Service excellence is a matter of organisational culture and larger vision and goals. It is rarely as subjective as the last person who came in contact with your customers.

In our experience, most organisations penalise employees for poor service experience. They believe that the only way to satisfy customers is in the hands of frontline employees. However given that it’s the very same employees who have to deal with the brunt of an angry customer, the chances of them deliberately ignoring the right thing to do is very, very slim. More often than not, they do the very best they can amidst the existing structures and processes dealt out to them.

The answer is in product and processes, not people
Often, in a race to get the most sign ups, subscribers, users and customers, brands promise more than they can logistically deliver. Whether it is “same day delivery”, a 24-hour installation timeline, a new cutting edge product or even just its availability in the stores, promises matter. If they are overstated and expectations are not managed, it will naturally result in angry customers. There is practically nothing your frontline employees can do in these cases but to ride the storm. However, often stringent processes, penalizing long calls and other such old-fashioned business norms don’t empower frontline employees to solve the issue at hand.

So what can be done?
Reallocate resources. Evaluating frontline staff on the basis of Customer Satisfaction Survey scores is an easy bet. But does it ever solve anything? Rarely. Instead, consider changing identifying process loopholes that lead to dissatisfied customers. Evaluate product quality control and sales and marketing communication before you come down to frontline staff.

Identify pain points early in the process
When you have a new product or service about to be launched, bring in your trained customer service experts and ask them what pain points they expect once the product or service hits the market. After several years of problem solving, they are often sitting on a wealth of knowledge when it comes to customers’ response. Another way to do it is to do a pilot run with a panel of target customers. You can then glean the insights and strengthen the product or service ahead of its launch, thus preventing poor experience.

Communicate potential issues to customers – pointedly and on time
Whether it is a service failure or sold out stock, informing customers in a timely manner can prevent the unnecessary angst that comes when these expectations are not managed.

The role of frontline staff, although crucial, is rarely the most important one when it comes to Customer Satisfaction. Several variables are at play, both in communications as well as other functions. Service excellence is a cultural function, a product of customer delight DNA that kicks off in the corner office and spreads through every other function in the organisation. While frontline staff are the ones that will more often than not deliver this experience, other functions must come together to make it happen.

As Jeff Bezos, a customer obsession guru if there ever was one, puts it so succinctly, “The best customer service is if the customer doesn’t need to call you, doesn’t need to talk to you. It just works.” Clearly, this level of customer service and experience takes vision, years of practice, and the coming together of the entire organisation, not only your frontline staff.