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4 Steps to Spectacular Customer Service A simple, four-step process can help you create the type of business that draws customers in again and again.

Most towns have at least one "flashpoint" business--aplace that's famous for its turbo-charged workers and lines ofeager customers. These are the local hot spots that are"always jumping," places in which employee motivation andcustomer satisfaction fuel each other in a flashpoint of contagiousenthusiasm.

But flashpoint businesses don't just happen by luckyaccident. They have to be made to happen. If there aren't manysuch businesses, it can only be because so few owners and managersunderstand the simple four-step process for creating a flashpointculture in their own workplaces.

Not convinced such a process could be that simple? Not sure anysuch process could ever work in your own business setting?Here's a quick and easy way to find out.

Step 1: Invite your employees to come up with some ideas forimproving the customer experience. For this process to work,the ideas for changes in behavior or procedure need to come fromthe workers themselves. The old way is to dictate in memos ortraining programs the kinds of behaviors management wants employeesto adopt, and then try to legislate these new behaviors into theworkplace--a way that's never worked. Employees will only getbehind a change if it's one they believe in. And employees arealways more likely to believe in a change if the idea for it comesfrom them, instead of their bosses.

Step 2: Choose one employee idea and help your employeesimplement it successfully. The objective here is to make theemployees who came up with the idea look like heroes in yourcustomers' eyes. If there are costs associated with the idea,helping with implementation will mean providing funding for it.(Think of this cost as an investment in positive word-of-mouth, themost effective form of advertising on the planet.) If the idearequires changing a policy or procedure, do everything possible tomake the change. Eliminate all obstacles to successfulimplementation of the employees' initiative.

Step 3: Make it easy for customers to give positive feedbackabout the new initiative. It's always good businesspractice to find out and listen to what your customers have tosay--but few businesses make it convenient and easy for customersto give feedback on a regular basis. To test this process, make apoint of soliciting feedback that relates specifically to the ideayour employees implemented. Use various methods to collectfeedback, especially that most powerful method of all: simpleface-to-face conversation with your customers themselves.

Step 4: Let your employees bask in the motivational effect ofthe positive feedback. This is where the magic begins.Let's say an employee came up with the idea of installing abench so senior citizens would no longer have to stand whilewaiting in line. When delighted seniors begin to rave about theconvenience of the bench, tell them, "This bench was actuallyTerry's idea. In fact, Terry, could you come over here for amoment? These folks would like to tell you something about yourbench."

Then watch the effect this feedback has on Terry. You'reseeing the first spark of the flashpoint effect: customersatisfaction driving up employee motivation, and employeemotivation driving up customer satisfaction.

Once you've seen how well the process works, apply it again.And again. Keep the ball rolling by holding regular employeebrainstorming sessions to come up with a rich supply of new ways todelight customers. Break a typical customer transaction down intoits individual steps, and get employees thinking about ways to adda "wow factor" element in each step. You probablywon't want to implement every idea, of course, but make sureenough are implemented to keep the positive customer feedbackflowing in. And give your staffers opportunities to hear thisfeedback directly from their customers. Immediate, positivefeedback from delighted customers is the primary motivational fuelall flashpoint businesses use to keep the fires of employeeenthusiasm burning hot and bright.

A highly-detailed facilitation guide for thekind of employee brainstorming sessions described above is outlinedin customer-focus consultant Paul Levesque's book, Customer Service From The Inside Out Made Easy(EntrepreneurPress). Read an excerpt at

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