Is Your Company Zero Risk?

May 4, 2012

Perfect circumstances are rare, and the exception. You can count on human error, call offs, customers being late, technology breakdowns, service interruptions, out of stock items, and undependable vendors. Is your company prepared? Are your frontline employees trained and ready? If these things are normal daily occurrences, then tell me why most employees act like a deer in headlights when they do occur?

What Is Zero Risk?

Zero risk means having all your employees fully aware of the potential common service defects that can arise at each stage of the customer experience cycle, and that they are trained and empowered to provide great service recovery when defects do arise.
Everyone’s service aptitude appears strong when things are going smoothly, but employees’ and the company’s true service aptitude is revealed when things don’t go as planned and service defects arise.

What does zero risk look like? As a customer, when you deal with a company you have a sense of security that if something goes wrong, they will make it right. Thus, that business is zero risk to deal with.

Zero risk addresses an intimidating array of issues that can produce unhappy customers: service defects, lack of concern about the customer’s experience, and incidents or emergencies that aren’t your fault. Zero risk is essential in order to create a “Wow!” experience and make the customer yours for life. If and when you become zero risk, you will indeed be in very exclusive company.

How many zero risk companies do you deal with? The following scenario happens every day: You are unhappy with your experience as a customer. You express your displeasure to a front-line employee, who sometimes, but not most of the time, may say, “Sorry,” but that’s it. The employee isn’t allowed, required, or trained to fix the problem. You can tell that nobody at this company cares whether you are disappointed, and you realize it is a waste of time and energy to do anything about it. Because of this, you stop telling the company about your displeasure, and even worse (for the company), you stop coming back. That is the opposite of zero risk.

Don’t Ask if You Don’t Want to Know

Many companies have their front-line employees ask, “How was everything today?” but no one teaches them how to respond. It is a canned question that they are supposed to ask. I was checking out of a hotel and the front desk employee asked the customer in front of me, “How was your stay?” The guest said, “I had no hot water in my shower.” The front desk person’s response was, “Oh, ah, sorry about that, I will make sure maintenance gets right on that.” A lot of good that does the customer now, after he checked out. If you are going to ask, then be ready to rectify the situation. It could be as simple as, “I apologize for that, Mr. Smith. For your inconvenience, I am going to credit you the movie you rented in your room last night, would that be okay?”

I admit that at John Robert’s Spa, we drop the ball as much as any other company. However, we train our employees to know how to pick up the ball and make things right. We know the most common areas where problems will arise, and have set up protocols to make those problems right. We teach every new team member how and when to use these protocols. In other words, we empower all our team members to fix these problems, on the spot, by themselves. Our goal is to make sure all guests leave satisfied.

Fine or Okay Is Unacceptable

Why do we drop the ball so much? There are two main reasons. First, we see about 5,000 guests a week, so even if we do it right 99 percent of the time, which I know we don’t, then we will upset at least 50 people each week. Second, we aggressively identify guests who are less than thrilled with their experience. We train our guest-care personnel to ask a guest, “How was your experience today?” when the guest is checking out. If the guest answers, “It was okay,” or “Fine,” that is unacceptable. I know a lot of businesses would be happy with “Fine” or glad that the guest ­didn’t complain. I say that “Fine” is unacceptable. I would hate it if anything I did was “Fine.” “Fine” really means, “Let me pay and get out of here so I can tell people how disappointed I am with this experience.”

When a guest says, “Fine,” our team member asks, “What about your experience ­wasn’t excellent?” Typical answers are, “My stylist ran 25 minutes late,” or “I felt rushed,” or “This look isn’t exactly what I wanted.” Now we have an opportunity to fix the problem and, more importantly, to prevent customers from leaving disappointed and possibly engaging in “brand terrorism,” which is to tell everyone they know about their horrible experience with your company and brand.

Know how to serve in terms of the customer. They don’t care about your situation, they only care about their situation.

John R. DiJulius II\I, best-selling author, consultant, and keynote speaker, is the president of The DiJulius Group, the leading customer experience consulting firm in the nation.  He blogs on customer experience trends and best practices.  Learn more about The DiJulius Group or The Secret Service Summit, America's #1 Customer Service Conference.

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