The “7 Slight Edges” are the seemingly little things that make a big difference in the level of service you provide. These are from my 26 years of experience working with companies that are great at keeping their customers. In those years I have been up and down the Americas, back and forth to Moscow, back and forth to West Africa. And if I didn’t go there, companies came here to attend workshops I’ve led. I’ve worked with companies from South Africa, China, and Indonesia.
“7 Slight Edges” came from my desire to find what these companies did so well to keep their customers. As I researched these companies I asked myself a simple question, “What did these companies do to create a customer?” I noticed there were 7 things, little things that made a huge impact on retaining customers. Some companies excelled at a few but, the highly successful companies did all seven very well.
Don’t read these “7 Slight Edges” with the attitude that you have to reprocess your company and the way you handle customer service now. And don’t think you have to start applying all seven today—although that would be great. Just start this week by applying one, then another next week. You’ll see the difference in just a few weeks.
These are in no particular order.
Big Picture Thinking–Companies that deliver great service know ‘why’ they deliver great service. They know and understand what’s in it for them, for the customer, and for their employees if they deliver great customer service. I like to say that the big picture is the ‘why behind the drive.’ Companies that see the Big Picture demonstrate a long term thinking process. You as a leader must paint a big enough, bright enough picture of great service so your entire company can see it clearly and work towards it.
Courage–Companies that deliver great service have courage—specifically, the courage to take action. They aren’t afraid to try new and different things to show customers they are important. They aren’t afraid to ask the customer, “What can we do different?” “What can we do better?” “What products and services would like to see us offer?” Companies that lack courage won’t ask these questions because the customer may answer them back. Sometimes there are barriers that keep us from going forward and many times these barriers are self-imposed.
Faith–Delivering great service means having faith. Faith is belief in something we have no proof of. We may think that standing up and shaking our customers’ hand will bring them back but, we really don’t have proof they come back because of that greeting. But, companies that deliver great service know that it does, they have faith. Faith is about measurement. We must find a way to measure the level of service we are currently delivering and then set goals to do better.
Effort–To deliver great service, companies must make delivering great service the center of daily operations. It must be the first thing on their mind. Not the second thing but, the first.
There are four components to effort that must be addressed.
1) The role of leadership. It’s critical for leaders to paint a big picture of great service and then communicate to their team that nothing will go wrong if they strive towards that picture.
2) Quality customer service versus exceptional customer service—most companies don’t know there is a difference between the two and it’s tricky to practice both.
3) Managers and time management–how can a manager be both effective and efficient when coaching the service message.
4) Staff and the ‘extra mile’—effort doesn’t mean working longer days and through your breaks but, there is always something to do just a little bit better.
Economics–Economics is the skill of earning more money than you spend. It’s difficult to deliver great service if your focus is not on the customer but, the upcoming lease payment you’re going to have trouble making. Poor economics causes stress, stress causes blockage in creativity and innovation.
Ask Affirming Questions–Affirming questions look for the solution. They typically start out, “How can I..?” Or, “What can I…?” Companies that deliver poor service and they are faced with an upset customer, ask questions like, “What’s the problem?” Or, “What’s wrong?” These non-affirming questions don’t look for solutions. We need to ask affirming questions, questions that demonstrate that we’re here to help, to look for solutions. People who deliver great service to the customer don’t ask the upset customer, “What’s the problem?” they ask “How can I help?” The rephrasing leads to re-framing in our minds.
Be of Service–What does Harley Davidson manufacture? Motorcycles, right? What does Harley Davidson sell? If you said things like, the open road, an image, or a bad boy style, you would be right again. What does BMW sell? Certainly not cars. Companies that excel in delivering great service don’t talk about what their products and services are, they talk about what they do, how they serve. What problems do you solve for your customer? What goals do you help them reach? What good feelings do you create for them?
Look for avenues to start applying these ‘7 Slight Edges’ in your company. Give your staff the freedom to mistakes in their effort to keep a customer. Give your managers and supervisors the skills needed to coach and communicate the service message. Find a method or two to measure your level of service. The ROI will be huge and come quickly.