In my opinion - Institute of Management companion and chairman of Kwik-Fit Holdings Sir Tom Farmer says companies should be striving for 'customer delight'.
It should be the ultimate goal of any company to achieve 100% customer 'delight'. The fact that this is almost certainly beyond reach should not deter a company from striving to attain these heights. It should become an obsession - a constant desire that companies seek with an unrelenting passion.
The world's most successful companies place at the heart of their businesses continuous improvement in customer care and service. It is the foundation of business success, progress and profits. The desire to do that little bit extra for your customers must be embedded in the company culture and adopted by every employee.
As we near the end of the century, globalisation is increasing and market forces are standardising prices and delivery. Walk down any high street and individual prices will be much the same in each shop.
The differentiating factor has to be service. Customers must trust an organisation and its people. They must feel that they are going to get value for money and that, if something goes wrong, a company will do all that it can to put it right.
It follows, therefore, that people and interpersonal relationships must be the priority. The attitude and desire of our people to go that little bit further and deliver customer delight is of paramount importance. And the key to delivering that objective is a self-motivated workforce.
Creating a committed workforce that delivers on customer service is easy to write about but harder to achieve. Taking action to train and develop people and instil a corporate culture of customer 'delight' must be an on-going activity from day one. Effective and continuous communication with staff is central to improving customer service.
On top of that, there are two important factors in building a self-motivated team of people - the opportunity to earn through increased effort, and trust in the management to give the utmost support.
If you look at most successful companies, you will generally find remuneration packages which reward people's efforts. At Kwik-Fit, we employ over 10,000 people and recognise their contribution to our growth and expansion by ensuring that they share in the profits they have helped to create. Their contribution to the growth and expansion of the group is well recognised through our remuneration packages, our profit-sharing scheme and a share scheme whereby everyone who has completed three years of service is allocated free shares in the company. This year, more than 2,300 people will benefit from the initiative. People will also enjoy their job and do it better if they have trust in their managers. Continuous learning and training, allied with the support they require, are vital. If you have a satisfied team, you are more likely to get a satisfied customer.
In the constant quest to improve service, you must listen to your customers at all times. Delivering customer delight can never be an exact science.
At Kwik-Fit, we maintain the momentum by carrying out extensive customer surveys. During the last financial year, we contacted over one million customers to ask them about our levels of service. Every evening, we telephone 5,000 customers within 72 hours of their visit to a Kwik-Fit centre to ensure that they have been fully satisfied with the service they received. Feedback indicates that 98.2% are satisfied with the service. Of the other 1.8%, most people are not critical but have some valid observations to make. Only about one-half of 1% have been actually dissatisfied.
While some might be more than happy with these ratings, we must continue to strive to eliminate dissatisfaction. We can also do more to get behind these statistics. The telephone surveys and customer response cards give you only a snapshot. So to delve deeper and find out more about our service, we run focus groups that enable us to get closer to customers' views.
Companies should do all they can to invite comments and complaints - a core belief of Kwik-Fit since our launch in 1971.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to the human factor. If we accept that people are the key to customer satisfaction, we must all, as managers, do more to consider the needs and demands of our staff.
The phrase 'our people are our greatest asset' trips easily off the tongue, but how much time, energy and thought do we, as managers, put into this vital subject on a day-to-day basis?
Ensuring improvement in customer service and creating a dedicated workforce requires managers to put more thought into the needs of their people.
Ask yourself: what are you going to do today to increase the motivation of your workforce? We are all guilty of not doing enough in this vital area.
If we can put more energy and time into assessing the needs of our staff, we shall create better and more motivated people. Improved service will inevitably follow. The target must be to make our organisations the best that our people can work for, and the best our customers and suppliers can deal with.
The recognition of these processes was demonstrated at the recent announcement of the recommended bid for Kwik-Fit by Ford Motor Company, when one senior Ford executives said: 'We searched around the world for a good model on which to build. The Kwik-Fit model is outstanding. Kwik-Fit's real strength is in the area of customer relationships. Ford has got a lot to learn from them.'.