Recently, I was working with a new consulting client on the West Coast. We are just at the start of helping them create a customer service revolution in their organization. They have a large call center that has customer service reps who take and manage orders that get shipped. As usual, as we were doing their Customer Experience Cycle workshop, I use companies like American Express, Nestle, and Zappos as excellent case studies for great customer support/call center teams. As we were talking about how well trained Zappos’ employees are, I decided to do something I have never done before in a presentation. I took a huge risk. Right there on the spot in front of the audience, I decided to call the Las Vegas headquarters of Zappos.
I plugged the speaker cord into my phone audio port for everyone to hear the conversation. I received this very warm greeting, “Thank you for calling Zappos. This is Annetta. How may I help you?” So I said, “Hi Annetta, I am leaving for San Francisco and I was wondering if you could tell me what the weather is there right now, so I know how to pack.” Without any hesitation, Annetta responded, “Let me look up the five day forecast for you. You know it is always cool there.” You should have seen my audiences’ faces in total disbelief! Annetta shared with me (and the group) the five day forecast for San Francisco. Then I thanked her and she, of course, ended the call with, “My pleasure. Is there anything else I can do for you?” The group was blown away.
Then someone said, “We want you to call our call center and see how they handle that same question.” When I called the company, a very sweet lady answered the phone, but when I asked her if she could tell me the weather in San Francisco, she paused, hesitated, stuttered, and finally responded with, “No, I can’t do that. We are located in southern California.” I said thanks anyway and hung up. The group was disappointed.
But here is where it gets interesting. They said, “Let’s call your company and see what they would do.” I said, “Let’s do it!” I will admit I was nervous; I have never done this before, and while I felt confident, you never know. So one of their employees called The DiJulius Group (blocking the caller id), and Nicole answered the phone. When she was asked if she could provide the weather in San Francisco, Nicole replied with, “Certainly. What days are you traveling?” Whew! Yes, I was relieved. Thank you, Nicole.
It is not the employee, it is the training or lack of training. I cannot stress enough that the quality of your customer service is based on the service aptitude level of every single employee. I have no doubt that the employee from my consulting client’s organization who did not look up the weather would have if she had been working at Zappos or The DiJulius Group. Likewise, Annetta from Zappos or Nicole from TDG probably wouldn’t have if they were working somewhere else.
It is the culture they have been hired into. It is the training they get from the interview process, through orientation, to every day advertising teaching them that no request is too ridiculous. It is the burden of service placed upon their shoulders reminding them everyday. I have always said that The Ritz-Carlton has employees who are providing amazing service today were probably were providing subpar service some place else a year or two ago.
So give your company the weather report test. Have someone call them and ask what the weather is in San Francisco and see how they respond. I want to hear what happens.
John R. DiJulius III, best-selling author, consultant, and keynote speaker, is the president of The DiJulius Group, the leading customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on customer experience trends and best practices. Learn more about The DiJulius Group or The Secret Service Summit, America's #1 Customer Service Conference.