Customer Service and Growth (In That Order)
ABS Technology’s growth goals aren’t to grow for the sake of it. We aim to grow intelligently over time that so that we can continue to provide exceptional client outcomes, jobs and give back to the communities in which we do business. Our new VP of Strategy & Operations, Bryan Campbell, provides his thoughts and insight on growth initiatives and the importance of client focus.
Businesses spend considerable resources, including time and money, on growth initiatives. Absent growth, the risk of stagnation increases. As one of my MBA professors put it “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” While growth creates its own set of issues and challenges, among them staffing and production constraints, administrative demands, and capital requirements, consistently staying the same in business presents the risk of obsolescence. Recognizing customer service as the key component of strategic growth is not surprising but the implementation of the concept can be complicated. In college, customer service is theorized and taught conceptually in business courses. Teaching customer service in my experience has been more trial-and-error than textbook, which intuitively makes sense as human interaction is highly personal and subjective. There are, however, a few pillars of understanding for customer service which should be considered in any growth initiative:
Listening: What do your current customers share with you about your organization’s customer service? What do your customers share with other community influencers about your customer service? Are you asking and paying attention to their assessment of current state, concerns, aspirations and needs?
Honesty: How honest are your customers with you about your strengths and weaknesses? Is your team self-assessing strengths and weaknesses and addressing opportunities for improvement?
Functionality: If expanding service offerings, is your customer service methodology transferrable to new departments? This is as much a cultural consideration as capacity and feasibility considerations.
Balance: How will you deploy resources for growth without compromising existing customer service strengths?
Leverage and Scalability: Who in your organization would your customers identify as the best customer service providers? Who would your employees identify? If the customers and employees identify different personnel, how can you facilitate collaboration? Leveraging and scaling these leaders’ strengths in customer service can help establish best practices as cornerstones to your growth initiative, in addition to building camaraderie among your team.
Team Building: Is every member working as a team to provide the best customer service? If not, how do you lead by example and grow your team members to have the right focus? How do you reinforce and reward the right behaviors and results?
Growth initiatives in businesses can provide stakeholders opportunities for success but can also lead to problematic changes in cultural and enterprise values if the customer service component is not integral and discussed early and often. Having a seat at the table for strategic conversations has long been a powerful measurement tool for client service in any industry. In our fast-paced, technologically advancing world, focusing on customers can unintentionally become secondary to growth conversations. Instead, have customer service drive each growth conversation – you’ll be rewarded. If your growth initiative is falling short of expectations, refocus on your customers and embrace a pivot to your thinking and strategy. If your growth initiative is exceeding expectations, chances are your people are customer service gurus.
This article was originally posted on Bryan Campbell’s LinkedIn on February 22, 2016.
Bryan Campbell, CPA, MBA is the VP of Strategy and Operations at ABS. He is also the creator and leader of Innovate: Norfolk and he has been the recipient of several awards to include the Top 5 Under 35 from the Virginia Society of CPAs, Top 40 Under 40 from Inside Business and Outstanding Young Alumnus from the University of Mary Washington.