We live in a world where customers have a wide variety of choices. When you need to purchase something, it’s likely there are many businesses selling similar products or services. How do you choose from whom to buy? This is where customer service can be the great differentiator.
That is what I teach and promote every day, and one of the keys to customer service is that it must be practiced by everyone in the company. Every employee has to be a part of the customer service – from the front lines to the higher levels.
There is a company you may not have heard of that embodies this concept in a unique way. Olark is a live chat software company that was founded in 2009. The company evolved from a web hosting company that was started by four guys in 1998. The founders recognized from the start that delivering great service would differentiate them from their competition. They agreed in the beginning that they would equally share the responsibility of handling customer service calls. As the company grew, they continued this practice and each employee was responsible for a portion of the customer service function. They named this practice All Hands Support. Customer service was a part of their culture from their very beginning.
I think this is a brilliant idea. Everyone at Olark – no matter what their position or level – learns just how important customer service is. They get to talk to the customers, hear their stories, and help solve their issues and problems, and this also helps them see how their other responsibilities can impact the customer experience.
Years ago, I wrote about how Anheuser-Busch executives would take a day each quarter and go out with a sales rep in the field. They got to meet customers and gain a better understanding of their needs and concerns. In the popular TV show “Undercover Boss,” high-level executives are disguised and placed as new workers with front-line employees. For many of the executives, this is an eye-opening experience.
That experience, however, is just for the leadership of the company. What about the rest of the organization? That is what make Olark’s customer service model so brilliant. Everyone in the company gets to deal directly with customers. What kind of reaction do you think your employees would have if they talked to customers and heard first-hand their reactions to your products and service?
Perhaps the employee who packages products in the warehouse would hear from a customer who received a box with missing items. Or someone from the accounts receivable department might take a call from a customer who has been overcharged. Even if it’s not a full-time practice like Olark, consider giving all employees the opportunity to handle some of the customer support. It could help everyone understand just how important their roles and responsibilities are to the customer experience.