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Today, I am very pleased to present a guest post by Jim Lucas of Lucavia.
Music, math, foreign language, computer programming. Have you ever wondered whether subjects like these can be learned or if you simply have to be “born with it”? A brief query shows a usual pattern. You’ll find a debate about the role of hard work and dedication versus natural talent, and then a consensus emerges. It takes hard work and dedication to become proficient or to master a subject (think: Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule). But to achieve at the highest levels requires more of the same plus a generous helping of natural talent and luck—where only the truly gifted achieve genius.
From a management point of view, simple knowledge of a subject is not interesting; only its application and performance matter.
For example, think about retail customer service. Virtually every businessperson claims to know all about customer service and yet the quality and depth of customer service varies wildly between companies—and even within the same company from store to store and from experience to experience. So, why is it that customer service is so well understood and yet so poorly performed?
The answer is that most retail businesses do not have knowledge of customer service; they have opinions. What’s more, instead of performing customer service they constantly improvise, both as organizations and individuals. It is little wonder when an organization uses their 10,000 hours, practicing customer service 10,000 different ways, that customers perceive it as chaos.
The remedy to this situation is, as they say, simple to understand but difficult to master.
The first thing is to define customer service from your customer’s point of view.
The second thing is to write down the steps in your customer service experience including the standards of performance you demand for its proper execution.
Thirdly, systematize how you present this information to your staff—and be careful to select candidates for their aptitude to learn and to be passionate about delivering it.
And, finally, rehearse. One doesn’t become an Emma Kirby by performing only in front of a live audience at the Royal Opera House. You have to train, refine, and improve offstage to earn your standing ovations.
(Image credit: Susan Huseman (USAG Stuttgart))