Reviving the `Customer First’ Philosophy: A Journey Towards Exceptional Service

In the ever-changing landscape of business, customer experience has become a pivotal factor in determining success. Too many people report the service they get today as poor, finding much frustration in the time and effort they must put in with customer service departments to reach a desired outcome. Long gone are the days of “customer first” or “the customer is always right” philosophies. I don’t think it is because CEOs and business owners aren’t trying to instill those ideals into their staff’s interactions with their customers, it is just that they don’t have sufficient control over a whole new set of challenges that finding, training, and retaining today’s employee brings to the table. I long for the days of old sometimes and especially in this department. For example, what happened to being able to get help purchasing counter tops at Home Depot? I recently visited the countertop department to inquire about getting new counter tops for my kids’ bathroom. It was a ghost town. After pressing the “Press Here for Help” button and awaiting 10-12 minutes, I walked up to the front counter to see about getting help. The nice but tired looking lady manning the self-checkout registers told me she didn’t think anyone was here for that department that day. She graciously offered to have someone from paint come help me. Although the lady from the paint department was kind and helpful, she didn’t know how to run the computer system for the countertop department, and we had to spend several minutes sitting awkwardly while she radioed someone to help her. She also wasn’t sure of the pricing or the time frame. She admittedly shared that she wasn’t the one who would be able to offer advice on the differences between the counter tops. Really? If she can’t help me, then who can? I waltzed out of the store that day realizing I was going to have to learn more about countertops than I ever desired to. And I wasn’t sure where I would find the time to do it. After many weeks, I hadn’t gotten anywhere because who has time to research this on your own when you have 3 teenagers and an entire staff full of people to take care of. So, I went another route, Costco. I mean they always have everything else I need, so why not counter tops. Their representative was helpful and knowledgeable. She could at least explain the differences between the products I liked and helped me to narrow it down to get a quote. The process was also prompt and I had a quote in my hands in less than 3 days. However, the quote for a small set of counter tops in a bathroom was $12,000. Three months later and I still don’t have counter tops. Is this really where we are today? You either get no service or service that costs more than a year of community college.

This frustration and many others like them sent us on a quest to flip the script on the customer’s experience. As an owner of an IT company, I frequently felt the frustration my clients faced when interacting with my staff. I have an amazing staff, so it wasn’t because they weren’t good quality people. This had more to do with the training I mentioned earlier. This industry has the added challenge of employing incredibly smart people who tend to be introverted, analytical in nature, and not as comfortable with social interaction.  For years we have recognized that helping people with their IT problems is more about the people. However, dealing with people wasn’t second nature to this talented crew of technicians. And although most of them came out of a trade school where they learned their craft, they weren’t taught what it means to connect with the customer and offer white glove service.  Due to the challenges users face with using technology to run their businesses we found it necessary to engage our staff on a quest to offer a World Class Customer Experience.

Finding the Dujulius Group was a blessing in our quest to standardizing and improving our customer service. This group has trained and worked with some of the best customer service businesses in the world including Star Bucks, Chick-Fil-A, Telsa, and The Ritz- Carlton.  Our engagement in a yearlong training with their company became the cornerstone in shaping Cybertools' customer-centric philosophy but also facilitated meaningful changes in our customer’s experience with our organization.

This journey brought us to an understanding that exceptional customer experiences are not merely a result of individual interactions but a holistic approach, Cybertools sought to empower its workforce with the skills and knowledge necessary to deliver world-class service consistently. With the direction of the DuJulius Group we began to listen to our calls and understand when to spot frustration in a client’s voice. We thought about how the person on the other end of the phone was feeling and even made a video that depicted a typical day in their life to help us connect with them on a deeper level. When they shared something special in their lives with us, we noted it and shared with the others in the office. We began to develop a set of rules for what we should never do and what we should always do. Like never interrupt, always listen. We role played and quizzed each other. We made learning the material a center of our Friday lunch trainings. We congratulated each other when we got it right and helped redirect each other when we made a mistake. We developed a customer service action statement “Making IT Simple with a Smile”.  We dedicated ourselves to live by this statement and measured our interactions against it. We looked at our processes and talked about where they were breaking down and how we could make non-negotiable standards in those areas. Then we took it a step further and asked ourselves how we could go above and beyond. I was so proud of my people; they were excited to put these new strategies in practice and they worked hard to do it. We are still working on standardizing our customer experience cycle with the goal of making sure all our clients can get a similar experience from each of us. But this last year has brought many great changes.

I have witnessed a noticeable shift in our organization's culture. Our employees have embraced a customer-first mentality, viewing every interaction as an opportunity to create a positive experience. The training not only equipped employees with practical skills but also fostered a sense of ownership and accountability for the customer journey. We still have a lot of work to do, and I see this as an ever-evolving process. But we have started the journey and are dedicated to bringing back the `Customer First’ philosophy to a world that needs just a little more kindness. No doubt there will be ongoing discussions about customer experiences and how to improve them, we will likely never be perfect, but this journey has given me a sense of nostalgia of the customer service experience of the past. Leading people can be challenging but this challenge is one I am excited to continue.

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