Customer Service Leaders Must Master Speed
Among the many tools and tactics retailers can use to improve the customer experience, speed is the most overlooked. That's unfortunate because a major factor in creating a positive customer experience is speed. There are three major obstacles to improving the customer experience through speed:
- Employee mind-set: If an employee has four days to do a task, they'll take four days to do the task. In fact, they won't get started until the fourth day! And then they usually won't finish the task because they need help from another employee who called in sick or is otherwise unavailable.
- Company policies: Many companies have policies that slow down tasks that could be completed quickly and easily. They might require two or three sets of eyes and signatures for approval before a task could be completed when one set of eyes is really enough. Eliminate policies and procedures that add to the cost and time of a task. Every time another set of hands touches a document, the company spends money. When you buy in an Apple store, you see speed.
- Disregard for the customer experience: In today's world, consumers want it now. They won't wait in long lines or days for their package to be delivered. If they can't get something quickly, they move on to another retailer.
Companies that understand the need for speed profit greatly. Southwest Airlines’ planes have a 20-minute turnaround when they reach their destination. Because of this speed, it needs fewer planes, which saves it billions of dollars. As a result, Southwest Airlines has been profitable for 40 years while competitors in its industry have posted huge losses.
In the early days of computing, Dell became a major player when it convinced consumers it could create and ship a fully customized computer in just four hours.
In today's competitive world, if you snooze, you lose. Consumers want everything faster. Employees must understand that competition demands that they work quickly. Every extra minute they can save will translate to the bottom line.
Look at your company's policies. When an online order comes in, do you ship the same day? You better believe there's another company out there that is. And it will get the business you're losing.
Every employee needs to figure out where they can improve speed without foregoing quality. You can never compromise quality. Management also must be open to employees’ suggestions. After all, they do the work every day. They know what actions can be taken to make any process faster and more efficient. Listen to them. If you do, they'll feel appreciated and be motivated to do a better job. Individuals who master speed have the ability to move up in the organization. Be on the lookout for employees who master speed. CEOs, for the most part, are driven by speed.
If you want to differentiate your company in the marketplace, you need to show how you can dramatically deliver service and products faster than your competitors. Fortunately, companies can create a new mind-set that helps win the war on speed:
- Create a culture for the need for speed. If employees realize the importance for speed, they'll get the job done faster.
- Customer service is a skill; it can be taught. And it should be taught every four months with new and interesting materials to keep employees fresh and engaged.
- Modify policies that are speed traps. The lack of speed can cost a company a lot of money.
- Speed is customer service at its best — a powerful competitive advantage.