8.30, Monday morning. I had been feeling a bit tired in recent times, so I decided to have a blood test.
As planned, I was the first person that this pathology lab was going to draw blood from for the week.
The initial process was pretty easy. The receptionist found my record on the system, I chose my blood test and was told the price.
As this was happening, I glanced up at the wall behind the counter. There was a big poster promising me “Good Customer Service.”
So far, so good. The service from the receptionist was meeting expectations.
The next step was to have the phlebotomist draw blood from my arm. (You will sound really intelligent at your next dinner party if you use the word “phlebotomist” at least twice!).
Now, before I go any further, I need to remind you of the fundamentals of Customer Service 101: Customer service consists of two elements.
First, there is the functional experience e.g. whether the phlebotomist hurts me, whether the place is clean, how long I have to wait etc. This is what we call “the ticket to the game”. I expect these elements to be in place.
Second, there is the emotional experience. This is the key driver of customer. It is the human side of the interaction.
Now, let me take you back to the pathology lab. I’m sitting in the chair, with the phlebotomist getting ready to take my blood. I make conversation. I smile. I try to be human. I get little response.
The needle in my vein did not hurt. The place was clean. It happened pretty quickly.
And yet, there was something missing.
It was the humanity of the experience.
It seemed that I was a faceless person, dealing with another faceless person.
It was time pay the receptionist. I pointed to the poster on the wall behind her. I suggested that someone teach the phlebotomist how to smile. I could have said, “She should smile and actually acknowledge that she is dealing with a human being, rather than a vein.” But, in the interests of the phlebotomist drawing my blood painlessly on my next visit, I didn’t.
My guess is that someone from the pathology lab HQ had instructed them to put the “Good Customer Service” poster on the wall. They might have had some training.
But the impact on me of the training and the poster was not obvious. It seemed to me that nobody was reinforcing “good customer service” to staff. And, after a few trips to this lab, it seems that they are not asking for feedback from customers.
So here’s the message.
Don’t make promises to customers if you are not going to reinforce them to employees. “Reinforce’ means doing things after the training to make sure that the desired behaviours become habits.
The reality is that many organisations send employees on customer service training but do not provide learning reinforcement, yet just hoping that posters as reminders will create the desired service behaviours.
So, how can organisations turn service training into good service habits?
If the company has a digital platform, there could be digital reinforcement. There are lots of options available. The advantage of reinforcement via digital means is that it is low cost, consistent, quick and scalable i.e. can be communicated to large numbers of employees. At a “lower-tech” level, even WhatsApp reinforcement and sharing of experiences on WhatsApp groups can serve as a reinforcement tool.
At a human level, it’s about putting in place processes to give feedback and coaching to employees. It is important to get feedback from customers to make sure the service promise is being kept. It’s about congratulating and giving positive reinforcement when good service is delivered.
The principles are pretty simple. As my colleague and friend, Paul Stewart, says, “It’s not in the knowing. It’s in the doing.”
Until next time.
George Aveling is the Australian-born CEO of the Malaysian office of TMI, a global customer-experience transformation consultancy. He is CEO of two sister companies, TACK International Malaysia, a global leadership and sales training company, and Elementrix, a digital learning consultancy. TMI and TACK have offices in 45 countries of the world. Between these companies, there is an unparalleled range of intellectual property to improve individual, team and company performance. If you would like to contact George direct, feel free to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org