Adapting to New Customer Habits in the Age of the Pandemic

In times like these it is imperative to have a customer-focused culture. Here’s how to make sure employees have an obsession with great service.

As I sit here writing this column the United States and the whole world is the middle of one of the biggest pandemics in history. I need not tell you this is a time of crisis, both personally and professionally.

You’re probably asking yourself, how will I survive as a trade professional, technician and small business owner once we get through this short but critical period of the coronavirus pandemic?

This month I chose to discuss a social-based topic. That important business factor is customer service.

Over the years I have had the opportunity to view the evolution of social media and how it is delivered and utilized over the Internet. In the past if a prospect was interested in an alarm system they would call a few local alarm companies.

A salesperson would respond in person and explain to the prospective customer what products and services they had to offer. Today, it is totally different.

The prospective customer will search the Internet for answers to questions they would have normally asked the salesperson. They will do research, view demo videos, compare prices and go to the alarm company’s website to see how well they have performed.

They will look at reviews provided often by people who appear to be security experts. Often these self-proclaimed experts are just another consumer that has spent a little more time researching and deciding on what they consider the best security application choices.

Does your company have great customer service? According to a recent study conducted by Capgemini, 75% of organizations believe themselves to be customer-centric, though only 30% of consumers believe this to be the case. Do you have someone in your organization dedicated to the quality of customer service?

All employees should have an obsession with great service. Now is the time to seriously address this issue and be ready for increased competition as we exit from this time of the great pandemic.

Recently I was made aware that two of the nation’s leading companies for customer care were right under my nose: Publix super markets and SafeLite AutoGlass repair. The former I have pleasantly used for years and the latter recently due to a damaged windshield.

When I was made aware of these selections in the Service Culture Handbook by Jeff Toister (see tool pick of the month) it stood out to me why I liked and was impressed with these two companies. Both organizations’ management and employees have a deep passion for customer service and satisfaction. This does not come naturally but with hard dedication that will eventually pay off.

You would think that creating a customer-focused culture should be easy, but it is not. Culture is the sum of all things you do in your organization. Toister comments on some questions you should be asking yourself and organization:

  • Are employees given clear guidance on the company’s culture, or are they expected to just figure it out?
  • Are employees invited to help shape the culture, or are they disengaged?
  • Are strategic decisions driven by culture, or are they made without regard for customers?
  • Are goals and metrics aligned with the culture, or do they encourage shortcuts?
  • Are business processes customer-focused, or do they put employees in awkward situations?
  • Are employees empowered to deliver outstanding service, or are they constrained?
  • Do leaders reinforce the desired culture, or do they contradict it?

Once you have your customer service culture designed and in place it is always good to hear back from your customers on how well you are achieving your service goals. One way to do this is to provide a brief follow-up survey for your installations and service calls.

This would also include customers that call in for sales, service and advice. Some handy free online survey tools include Google Forms, SurveyMonkey and SurveyPlanet. Some others you may want to look at are SurveyGizmo and qualtrics XM.

One final customer service tool worth mentioning is Toister’s Customer-Focused Culture Tools webpage, including the Service Culture Handbook Toolkit. This free toolkit download includes documents like a meeting agenda, communication plan, alignment assessment and employee turnover calculator.

Tool of the Month

As we have learned from past Tech Talk writings, tools are more than a screwdriver. This month we have a resource tool that can make both techs and companies better at customer service.

Reading, understanding and practicing the writings of Jeff Toister in The Service Culture Handbook will hopefully make you and your organization obsessed with culture of great customer service. Also don’t forget to check out Toister’s free Toolkit download (see above).

About the Author

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Bob is currently a Security Sales & Integration "Tech Talk" columnist and a contributing technical writer. Bob installed his first DIY home intercom system at the age of 13, and formally started his technology career as a Navy communication electronics technician during the Vietnam War. He then attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering and went on to complete a Security Management program at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Since 1976, Bob has served in a variety of technical, training and project management positions with organizations such ADT, Rollins, National Guardian, Lockheed Martin, American Alarm Supply, Sonitrol and Ingersoll Rand. Early in his career, Bob started and operated his own alarm dealership. He has also served as treasurer of the Wisconsin Burglar and Fire Alarm Association and on Security Industry Association (SIA) standards committees. Bob also provides media and training consulting to the security industry.

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