Too many organizations espouse good service, but very few actually excel and deliver on the promise.
However, one company is so good at it that it serves as the role model for just about all others--that company is The Four Seasons.
The Wall Street Journal, 29 April 2009 reviewed the book “Four Seasons” by Isadore Sharp, the luxury hotel’s founder.
Here are some things that I learned about customer service from this:
- Customer Service means reliability—“a policy of consistently high standards.” At Four Seasons, anyone who has visited the chain around the world [83 hotels in 35 countries]…can attest to its reliability. To be reliable, customer service is not just raising and holding the bar high-- having high standards for quality service--but this must be institutionalized through policy and delivered consistently—over and over again. You can’t have a bad day when executing on customer service. Fantastic customer service has to always be there, period!
For The Total CIO, this type of reliability means that we don’t focus on technology per se, but rather on the customer’s mission requirements and how we can consistently deliver on those in a sound, secure, and cost-effective manner. CIO leaders establish high standards for customer service through regular performance plans, measures and service level agreements. Reliable customer service is more than a concept; it’s a way of relating to the customer in every interaction to consistently exceed expectations.
- Customer Service means innovation—“The things we take for granted now during our hotel stays-comfortable beds, fluffy towels, lighted make-up mirrors, fancy toiletries, and hair dryers-made their first appearances at the Four Seasons…likewise for European-style concierge and Japanese-style breakfast menus, in-hotel spas, and the possibility of residence and time-share units.”
For The Total CIO, technology changes so fast, that innovation is basically our middle name. We never rest on our laurels. We are always on the lookout for the next great thing to deliver on the mission, to achieve strategic competitive, to perform more cost effectively and efficiently. Advantage. Moreover, we reward and recognize customer service excellence and innovation.
- Customer Service means valuing people—“Follow the golden rule. Workers are vital assets who should be treated accordingly…at the Four Seasons, those who might otherwise be considered the most expendable ‘had to come first,’ because they were the ones who could make or break a five-star service reputation.”
For The Total CIO, people are at the center of technology delivery. We plan, design, develop, and deploy technologies with people always in mind—front and center. If a technology is not “user-centric”, we can’t employ it and don’t want it—it’s a waste of time and money and generally speaking a bad IT investment. Moreover, we deliver technology through a highly trained, motivated, empowered and accountable workforce. We establish a culture of customer service and we reward and recognize people for excellence.
- Customer Service means solving problems—“Turning the top-down management philosophy on its head, Mr. Sharp authorized every Four Seasons employee to solve service problems as they arose to remedy failures on the spot.”
For The Total CIO, leadership is fundamental, management is important, and staff execution is vital. It is the frontline staff that knows the customer pain points and can often come up with the best suggestions to solve them. Even more importantly, the IT customer service representatives (help desk, desktop support, application developers, project managers, and so on) need to “own the customer” and see every customer problem through to resolution. Yes, it’s nice to empathize with the customer, but the customers need to have their problems fixed, their issues resolved and their requirements met.
The Total CIO will make these customer service definitions his and his organization’s modus operandi.