Thought leadership

There’s no doubt about it, bad customer service can damage your brand; sometimes beyond repair. When you consider that people are far more likely to share a bad experience than a good one, and that often they will do this via the very public platform of social media, the importance of consistently delivering excellent service becomes crystal clear. Your product might be great; but so might your competitor’s and ultimately, people will vote with their feet. 

So, how do you deliver unforgettable customer service? In my experience, it’s involves something that many businesses overlook: culture. Creating a strong company culture starts with recruitment; what kinds of people do you look for? Do you look for attitude or academic credentials? Personally, I think it’s all about attitude, not skillset. After all, skills can be taught whereas attitude is ingrained. At UKFast, we use psychometric testing at our assessment days to compare candidates’ core values against our own, which include being supportive, passionate and professional. 

We’re fortunate that, after fifteen years in business, we have been able to buy an old hotel, which we converted into an outward bounds training centre in Wales for our employees. Here, we take small groups to spend a couple of days outside of the office, taking part in raft-building and the ultimate challenge – climbing Mount Snowdon. It’s here that we really see that supportive nature in some people and we earmark these individuals as future managers.

Critics might argue that trips like these are of no real benefit, but I’d have to disagree. Our teams return to the office having accomplished something they might never have thought they’d be able to do. Knowing that you can always do more and going the extra mile – both metaphorically and, in our case, literally – is integral to providing great customer service.  Additionally, it’s a great opportunity to bring people together to share an experience and feel part of a close knit team. Even before we had the training centre, we used to take tents and camp out on the mountains.

So many employers think their responsibility ends at paying a wage. I’ve heard people say, “I pay them to turn up!” And turn up they will – then switch off! Your employees are the most important part of your business. It’s our job as business owners to continually motivate and engage them. At UKFast, we transformed the workspace into somewhere our teams love to be.

We canvassed opinions from across the business and tried to implement as many suggestions as we can, from an onsite bar (fully stocked, of course) for beers on Friday afternoons, to a gym and steam room to keep people fit physically and mentally, to a training and education department so that our staff members feel like they are continually progressing and learning. In life, as in nature, you’re either growing or you’re dying. If your employees feel bored and unchallenged, this will come across to your customers.

Now, I know people – especially accountants – might question the value of this, but we measure our performance as a business using Net Promoter Score (NPS), which is an industry-recognised method of measuring customer satisfaction. Before a support ticket can be officially closed, clients have the option to feed back on the service they’ve received. Our NPS is +73, while the UK average is around +7. As a company, we’ve grown year-on-year and, last year, we won the award for Best Customer Service at the Comms Dealer Reseller awards. I firmly believe that going above and beyond for your employees and investing in their wellbeing has a huge impact on profitability, and businesses that ignore it are missing a trick. I’m not saying we get everything right as a business and we are far from being the finished article, but I am immensely proud of the team and their commitment to helping our clients. 

A good way to look at it is this: word of mouth is a form of advertising. Would you pay for an advert that said you were mediocre? No business in their right mind would throw money away to do that! The only way to ensure outstanding customer service is to make sure the people looking after your clients are well-trained, happy and healthy. The way you treat them is reflected in how they treat the customer; so make it extraordinary and make it something they simply can’t find anywhere else.

Lawrence Jones is chief exec at internet hosting firm UKFast 

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