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Giving service customers really notice

Book Review: Authors provide techniques for delivering top aid to clients

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  • Written by  Lorenda S. Smith
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  • Comments:   DISQUS_COMMENTS
Delivering Knock Your Socks Off Service, 20th Anniversary Edition, By Ron Zemke and Kristin Anderson, Performance Research Associates/AMACOM, 226 pp. Delivering Knock Your Socks Off Service, 20th Anniversary Edition, By Ron Zemke and Kristin Anderson, Performance Research Associates/AMACOM, 226 pp.

All bankers at one time or another deal with upset customers. You probably did this week. Have you ever thought of categorizing them by code colors? The authors of Knock Your Socks Off Service suggest grouping these unhappy customers into three groups: Blasé Blue, Ornery Orange, and Raging Red.

These colors represent the emotion the customer is betraying. This little insight on how to recognize the emotion being displayed helps the banker who needs to begin setting things right.

Certain fundamentals form the basis for delivering superior service. Among them are: being reliable, being reassuring, showing empathy, being responsive, and providing tangibles. Tangibles are factors that can be seen and measured in some fashion, even though much of service is intangible. An example: When a customer gives you information, be seen to be writing it down, and read it bad to check the accuracy.

Knock Your Socks Off Service highlights the key facets of service in a practical way and notes that “the customer is always the customer.”
Understanding “Knock your socks off service”

Here’s how the authors define the title term of the book:

“Delivering Knock Your Socks Off Service means creating a positive, memorable experience for every customer. It means meeting expectations and satisfying needs--in such a way that you’re seen as easy to do business with. It means looking for opportunities to wow and delight your customer in unique and unexpected ways.”

The book also makes an important point early on: “The Only Unbreakable Rule: To the Customer, You Are The Company.”
A book packed with practical gems

There’s a lot of meat in this book. I organized my takeaways as bullet points. Here are some of them:
• The How To’s, which include: Honesty is the only policy; trust; taking ownership; listening; and asking intelligent questions.

At first, these would seem like things we know and do consistently.

However, chapter 19, which deals with telephone communication, addresses the generational divide and means of serving age-diverse customers, which is eye-opening to say the least.  The authors provide tips on serving groups from veterans to millennials.  And there is a section on how to put your best foot forward when using email.

A telling quote from Yankelovich Partners highlights how our “How To’s” have changed: “Trends wrought by generational differences are causing business upheavals, bringing new categories of work into being at warp speed and causing old ones to shrink and disappear.”

• Communication matters a great deal, whether we are conducting everyday transactions or dealing with potentially catastrophic problems, the authors point out. The perception of communication (or lack thereof) can have dramatic consequences. Compliments or complaints have the potential of being retold across the web to millions within seconds.

I especially found the chapter “Co-Workers as Partners” a great reminder of the importance of communicating across bank functions. This led to some interesting questions. One, specifically, is, “Do your employees know what happens to their work once it leaves their department?”

I actually used this question in our monthly staff meeting and was surprised by several responses.   

Having been a banker for close to 30 years and in a management position, I am often faced with what appears to be department communication breakdowns.  This book even addresses the issue of employees from different departments putting aside differences and working hand-in-glove to meet quality or service goals.

The “tips” throughout this easy-to-read book gives key points of each section and I caught myself highlighting them to use later as a references. 
• Problem-solving side of providing knock your socks off service: I agree with the quote from Donald Porter of British Airways that the authors used:

“Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.”

A very important tip came from this section: What constitutes a disappointment for one customer can be absolutely “no problem” for another; but if the customer thinks something is a problem--it’s a problem.

I gave this point extra underlining.

Obviously we need to put more energy into doing things right. However, the author offers five axioms of service recovery and uses research done in a retail banking industry by Linda Cooper of Cooper and Associates on the ten top service expectations of bank retail customers to offer steps in the recovery process.

The section called, “Axiom 5: Effective Recovery is a Planned Process,” states how critical it is to regularly practice implementing the plan. However, the quality of the solution offered and the skill of the people offering it is equally important. Also note that focus groups revealed that a simple apology goes a long way.   
• Taking care of you. This chapter of the book takes a turn away from being customer- focused, and shifts to the importance of taking care of you. From stress reducers and relaxing techniques to positive talks to even desk aerobics, being at your best makes for a win-win situation.

The author also reminds us of who we are versus what we do. I personally found this section to be of great value as a reminder of the importance of drawing a line between the two.

The authors state: “Who you are goes home with you at the end of the day; what you do stays at work”.

Finally, the authors advice that you “party hearty.” Successfully delivering “Knock Your Socks Off” service deserves a celebration. So when you get it right, the authors suggest, take yourself out to lunch, make a brag sheet, and tell yourself, “You done good!” 

So after reading this book, I implemented a “Know Your Socks Off” service program for employees.

And then I told myself, “You done good!”
If you'd like to review books for our online book column, or have recently read a book that you found helpful that we haven't already reviewed, please e-mail [email protected]

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