This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab
Satisfying your customers isn't good enough in today's competitive markets. Meeting their needs falls short of earning their loyalty. You need to dazzle them; leave them "breathless" whenever they touch your organization.
Here are three steps leaders can take:
1. Hire human-being lovers – people who have an innate desire to serve their fellow human beings. People who get absolute joy from serving and do whatever it takes to see someone's eyes light up.
Customers can't be delighted if an employee would rather be taking inventory.
You can't train people to "love humans." You can train them to "grin" with a smile in their voice, but that's the extent of it.
To select the right candidate, the recruitment interview should always start with the question "Do you love humans?" If you get goosebumps from the answer, hire the person. If not, show them the door.
2. Trash dumb rules – policies and procedures that infuriate customers and drive them kicking and screaming to other organizations.
Rules have a legitimate management control purpose but if they drive business away because customers are unwilling to play by them, what's the point?
Have fun with the idea. I struck a number of "dumb rules committees" to seek out and destroy senselessness; I made it matter by holding my leadership team accountable for implementing the changes.
Rules that serve the customer requires their engagement. Ask them for their input in rule design; they will be impressed that you are open to asking for their help.
Empower your front line to bend rules in special circumstances when they don't make sense to a particular customer and their loyalty is in jeopardy. Not every policy will be acceptable to every customer, so allowing some flexibility is required.
Don't worry, your employees won't give away the farm. Provide them with the skills to balance the needs of both the company and the customer.
3. Turn "oops" into "wow." Sure you do your best to avoid making mistakes, but they will happen. That's life in any organization.
The good news is that if your service recovery is remarkable when you disappoint one of your customers they are more loyal than if the mistake never happened. So how to recover?
Fix the mistake fast and then blow the customer away by surprising them with something they don't expect.
Surprise is magic. People expect the screw-up to be remedied but they don't expect the extra personal attention you give them to atone for the mistake.
Speed is critical. A recovery succeeds only if it is delivered within 24 hours of the oops. After that, save your energy for the next one coming your way.
Leaving people breathless is not rocket science; it's about delivering basic human needs. We want to feel special, treated as individuals and delighted by surprise.
Stand-out leaders understand this and create organizations to deliver.
Roy Osing (@RoyOsing) is a former executive vice-president of Telus with over 33 years of leadership experience. He is a blogger, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series Be Different or Be Dead.