.”

Related Podcast and Transcription: Connecting Strategy and Customer Service

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