Accountability For Customer Service Only Happens When You Believe It

Recently I was on the website of a major airline trying to purchase a ticket that I had put on hold. This airline lets you hold a ticket for 24 hours before making your final decision. The website had a message on the top saying it was being serviced and that it might not operate properly. It didn’t.

I called the special help desk at the airline for frequent flyers who use that airline a lot. I explained my situation and asked if she could finalize the transaction as I didn’t want to lose the seat or the price. I was informed that there would be a service charge for her to do that and that only online was it free. When I restated that the website was down for repairs she said that she could connect me to the web department and that they could take care of me. I objected.

I didn’t want to be connected to another department where I had to tell my complete story over again and then hope that someone would provide me with some service. It was only after restating my situation several times and suggesting that there must be a way to override the computer when there are challenges like this that she finally offered to finalize the transaction for me. It took all of 1 minute for her to complete the purchase of the ticket.

I looked up the mission for this particular airline and there were two elements. Customer service was one. They lied.

Just because you say you believe something doesn’t mean that you do. Just because you say your office will be clean doesn’t mean it will it be clean. Just because you say that you treat all employees fairly, do you? And, just because your mission says that customer service is important does it mean that the members of your organization will deliver that high quality customer service? If your actions don’t support your words then you don’t believe it.

Most companies train on tactics. Leaders tell their employees, “This is how you deliver customer service.” Before tactics can ever matter it is critical for the leadership of the organization to take the time to figure out what they believe. What do they believe about how revenue is generated, how production is handled, how employees are treated and yes, how customer service is valued? Then, leadership must continuously communicate the expectations around those beliefs to all the employees. People perform based on expectations. If you don’t share your beliefs with everyone then they will not know how to act.

Finally, we must make sure that everyone in the organization is living these beliefs. The employees that aren’t should be reeducated as to “how we do things here” and if issues persist persists they should be allowed to achieve success in another organization. Accountability naturally flows from a culture where everyone knows the beliefs and what is expected of them.

Great customer service is not about tactics. It is about an organization’s culture that has been specifically defined in terms of beliefs, effectively communicated to everyone in the organization and continuously reinforced over time. Action follows belief and great customer service follows those that believe it is a critical part of how their organization should run.


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