10 Customer Service Transformations That Can Overhaul Your Customer Experience

[Originally published in Forbes.com. The author, Micah Solomon, is an author, consultant, influencer, keynote speaker, and trainer in customer service, customer experience, customer service culture, and hospitality. (Here are three ways to reach Micah: email, chat, web).

Last week, I suggested quick wins that could improve your customer service and customer experience. Today, I’m going to challenge you to go deeper. Here are 10 truly transformational steps that I often suggest to my clients (as a customer service consultant), that can make deep and lasting change for your company or organization.

1. Overhaul your employee onboarding. It’s essential that your onboarding (orientation) process stress the purpose of employees’ work in the organization, rather than getting bogged down in warnings and paperwork. Is your current process aligned with your company purpose, and does it make that purpose clear to your newly-hired employees? Mark Hoplamazian, CEO of Hyatt, was shocked to discover that his company’s orientation wasn’t, but rather was compliance-driven and came off to employees like “A Hundred Ways You Can Get Fired By Hyatt.” (Here’s the story of how Hoplamazian overhauled Hyatt’s onboarding approach, once he made his discovery.)

2. Overhaul your practices for hiring, or “selection,” as I prefer to call it. Superior customer service depends on superior customer-facing employees; here’s an article of mine on how to get them.

3. Even if you don’t proceed with a complete overhaul of your hiring (selection) practices, at the least stop aiming to hire “pre-trained” employees. I know that hiring previously trained employees feels like a worthwhile shortcut, but in nontechnical fields it can backfire. As Patrick O’Connell, the storied proprietor of the double five star Inn At Little Washington, says in my new book, The Heart of Hospitality: Great Hotel and Restaurant Leaders Share Their Secrets[free chapter link], “Bad habits are not given up easily. If a great deal of ‘unlearning’ has to take place, we find it more arduous than dealing with a clean slate.”

4. Upgrade your technology. Even the most customer-focused employees can be hobbled with the wrong technology; conversely, their greatness can be multiplied through technology effectively deployed.

5. Upgrade your standards and your processes. Every company has systems and processes, and every great company has great systems and processes. Just as poor technology can hobble great human employees (and human intentions), so can out-of-date, poorly designed, or non-existent processes and standards. (More on this here.)

6. Commit to slashing your service- or product-delivery times. The old concept that speed and quality are opposing forces (as in the saying, “Price, speed, quality–pick two”) is no longer always true and, as importantly, is no longer believed to be true by customers. Customers don’t think “slow” equates with quality (with a few rarefied exceptions; for example, you don’t want your entrée at a Michelin-starred restaurant to come out to quickly), and, generally, it doesn’t; it more commonly co-exists with sloppiness. So, if there’s no positive to being slow, look at the negatives: It turns off your customers and it deters prospective customers from choosing you.

7. Find models outside your industry–and take the lessons they have to offer to heart. If you’re in a service industry, look to the defect-reduction experts in manufacturing. If you’re in manufacturing, look to the hospitality experts in, well, hospitality. The changes you make based on what you’ll learn will likely be transformational.

8. Study how Lean (formerly known as “Lean Manufacturing” and before that known as the Toyota Production System) can improve your customer experience–but do this cautiously. More on this here.

9. Put in a program for continuous improvement (whether or not you fully “go lean”). Consider, specifically, Mr. Biv, thesimple system of continuous improvement developed by the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company.

10. Write employee empowerment into your “charter,” and start living it.

Micah Solomon is an author, consultant, influencer, thought leader, keynote speaker, trainer, and subject matter expert (SME) in customer service, customer experience, customer service culture, hospitality, innovation. (email, chat, web).