Pride in customer service.

Recently, I had the pleasure of taking a private tour of the Zappos headquarters in Las Vegas and gaining insight from their team leaders. I had not personally used Zappos’ services (my wife does enough damage in the shoe shopping department), but I knew they were renowned for their customer service. During my visit, I realized that it was way more than customer service for this company, but a true desire to connect with its clientele. One tale described how a Zappos representative spent nearly six hours on the phone with a customer, carefully understanding and addressing her needs to find the perfect shoe for an upcoming occasion. That’s serious care, but one of many examples of the company living up to its mission of providing the best customer service possible. Making it even more astounding is that Zappos is internet-based.

The experience reinforced for me that it’s not simply about customer service, but employee service. Mission statements and core values aren’t created because they sound good to investors – they are meant to be enlivened. This includes a core focus on your company’s most important assets: the people. As with any asset, you must invest in them:

*    Training: People do well when they feel confident. Whether new hires or teaching existing personnel new tasks, allot extra time for in-depth training that covers your company culture, job specifics and a variety of other scenarios in and outside their formal job scope. My employees undergo as much as 90 days in training, but I assure you, the added experience ensures them success from the moment they hit the ground.

*    Education: Training shouldn’t end at orientation. Provide ongoing education via seminars, workshops and industry conferences. Demonstrate that you are interested in their professional growth by offering promising employees opportunities to attend management/leadership programs. Daily, never pass up an opportunity to reinforce the company values – hold morning meetings to set the tone for the day and provide positive reinforcement.

*    Empowerment: You’ve spent the time and money training and educating your employees, now it’s time to let them thrive. When people are allowed to make their own decisions, they are more invested. Your employees are the front-line to your customers: you need them to come up with quick and relevant solutions tailored to the individual client. 99% of the time, they’ll make the right decision, and in those rare instances they do not, don’t get upset or strip them of their empowerment, but work with them to understand alternative solutions.

*    Interest: I can’t say it enough – business is personal. Take a genuine interest in the development of your employees. They know your business as well as you, and in some ways more. Find out what’s working and find out what’s challenging them in achieving optimal job performance. Demonstrate your loyalty and your employees will do the same.

Indeed, customer service is easier boasted than delivered, but reflect back to Zappos. If a company entrenched in an impersonal industry can touch its clients, so can any organization…You just have to touch your employees first..

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