How a Service Code Empowers Employees to Deliver Exceptional Experiences

by Jeannie Walters

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The frustrated leader looks to the heavens, shaking their fists toward the sky.

“It seems so obvious,” they shout.

All around, trees empty themselves of scattering birds.

Ok, maybe the picture I’m painting is a bit melodramatic — but it’s not far off a reality that’s happening at far too many organizations.

These fed-up leaders often lean on this phrase — “It seems so obvious!” — as the baffling reason employees aren’t understanding customer experience.

It seems so obvious that employees should:

  • Put the customer first
  • Get the right information to the customer
  • Return calls promptly
  • Call customers by their name
  • Not use too much information and appear creepy
  • Say please and thank you
  • Ask for the purchase
  • Not sell too aggressively

…Right? The list goes on!

 

Let’s Try a Thought Experiment

It does seem obvious to put the customer first and to get the right information to the customer and to return calls promptly.

But what if:

  1. the customer is incorrect
  2. the right information is hard to find
  3. the return call takes 48 hours because of items 1 and 2

In a case like this, which employee did the right thing?

  1. Jamie, who called the customer every twenty minutes to let them know there was no updated information to share?
  2. Or Taylor, who waited two weeks to ensure there was accurate information to share?

Could they both be right? What’s the obvious answer?

 

What’s Obvious to One isn’t Obvious to All… Nor is it Necessarily Right!

There’s a pervasive myth that customer experience is common sense. That it is an easy win simply by doing “what’s obvious.”

Yet humans are not carbon copies. We have different life experiences, expectations, cultural norms, and sensitivities. That means what’s obvious to you might be clear as mud to me!

Instead of relying on what’s “obvious,” customer experience leaders must start sharing the standards, expectations, and even language around customer service. And all those standards, expectations, and language cues must be based on a common Customer Experience Mission.

Related: Get our FREE CX Mission Statement Workbook

If your Mission is your North Star, the Service Code is your map for creating meaningful experiences that consistently deliver for your customers AND your organization.

Brands that do this well create specific, defined actions so employees know what’s expected AND how to deliver it.

Disney is well known for having a clear purpose (“We create happiness…”) and a defined set of quality standards and service guidelines.

Aveda provides guidance to their retail workers with a “Service Cycle” that includes verbs like “Connect” and “Confirm” instead of “Sell.” The whole emotional commitment is different based on these specific service guidelines.

I know what some of you are thinking – we’re not Disney! Working for a B2B manufacturer or a technology supplier is definitely different than Aveda! But the concepts can still be applied.

Once your brand has a strong Customer Experience Mission , Customer Experience Success Statement , and a CX Charter , the next step is educating and empowering employees who work directly with customers to FEEL empowered and aligned with the CX Mission.

 

How to Create a CX Service Code

Here’s how to create a Service Code for your organization.

1. Ask what interactions customers have with employees.

Working in a retail environment and interacting with complex procurement teams are different. Define what interacting with customers looks like in YOUR organization.

Keep in mind that even with various groups and different needs, the Service Code will include universal approaches to service.

For example, your organization might have salespeople, account managers, repair teams, and accounting representatives interacting with various customers as part of a business-to-business customer experience. These are different roles with different customers in many cases.

It’s easy to get caught up in details here, but the focus of the Service Code is to simplify standards. So use this inventory of who interacts with the customer as a prompt to consider what’s most important.

 

2. Look to your CX Mission to direct behaviors.

What is important to direct behavior that’s aligned with the mission?

If your mission is all about friendliness, it’s critical to think about how that can be turned into behaviors.

It’s not always easy to be friendly when asking for a payment, for example. But now’s the time to define what friendliness means at any part of the journey. Get real about the mission here.

 

3. Brainstorm a list of emotions you want customers to feel.

This can be a simple step if you’ve already identified this as part of the Customer Experience Mission Statement.

These emotions are the results you’re looking for, based on the behaviors, attitudes, and actions of employees.

 

4. Decide on 3-5 behaviors that are universal in the service you want to deliver.

For example, addressing a customer by name can be applied to a sales situation or a repair scenario.

Hang on to these — they’ll become part of the universal Service Code.

 

5. Dig into those roles and scenarios to decide what specific actions or behaviors are required.

When a customer enters a retail store, how can they be greeted? That is different than when a customer provides information in a chat or email correspondence.

Identify those key moments to define the service expectations.

 

6. Once you have a completed Service Code, it’s time to use it!

These can be very helpful for hiring, onboarding, and reviewing performance in an ongoing way with employees.

If you have tools that allow for real-time coaching, the Service Code is a great assessment to use.

 

A Customer Experience Service Code Template

Ready to create your own Service Code? Here’s a basic template to use:

Company Name: Acme Academy

CX Mission Statement: Our widgets help power a better world, and we empower customers to live their best life with fast, easy widget delivery. Our innovative customers are our partners in creativity, and we commit to innovative experiences to unleash creativity for both employees and customers.

Service Code: Our customers deserve fast, friendly, and scientifically-accurate widgets. We show up for customers:

  • With a smile, even if we’re on the phone
  • With gratitude, not just because they’re our customers but as true innovators
  • With humility, because sometimes our customers are ahead of us!

We deliver for our customers specifically to focus on fast, friendly service with the following commitments:

  • Customers receive responses to inquiries within 2 hours.
  • Customers are updated every 24 hours on open issues.
  • Mistakes are corrected promptly and employees are empowered to provide replacement or repair services.
  • The tie goes to the customer! When in doubt, the customer is believed and served.

Your Service Code might be set up differently, or include greater detail. But I encourage you to think of ways to communicate and reinforce the ideas of your Service Code.

And like all things in life, don’t worry about perfection. It’s difficult to communicate a code that is a list of every scenario or impossible standards that contradict each other. Commit to what’s important and empower your employees to live up to the CX Mission and Service Code in their own way.

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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