What is the relationship between Customer Service and Strategy?
In his keynote, Alex Reeman-Clark shares three tangible takeaways that anyone can implement to can deliver excellent customer service as part of their strategy.
1) Mastering genuine listening
3) Primary and Recency effect
Alex is an engaging General Manager with 15+ years experience leading diverse teams and major projects to sustained success across the Sporting, Medical, and Educational industries. Throughout his career, Alex has kept his focus and that of his teams on providing excellent customer service, implementing proactive and collaborative theories across a wide variety of environments. For this work, he was awarded the ANZ and Global Kaplan Way Awards for Student Success in 2019, and most recently, his leadership at Kaplan Business School saw the institution win a prestigious PIEaward in the Student Support category for their COVID-19 Welfare plan in 2021.
Customer Service in Strategy
Thanks for tuning in! Before I get started today, I want to make a prediction. When I finish this talk in 8 minutes time, I’ll give you a choice of random objects and I predict I’ll know which one you’ll pick. Stay until the end to see if I get it right.
My name is Alex Reeman-Clark and I’m a General Manager with over 15 years’ experience across a variety of customer service industries and I’d like to share what I’ve learnt. Often in talks like this or books you’ve red you walk away going “You didn’t tell me how!” – for that reason I’m going to give you three tangible takeaways that you can implement TODAY so you can deliver excellent customer service as part of your strategy.
Now… you’re probably thinking, what does customer service have to do with strategy? Everything in my eyes. When I think about strategy, it’s not this 20-page document that was created three years ago that no one ever refers to. It’s the principles, values and behaviours of how you’re achieving your goals – full circle - not only in the long term, but the short term too – and ultimately down to each and every interaction you have. And that’s where customer service comes in.
When I refer to the “customer” here, this doesn’t just pertain to your traditional customer - those you’re providing a product or service to. It’s your colleagues, your internal stakeholders, your business partners – everyone you’re having an interaction with. If you could shape and round these interactions to be the most impactful, interesting, and effective they could be – wouldn’t you choose to do so?
These next three takeaways will allow you to successfully live and breathe your strategy through holistic and purposeful customer service. So what are they?
Mastering genuine listening
My first takeaway is mastering genuine listening. If you cast your mind back to school, you would have spent countless hours being taught how to read, learning how to write and practicing how to speak. Can you remember the class on listening?
Listening is fundamental to truly understanding what the other person in front of you wants and needs. And rather than patiently waiting for someone to finish so you can interject with a reply, offer your advice or tell your own story to try to relate – instead why don’t we take the time to genuinely listen and therefore understand what the other person is trying to communicate.
Rather than providing you a technique here like active listening or mirroring, my focus is more rounded. Concentrate on simply listening carefully to what your customer is saying, what they’re not saying and how they’re saying it. My favourite author is Dr Steven Covey and one of his habits of being a highly effective person is “seek first to understand, before being understood”. The more you seek to understand a person’s situation from their own perspective and not your own, the more you’re able to demonstrate genuine kindness and empathy and the more meaningful your interactions will be.
My second takeaway is making it personal.
If you reflect back on a standout customer service moment you’ve experienced, I bet personalisation was at the heart of that interaction. I remember mine vividly. I booked a holiday for an anniversary with my wife, and on the third night, I mentioned the fact it was our anniversary very briefly in passing to the person on reception. The next day, we got home to find a bottle of champagne and these fresh red strawberries in our room. Amazing, but that’s not what stood out. It came with a card with a personalised message from each of the 12 staff members that were working, from the chef to the concierge to the cleaner. That was over 5 years ago and I still remember how blown away I was by the effort they had made.
We’re living in a world where we’re becoming busier and busier and automation is promoting efficiency in our interactions, but not effectiveness. In an age where we’re celebrating people’s differences and championing being true to yourself – we’ve got to keep that front and centre when we’re dealing with customers. By truly listening to them, and then personalising your interactions, you can build the trust and relationships to be successful.
If a global pandemic has taught us anything, it’s to cherish and invest in the personal relationships you have with those you’re interacting with.
Primary and Recency effect
And now to number three, primacy and recency effect.
Which are the two best bites of an ice cream? I know, weird question. You get this amazing ice cream, waffle cone, three scoops. That first bite is the BEST! You’ve been looking forward to it all day. The next three minutes go by in an ice cream frenzied blur, and all of a sudden you’re at your last bite. And you take your time and savour that bite as it’s your memory of that experience.
The primacy and recency effect is recognising that the beginning and end of your interactions are the most impactful and important. Let’s start with primacy.
You would all know that research shows we make judgements in a matter of seconds of interacting with someone. And we know that those first impressions can last an incredibly long time as we draw conclusions on very limited information.
You would have done exactly that to me at the start of this video. You would have quickly and almost sub-consciously clocked and judged me based on my background, my age, how round my face is, my hair in lockdown, my accent, my body language, the words I use – the list is endless.
If these judgements are so quick and so lasting, why not focus all your energies into that first impression?
The same goes for recency theory, where people often remember something through the lens of the last part of their interaction. They remember the most recent thing, which was the end. If you’re having a great chat to a parent or sibling that ends in an argument, you’re in a spot of bother, as you’re not going to look at that conversation with a positive lens.
So once again, end with a bang. Leave a lasting impression. Have the last interaction shape and round their opinion on the conversation as a whole.
What’s amazing about primacy and recency theory is that you can use it for each and every interaction. Start a conversation well and end the conversation well. Or on a grander scale, it’s through a customer’s entire journey. Start strong and circle back, to end strong.
Those are your three tangible takeaways to implementing excellent customer service as part of a strategy.
Now as promised at the very beginning of this talk, I’m now going to predict your choice of some random objects. In about thirty seconds, I’m going to share my screen and ask you to make a choice. As this is a recording, I can’t see what choice you’ve made so only you will know if I’m right. It’s a completely free choice, but what I want you to do is go with your instinct and stick to it.
Here we go, I’ll share my screen and choose your object now:
OK done. Hopefully you’ve got a choice in mind?
Let’s have the entire success of this talk hinge on how I can read your mind via a recording shall we.
I think you picked option 3, the red circle. If I’m right, thank you so much for tuning in, you’re my friend for life and I hope thinking how I predicted it keeps you up at night. If you didn’t pick the red circle, well… I want you to go back to my first takeaway on listening…
Thanks so much for tuning in everyone!