By Meygan Gerber
Are your customers receiving excellent service? How can you be sure? These questions are a good place to start when examining one of the most influential aspects of business success: customer service management.
In today’s business world, companies that prioritize customer satisfaction and build their strategies around people achieve higher profitability and brand loyalty. In this article, we will explore the importance of people-centricity in customer service management and how it can be applied to improve customer experiences. We will also discuss practical approaches to gathering customer feedback and how a hospitality approach can elevate customer service quality in any sector. So, let’s dive in!
The importance of people-centricity in customer service management
“Customer perception is your reality”
This statement by Kate Zabriskie, author and renowned businesswoman, should be kept in mind by every leader when designing actions and strategies for Customer Service Management.
Considering that 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels, and that 95% of consumers believe that the quality of customer service impacts their brand loyalty, it’s a mistake to focus solely on product-centered tactics.
In recent years, smart businesses have been focusing more on customer-centricity, and its impact is undeniable. Companies that have embraced this philosophy have achieved up to 60% more profitability than market averages.
But how do you apply this philosophy for tangible results? This answer is obvious, yet it requires a shift in leadership: we need to understand that customers are people.
How do you center customer service management on people?
Developing a customer service management strategy focused on people begins with introspective and internal transformation. First, you humanize your company, then you place customers at the center of your business strategies, and finally, you provide service executed by people and designed for people.
Considering this logic, here are some steps you can take:
1. Build internal well-being
Building internal well-being in a company involves prioritizing employee care and satisfaction. In other words, it humanizes employment by promoting a healthy work environment, offering professional development opportunities, and fostering a culture of support and recognition.
Internal well-being can reduce work-related stress, which, according to the American Institute of Stress, is the number one cause of decreased productivity and customer satisfaction.
Investing in actions that support employees’ mental and physical well-being gives an excellent ROI. Such measures not only improve morale and employee retention but also have a positive impact on the quality of customer service and, ultimately, business success.
2. Have a purpose beyond profit
Defining a purpose beyond profit means identifying the fundamental reason for a company’s existence, beyond making money. A good purpose can be defined after identifying the company’s core values and understanding its impact on society and the environment. It’s a matter of meaning and relevance.
Sharing this purpose with employees fosters alignment and motivation. According to Deloitte, 87% of employees working in companies with a clear purpose feel engaged, compared to 64% in companies without a clear purpose.
A strong purpose benefits customer service by creating a business culture centered on customer satisfaction and values. Employees committed to a purpose are more likely to make an extra effort to provide exceptional service.
3. Be transparent and proactive
“Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They expect you to fix things when they go wrong”
Donald Porter, Vice President of British Airways.
Transparency is a fundamental value of people-centered customer service management. The essential rule: Don’t hide problems; deal with them openly! Honest and fair communication builds trust. And according to Salesforce, 95% of customers consider trust in a company to be a key factor in their brand choice.
A proactive approach turns every problem or complaint into an opportunity to improve service and build trust. Instead of citing policies, deflecting blame, or minimizing the problem, it’s important to see things from the customers’ human perspective and offer an empathetic response with a clear outline of corrective measures.
A study by the Edelman Trust Barometer reflects that 81% of consumers trust companies that take responsibility for their mistakes and take steps to fix them.
4. Listen to customers (with a practical approach)
According to Harvard Business Review, customers who feel heard have a 59% likelihood of remaining loyal to the brand.
To feel heard, customers need to be able to share their opinions with your company and see that this knowledge translates into action. Every pain point, issue, and suggestion from customers is an opportunity to create a concrete plan for improvement or gather insights to improve the service.
Taking a practical approach, you must start by knowing how your customers feel and think about your brand. Here are five practical ways to gather customer feedback:
- Online reviews: Nowadays, the majority of businesses automatically ask every consumer to leave a review. Use an automated process that captures reviews quickly.
- Surveys: Collect customer insights by using surveys. It’s important to tell the customer how long it will take and keep surveys simple enough so people can answer quickly.
- Social media: Monitor and collect relevant social media comments and respond in those channels appropriately. Or use sentiment analysis tools to monitor the feelings about your brand.
- Employee insights: Teach employees to listen attentively and ask open-ended questions so they can identify and handle feedback. EHL Advisory Services’ training sessions on customer experience cover this practice. Listen to your employees too! They know the most about your customers and the problems that arise.
- Make it easy: The consumer feedback company HappyOrNot is a good example of a practical, easy way to collect feedback. With its iconic consoles featuring four green and red smileys, has collected more than 1.5 billion customer ratings for 4000 businesses.
The more data and insights you collect, the easier it is to use analytics tools to identify patterns and trends in customer feedback. Last, don’t forget to close the circle by implementing changes based on customer feedback to enhance the customer experience.
How does hospitality fit into the equation?
If you ask leaders about how to achieve this people-focused approach, most of them will likely mention technologies like Big Data.
In an era dominated by data, it seems like the magic solution to improving customer service. Data allows us to know our users and understand what works and what doesn’t. But knowledge alone isn’t enough.
We can’t let data result in dead-end knowledge or empathy-lacking strategies when focusing on people. We need to go further, to think about the human aspect, and that’s where hospitality enters the equation.
Hospitality isn’t just an industry; it’s an attitude and a skill set that can be introduced into a company’s culture to make a substantial difference in customer service.
“I have read hundreds of business cases on different companies, across a variety of industries, and one common ground for business success lies in an organization’s ability to establish a strong culture of service excellence.”
Jochen de Peuter-Rutten, EHL Advisory Services Consultant
Adding a hospitality touch improves any business
Hospitality attitudes and service models can be integrated into any type of business for a positive impact on the customer experience. And it starts with staff training.
Staff members who have a hospitable mindset aim to personalize service, be sincere, and listen actively, which are some of the keys to building a positive customer experience. Businesses who treat their customers like guests in their homes, instead of anonymous buyers or end users, gain the upper hand in customer experience.
Some brands have already improved their customer perspective by putting hospitality at the center of their people-focused strategy:
- Adidas: This sportswear brand achieves customer loyalty by offering not only high-quality products but also hospitality. It organizes unique sports events and experiences throughout Europe, connecting great athletes with fans.
- Burberry: This iconic British fashion retailer uses hospitality to elevate its customers’ shopping experience. Its European boutiques are cozy and elegant spaces where personalized attention is prioritized. Customers are greeted courteously and offered expert product advice.
- Lufthansa: The European airline, known for its quality service and customer service, offers a premium travel experience on its long-haul flights, where hospitality translates into gourmet meals, comfortable seats, and a friendly crew that strives to satisfy the needs of passengers.
- Apple retail stores: Instead of filling these stores with tons of merchandise, Apple has turned them into a clean, minimalist, and casual environment, where salespeople demonstrate products, take the time to talk to customers, and address common questions.
These examples show us the power of hospitality attitudes and service approaches in basically any type of business. The hospitality mindset delivers significant results if you implement it cohesively, following the logic of what the data tells you and considering the specific needs of your audience.