Meeting John Tschohl – The Guru Of Customer Service
Earlier this week, we managed to spend some time with the Guru of customer service, John Tschohl. John is a mentor and speaker in the industry who wrote the world’s first customer service training program in 1980 and founded training company Service Quality Institute.
Since then he has travelled to over 48 countries mentoring, training millions of employees from companies like BBVA Bancomer, Ethiopian Airlines and Axiom Telecom. He’s also written seven books in the art of customer service and has designed 20 different training programs in several different languages.
We caught up with John to find out more about his programs and services, and hear his thoughts on how customer service is progressing.
“Most companies don’t know they’re in customer service.”
“My goal is to help a company create a service culture. And all my research shows that when you provide an incredible level of customer service, business soars. You get a lot of money. If you want to create loyal customers you’ve got to provide exceptional customer service…you’ve got to wow the customer.
“Most companies aren’t willing to spend money on training and developing their staff on the art of customer service. Their attitude is, ‘By the time I get the guy trained he’s gonna be gone, so screw it.’ They also forget that people don’t change their behaviours very fast , so we either have a dumb employer or we have a bad program that they use, but companies aren’t using a process to keep developing their people with new fresh material. They think that one magic program is going to change somebody for life and that they’ll become a perfect individual. That’s not going to happen.
“The next problem is that most companies have really dumb rules, dumb policies and dumb procedures. So you can have really nice people, but you’ve got these really crazy rules, dumb policies and dumb procedures. And employers love to follow rules, policies and procedures. It could be the hours that you’re open, it could be the policies on payment, it could be policies on shipping…it could be a variety of different things.
“Another problem that we have is that employees are not empowered. So you’ve got these rules and policies, and employees are not empowered to make decisions on the spot to take care of a customer…which in itself is a bigger problem.
“And then the next problem is that when we make a mistake, there’s no service recovery; nobody’s been trained on service recovery. Every company, regardless of how good they are, is going to make mistakes. So you’ve got to teach service recovery.
“The next problem is that most companies are not measuring or tracking the results, so they don’t know if it’s increasing sales or not. They just think ‘I’m spending some money.’ ”
“We have programs that teach people the skills and the art of customer service. And it is a skill.”
“When I personally do a seminar, I use a lot of financial numbers to show employers the financial outcome. So I talk about the strategy, but top executives are driven by hard numbers. To just say ‘people feel good’, or ‘it can help grow our business’ doesn’t mean anything. They’ll say, ‘Show me where the money is.’
“The second is that we have programs that teach people the skills and the art of customer service – and it is a skill. We have a core problem called Feelings which is the foundation, but then I go in with programs like Speed that teaches people how to dramatically shrink the time it takes to get things done. I use a program called Remember Me, which is about teaching employees how to use the customers’ names – because the most important thing in life to a person is their name. I have another program called Empowerment: A Way Of Life – how do we get people to make empowered decisions, on the spot? And then I have another program called Moving Up – getting people to believe in themselves; getting people to want to be exceptional; to want to be indispensable.
“The third thing that we do is we build employee morale and teamwork – the goal is to get people to work together. In a company with 60 employees you wouldn’t take 15 salespeople or 15 people in shipping; you’d have one person from sales, one person from operations, one in office; one in shipping…so you’ve got this huge mixture. 80% of the training time is all group discussion and group interaction, and we teach facilitators of our program never to answer a question. So by mixing people up in seminars and encouraging them to engage and interact, we create the behaviour change and the attitude change.”
“If you want to lead the market, you’ve got to make sure your employees are trained with a process, using new stuff, fresh stuff, constantly.”
“If you’re trying to change the culture of a corporation, you’ve got to have something fresh and new every four to six months or so to change behaviours. Let’s say you have a company with 60 people or 600. If you use the same program the second time through you’re gonna waste all your money. Your audience is going to switch off. You need to use the message of customer service differently, so that when a person goes to the next seminar, they’re gonna say, ‘This is pretty good stuff.’
“You never know who’s going to touch the customer. I believe the littlest guy you got is either gonna make you look like a bum or a hero. And he or she is going to do wonderful things if you develop them, and train those people to deliver excellence in service.
“Rarely do any companies spend money on developing their people in customer service. If you want to lead the market, you’ve got to make sure every one of your employees is trained in customer service with a process, using new stuff, fresh stuff constantly; moving it to another level.”
“Expectations of customer service are low in most countries because people are disillusioned.”
“I’d say customer service is the same everywhere, but expectations are very low in most countries because people are disillusioned with customer service. Most people in the US would say that customer service sucks. But if we went to every business owner and asked them to rate their own customer service, they’d say it’s wonderful. So we have this disconnect…and people don’t complain because they’re just used to bad service.
“There are six principles of customer service all over the world that I teach. The first is that you’ve got to feel good about yourself – if you feel good about yourself you communicate it on the job. The second thing is that you’ve got to practice habits of courtesy. In seconds I can tell whether I’m loved or not loved; whether it’s in your tone of voice or your body language. In seconds I can just tell. And to be nice, it doesn’t take any more time.
“The third is that we teach positive communication, whether verbal or non-verbal. It goes from the smile, to using the customer’s name, to asking how that person is that day. It does not take any longer to be polite and courteous, and to make that person feel special.
“The fourth thing that we teach is that you have to deliver what you said you’re gonna do. If you say you’re going to ship on Tuesday, you’d better ship on Tuesday. If you say you’ll call them back Wednesday at 10 o’clock, you’d better call back on Wednesday at 10. You can be really nice and all that other stuff, but if you don’t do what you say you’re gonna do, that’s bad customer service.
“The next thing is that you’ve got to listen to the customer – nobody ever listens. You’ve got to ask customers what they want and tune in. And then the sixth skill is that you’ve got to learn about your products & services. Very few people know their products and services.”
“There’s only a handful of companies that really understand the service strategy. And the companies that do this well make a lot of money.”
“Let’s first start with the most customer-oriented bank in the world – Metro Bank London. You have a company here that started in July 2010, with four locations and about 60 employees. And today they have over 25 locations and over 1000 employees, and they’re growing about 2-300% a year.
“You can call 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week, with a live person answering the phone. So if you call them at 2 in the morning, they don’t have voice-mail that says push 1, 2, push 3, and then push seven to go to hell. 98% of companies in the US have voice mail – they don’t understand customer experience. For sure they wouldn’t have somebody answering the phone at 2am!
“You’ve to understand that most people don’t want that kind of growth – it’s too much money. They would not want to copy Metro Bank, because they’re making too much money and growing too fast. Most companies can’t handle that. They’d rather grow slow and be poor. If somebody wants to experience heaven once in their life, they should give [Metro Bank] a call.
“Then you’ve got Amazon – one of the world’s most customer-service driven companies. They grew 22% last year, and they increased their sales last year by 13 billion dollars in the US. Amazon have everything from price, to service recovery. They know they’re in customer service, and if you look at it they’re a technology company with everything built around customer service. And everything is based on speed.
“Another company really good at the customer experience is an airline called South West airlines. It’s the largest domestic carrier in the United States where everything is built around the customer experience. The prices are extremely competitive, far less than the competition. They don’t charge you for extra luggage or for changing your airline ticket. Most other US airlines, meanwhile, are just there to screw you.
“There’s only a handful of companies that really understand the service strategy. And the companies that are really at good this make a lot of money. They don’t have to worry about the economy – they’re recession-proof. They’re depression-proof.”