Why Businesses Should Go Beyond 'Customer Service'

Media Inquiries: Contact Karen Budell, CMO

Media Inquiries: Contact Karen Budell, CMO

You can find just about anything on Wikipedia these days. Its more than 4.5 million articles include bios on every World Cup soccer player, a page dedicated to the Stone Mountain Memorial half dollar, a list of the largest buildings in the world and more.

But there isn’t a Wikipedia page on a certain business philosophy that I’m finding more and more important every day: customer success.

Customer success isn’t about good service at a four-star restaurant or getting a support ticket answered. Service and support have always been key components of success stories in the retail, hospitality and tech industries, but nowadays ecommerce companies, hospitality giants and restaurant groups are taking this to a whole new level based on the understanding that successful customers lead to a wildly successful company. They might not use the term “customer success” to describe their values, but they’re going beyond typical customer service, integrating a focus on delighting their clientele into their culture, practices and leadership.

Tech companies need to catch up. While the tech world (and my corner of it, enterprise software) has traditionally focused on tools over people, there’s now an incredible opportunity to empower people using our technology. Here are four ways we can do better than customer service and actually enable customers to be successful, which results in success for our company, too.

1. Set a cultural standard

Ensuring your customers are as successful as possible involves your entire team, and that means making customer success a corporate and cultural value. It starts by communicating that value to every employee, from executives to interns — and to every customer, the way Zappos does by publishing its Family Core Values.

The online shoe and clothing shop understands that setting a cultural standard is the first step to ensuring customer success. Zappos makes its values transparent because when their customers come to expect the best, their employees deliver. The company’s number one value, “Deliver WOW through service,” is all about making the customer satisfied in a wow-inspiring way. If you’re joining the Zappos team, you’re introduced to that value immediately, and if you’re a Zappos customer, you come to expect that wow factor with every interaction.

All startups should strive to deliver a “wow experience,” and the first step toward doing so is setting expectations with your values.

2. Make customer success a behavior

Defining and communicating your values is step one, but to truly prioritize customer success you need to put your words into action and make it a behavior.

Choose to make your customers’ problems your problems. In doing so, you'll live by the golden rule — or an interesting twist on the golden rule. When you put yourself in your customers’ shoes, you'll treat them as you'd like to be treated. When a customer calls, your reaction should never be “Oh, that’s not my problem” — you should adopt that problem and make it your own to solve.

The Four Seasons does this well with its “service culture.” The hotel and resort giant empowers all of its employees with the knowledge and ability to answer guests’ questions and solve whatever problems they encounter. Whether you ask the doorman about booking a dinner reservation, the concierge about approximate taxi costs or the receptionist about lost phone chargers, the answer is always the same: "Let me help you with that."

Acting with service culture in mind is necessary when responding to what Micah Soloman calls, “the unpredictable, ever changing, intensely individual, nuanced desires of customers.” To make your guests and customers as successful as possible, you should empower your employees to live by your values and make your customer’s problems their own problems.

3. Choose leaders who get it

The way to establish the ultimate process around customer success is to lead by example. It doesn’t matter whether you manage one analyst, an entire Fortune 100 company or a handful of restaurants — your actions will be seen, evaluated and often mimicked.

Leaders who understand the importance of making customer success a company value and behavior make all the difference. Take Danny Meyer, the powerhouse behind the delicious burger chain, Shake Shack, and almost a dozen other prize-winning NYC restaurants in his Union Square Hospitality Group.

Meyer leads by example, treating his employees like he would his guests, with “excellence and authenticity.” Meyer understands the value of each team member, particularly in an industry with high employee turnover. And this respect trickles down the food chain. Each diner is received, heard and appreciated as they would be in Meyer’s own home. This shared ownership builds the long-term trust needed for a customer to not only return, but become an ambassador and champion of your business to their social network.

Any company that wants to invest in customer success needs to invest in leaders, like Meyer, who understand the value of these actions and will encourage others to follow his or her example.

4. Use data to your advantage

Once you've ingrained customer success into your company DNA and behavior, and have found the right people to lead the way, you need to be able to analyze how well you're doing it all and utilize that data to make your customers even more successful.

Luckily, data analysis is getting easier and easier by the day. Software companies like Splunk, Totango, Gainsight and others are constantly monitoring customer behavior, giving you insights about their usage.

These companies understand that although customer success may be an art, analyzing it is a science. Box, another software company focused on delighting their customers, uses Splunk dashboards to gain visibility into mobile app usage and trends to better serve their customers — enabling their customer success team to take a more proactive approach to issue resolution and product development.

Using data as feedback to shape product development has almost nothing to do with customer service and it goes way beyond support — it’s about seeing what works and what doesn’t to ensure success.

Time to update Wikipedia

Whether or not they know it, major companies and thought leaders like Zappos, the Four Seasons and Union Square Hospitality Group are already incorporating customer success into company values, everyday behavior, leadership and feedback.

Not only is there enough here to make that Customer Success Wikipedia page after all, it should provide technology companies with the impetus to start implementing customer success into their company values and behaviors.

Originally published at https://mashable.com/2014/09/17/customer-service-success/#I1OGcSMD8aqG