No doubt that customer service is a great differentiator. This is especially true in a world where a customer, depending on what they need, has many choices of businesses to choose from, all selling similar, if not exactly the same, products and services. I’m a fan of every employee being a part of customer service, not just the customer service department or others on the front line. Some companies take this to a higher level than others.
Here’s an interesting story to make the point. Olark is, today, a live chat software company. Olark was founded in 2009. The very first project started by the founders, in 1998, was a web hosting company. This evolved into what Olark is today. The founders immediately recognized that delivering great service would differentiate them from their competition. The four guys that started the company realized that one person couldn’t handle all of the customer service calls, so they decided to share the responsibility evenly between them. As the company became more successful and added employees, they continued to split the customer service function between all employees. They actually named this practice All Hands Support. Customer service was part of their culture.
This idea is brilliant, as everyone employed at Olark learns just how important customer service is at many levels. They learn about customers, they hear about all of the different issues and problems, and they have an opportunity to see how their responsibilities can impact the customer experience.
Years ago I wrote about Anheuser-Busch executives would take one day out of each quarter to spend with a sales rep in the field. This gave them a better understanding of their customers. Undercover Boss, the popular TV show, demonstrates just how important it is for higher level executives to experience what happens in the field and on the front line. In many cases, the boss finds it to be an eye opening experience.
But, that’s just for the leadership of the company. What about the rest of the organization? Why can’t everyone, like the employees do at Olark, experience what it’s like on the front line, dealing directly with customers? What kind of reaction do you think your employees would have when they discover, first-hand, the reactions of your customers to your products and customer service?