In case you weren’t among the 11.9 million who watched Super Bowl 50 Sunday, February 7, the Denver Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers 24-10. The Broncos’ victory involved skill, certainly — but moreover, leadership, teamwork, and decisiveness. These same traits are necessary to deliver outstanding customer service, said Shep Hyken, author of “Amaze Every Customer Every Time” and “Moments of Magic.” In a recent article for Forbes, he outlined five lessons business owners could take away from the Super Bowl to improve their customer service.
- Practice makes perfect.
“Just like a championship football team isn’t born overnight, building a great customer-focused company takes time and effort,” Hyken said. “The support team goes through training. They conduct simulations and role plays.” Sales and customer service expert Tim Huckabee, president of FloralStrategies, LLC, a Floral Management columnist, and a speaker at SAF’s upcoming 1-Day Profit Blast, recommends scheduling staff-wide training sessions once a month. “Ideally, you train whenever it’s slow in the shop, but at a bare minimum, you should do it four times a year,” he said. “When you hear flower shop employees speak fluidly and confidently with customers, that’s because of training — not because they’re just happy, cheerful people.”
- Teamwork wins championships.
Peyton Manning wouldn’t have his second Lombardi trophy if he didn’t have wide receivers that could catch his passes or a defense that paralyzed Carolina’s offensive line. Football is a team sport—just like your flower shop.
“Communication between departments is essential to a smooth, seamless customer experience,” Hyken said. Imagine if your sales person took an order for a customer who is allergic to pollen and didn’t pass this information on to the designer. Or what if a customer calls to say the flowers he ordered arrived a day late and is told by the designer, who answers the phone,“You’ll have to wait for our customer service representative to get in.” Everyone on staff should know the basic protocol for complaints (some dialogue along the lines of, “I’m so sorry to hear that. Let me get your name and contact information, so we can start investigating what went wrong…) To have a winning shop, you need to ditch the “it’s not my department” attitude. “It’s everyone’s job to take care of the customer,” Hyken said.
- Clock management can make or break you.
In football, the team in the lead wants to run down the clock to decrease the likelihood of the opponent scoring, while the team that’s behind wants to use timeouts to stop the clock and the leader’s momentum.
Time is also paramount to customer service. “Response time is a way to show you care — or don’t care,” Hyken said. “Urgency in fixing the problem or resolving the complaint is a powerful way to restore a customer’s confidence.” Whenever you receive a complaint or a negative review, respond right away and get to work righting it.
- Take a situational approach.
Going into Sunday’s game, many predicted the Carolina Panthers (15-1), with their nearly undefeated season, would beat the Denver Broncos (12-4). But records don’t mean everything. Every game is a new situation with different elements, including weather, injuries and players’ unique skills and weaknesses. Football players can’t operate on autopilot; if they did, their opponents would always be able to predict their movements and outmaneuver them.
Your team needs to treat customers as individual people — not just “orders.” Employees need to tailor their tone and approach to each situation for the best possible outcome. Sympathy customers, for instance, call for extra gentleness and a show of compassion.
- Practice empowerment.
Football coaches lay out their strategies, but once the game starts, things change. Adrenaline kicks in and gut decisions create plays. The most effective players are those who have been empowered to stray from the original plan based on what’s happening on the field.
“This is exactly what happens in a tenuous customer service situation,” Hyken said. “We practice, depend on our team members, respond quickly and treat the customer as an individual, but then in the heat of it all, you may find yourself in a situation that could be new, unique, awkward — even precarious. It’s now time to make the call.” Training employees also means empowering them to do what they think is right. Do your people have the gumption to offer a replacement arrangement for a customer who received flowers damaged in transit — or would they sheepishly ask, “What would you like me to about it?”