Just today, I saw an online news article entitled “Model Karlie Kloss lashes out at PAL (Philippine Airlines) after missing flight.” Immediately, her more than one million Twitter followers saw her tweet, complaining of her disgust of PAL’s customer service and how she missed her flight because of it.
I have ridden most of the local airlines in the country, and a lot of the major international carriers for more than three decades. I have had a little less than five missed flights, and dozens of delays and minor in-flight nuances. I’m an optimist and a half-glass full kind of guy; so, I try to shrug off a lot of these. When I can’t, I also lash out. It’s probable that Karlie Kloss couldn’t handle the patience of shrugging it off and found her way to tweet about it without first contacting PAL. I can imagine telling herself, “Why bother?”
In the pre-social media period, you’d have to go to forum and group sites to complain, or e-mail blast your friends. Worst, you write a popular broadsheet newspaper so your grievance goes on print, nationwide. But you only do the latter if you have proof beyond reasonable doubt that you were aggrieved or denied the product or service quality you paid for.
Today, it’s off to social media even before finishing (using) the product or the service promise is fulfilled. One tiny bit of inconvenience and thousands of people are privy to someone’s online rant. And in most instances, I see people do so “without proof beyond reasonable doubt.”
I commented on the Facebook post of the media company that shared the airline story, writing “OMG! Like all companies and their customers, no telling which VIP will use your product or service until after the fact. So, treat ALL your customers like VIPs ALL THE TIME! (Big lessons learned!)”
I come back to all my years of attending customer service training and seminars, and myself conducting customer service topics to thousands of attendees. I was once the National Customer Service Manager of Avon Philippines and Broadband Philippines, respectively. Together with a team of customer service passionate people, we developed customer service strategies, processes, national roll-out plans, internal and external help desks, service channels, and so much more. If Sales and Marketing were traditionally the two pillars of customer engagements, customer service is the third pillar.
So, what’s the simplest definition of customer service for you and your business? Here are four words that sum up all the years I’ve been taught, have taught and debated with so many people I’ve encountered:
A promise to deliver.
Call it a mission or strategy, that is the simplest description of your customer service philosophy. You can throw in so many other pronouns, verbs and adjectives to it but the bottom line dictates that you deliver what you promise.
Take the case of an airline company – each of them promise to fly you from point A to point B, departing at this date and time, and arriving at another set date and time. When Mother Nature or the life of a person (or people) wreaks havoc on its ability to deliver their promise, no amount of suing will win you over the broken promise. Outside of those two examples, if the promise to deliver is broken, then it’s the airline’s fault. And when broken promises happen, the airline company should have a crisis management plan in place to kick-in right away. Unfortunately, from the online news I’ve been reading about it, PAL may not have been prepared to deal with this kind of customer complaint.
Remember Erza Kramer, the CIA Director in Bourne Ultimatum? I quote him, “My number one rule is hope for the best, plan for the worst.”
A few of my friends know one of my favorite life quotes from a book I read over and over again: Hope is Not a Method. And there are hundreds of methods and tools you can use to develop your customer service strategy, goals, mission, values, processes and the like.
For example, the customer service mission we developed in Avon in ‘90s was this:
To make it easy for the Avon Dealer:
Very easy to start
Very easy to stay
Very easy to earn
Our entire customer service process in Avon was restructured so that every dealer or distributor will have a very easy time joining us. Then, once an Avon dealer, we broke down all the red tape so that it becomes very easy for them (to decide) to stay and work as an Avon dealer. The last bullet point meant that even back office departments like finance and warehousing, to name two, had to contribute to the customer service mission to make it very easy for the Avon dealer to earn; otherwise, “very easy to stay” was out of the question.
For example, instead of a five-page application form, we simplified it to half-a-page. How did we do that? We chose the five most pertinent information we needed and that was it. Once the person joined Avon, we can get the rest of the information along the way; so to speak, in chewable form or baby steps, not a one-time, laborious application method that becomes so inconvenient for the person joining. The credit and collection section or department may love the idea of five pages but that’s contrary to the customer service mission.
I also use SAPADAPPA as a means to develop and check each customer service process. SAPADAPPA is a problem solving method I leaned in management school:
SA = Situational Analysis
PA = Problem Analysis
DA = Decision Analysis
PPA = Potential Problem Analysis
I’m not about to go explain each of these sub-methods but I’d like to point out that in the reality of problem solving, the last sub-method needs to exist – Potential Problem Analysis. That’s where Erza Kramer’s philosophy comes into the picture, and that he hopes for the best but “plans for the worst.” PPA has to be an integral part of defining your customer service strategy.
“Creating your business on paper is one of the best things you could do so that correct variables are immediately nestled inside the resulting plan. Before SAPADAPPA and the Ishikawa Diagram, start with a “Mind Map” or the like. And start it out on paper — literally! It pays to doodle first before you write!”
I also mentioned SAPADAPPA when I wrote – complaining then offering solutions – about a getrealphilippines.com post where the proverbial author-with-no-last-name lambasted Filipinos as a people who “cannot progress because they cannot follow even simple guidelines.” Sadly, the source article just complained without offering how to Filipinos can progress.
To end my discourse on customer service, start defining your customer service strategy by going back up to your organizational vision, mission and values. If you are having difficulty, then there must be something wrong with your vision, mission or values. Edit either or all of it because your customer service vision, mission and values stem from your organizational philosophies.
If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to comment below.