I have a confession. I’m a SECS addict.

I'm a SECS addict

I have a confession. I’m a SECS addict. I have long been addicted to uncovering the secrets of excellent customer service [SECS]. What makes one business stand out from the rest? What constitutes great SECS and earns you the title of SECSpert!?

So I have pondered, reflected and solicited great advice in my search to uncover the secrets.

Although your customers won’t love you if you give bad service, your competitors will.
— Kate Zabriskie

According to Ken Blanchard, feedback is a gift. Why then do some business owners become defensive when they hear that the foreplay afforded by their business did not constitute great SECS? Surely you are better to hear first-hand experiences first-hand and to thank people for the time taken in providing you with feedback that could grow and improve your business, than you are to become defensive and hide behind mirrored excuses.

Before a business owner dismisses a customer’s feedback as unimportant, they should consider the research conducted by US firm TARP: For every 1 customer who bothers to complain, 26 others remained silent and an average of 1,560 people will hear about at least one of these unhappy experiences. That’s right. On average, each unhappy customer will tell 10 people, who in turn will tell 5 others. That’s a lot of negative press you are getting for failing to deliver great SECS! Can you really afford not to listen!

Nobody raves about average.
— Bill Quiseng

Whilst I get that SECS is often an individual event, there are certain basics that need to be offered if you are to fall under the category of SECSpert!

5 steps to become a SECSpert

1.     Make eyes with me

Acknowledge my existence, engage my interest. I love eye contact and a smile. Let me know that you know that I exist.

SECS in action! When you walk into a café and the barista has 20 orders in line, but still takes the time to make eye contact with you, smile and acknowledge that they will be with you as soon as they can. The smile they project leaves no doubt that they are happy to be there and that they are glad you are there too to enjoy the best cup of coffee you can ever imagine.

2.     Set the mood

Details matter. Don’t turn me off by neglecting the basics. Preparation and planning pay off! Make me feel comfortable and special. Let me know you would like me to stay.

SECS in action! No one wants to rest their elbows on a soggy bar or bench top and yes toilet paper matters! Reflect on your music selection, the ambience you are creating. Does the lighting reflect the mood; or did you set and forget it?

3.     Engage in foreplay

Timing is everything; don’t leave me waiting too long. I am happy to wait if you keep my attention. Chat, engage and entice me. It’s your playground, make it fun!

SECS in action! The restaurant is busy; we can see that it is. You come by to acknowledge our existence, let us know that we matter, there’s a wait time – can you get us a drink or more bread. You afford us the opportunity to let you know if the delay impacts on our plans or if we are happy to relax and enjoy your service and company. That’s SECS in action! We can adjust our expectations and perceptions based on an informed decision.

4.     Communicate the passion

I’ve told you what I want; now it’s time to deliver. Let’s get down to business. I have needs and expectations which must be met; if you don’t service me – someone else will!

SECS in action! If I order a double shot skim milk latte and pay; then that’s what I expect to be provided with, and in a reasonable timeframe. I don’t want to feel like I’m an inconvenience and you had to go out of your way. A customer is the reason for your job and not an interruption to your schedule, so please act like you care and be professional.

5.     Don’t be a one night stand

Say good bye and thank me; always leave me wanting more. You want me to give you rave reviews and have me return for more.

SECS in action! The goodbye after payment is as important as the acknowledgement you gave us on arrival. You need to make sure that our experience was a positive one and that it isn’t the last interaction we ever have with you. Each time that you engage with me may be our last, so make each touch point memorable leaving me with a positive impression long after I have left.

To connect with new customers don’t try to get inside their heads. Get inside their hearts. Create an emotional connection.
— Bill Quiseng

SECSpert advice

Don’t just take my word on the subject; let’s hear from great operators on why they see value in listening to and responding to their customers.

Business buzz words and the latest customer service jargon can make any company look and feel as if it is customer centric in business today. However, it is the businesses that engage with their customers through simple questioning, regular surveying of their product offering and services and who then adapt where possible or deliver on this feedback, that build customer loyalty and sustainable partnerships. This is not a new or even the latest business approach; it is simply a tried and tested strategy that is proven to deliver value in a customer or supplier relationship. It is also the expectation of every customer, yet so many companies still tell their customers what they need and fail to listen. Business 101 – Feedback drives businesses forward. Listen, learn and adapt.
— Phillip Bracefield / General Manager – Nutrition / Farmlands Co-operative Society Limited [Annual turnover $2.5 billion NZD]
Working in the healthcare industry, our customers are mostly our patients and their families and carers. Unlike many other industries, our customers generally do not choose to see us; their health condition forces them to seek us out. This means that we see them at a crucial time in their lives. Our staff must have a desire to help others and have great communication skills. Listening, and I mean really listening to the patient and responding to their needs is vitally important to beneficial health outcomes. Listening means improved communication, less errors, and a better understanding of the patients concerns and so we are better equipped to deal with their issues.
— Jacqueline Aguiar / A/Coordinator, Corporate Nursing / Armadale Health Service
Honest feedback from our client base is imperative to build a sustainable business model. If you don’t know and understand what your target audience wants then how can you expect to continue to fulfil (or exceed) their expectations? I encourage an ‘open door policy’ to ensure that I am not getting a ‘diluted’ response from our clientele. If you take an objective approach and you are open to honest feedback, you can adjust your business methods to cater to the ever changing demands of any market.
— Matt Nylander / Property Consultant - Sell Lease Property WA / Multi award winning real estate professional
We all at times grow weary of customers ‘always being right’; however it’s those customers that help us to grow our business. No matter what the feedback is you need to LISTEN. Good or bad, customer feedback can be used to correct procedures, or give you and your staff a pat on the back. The more we listen, the better we become.
— Tanya Halcrow / Marketing Manager / Bidvest Fresh Wanaka
Three things you always need to keep top of mind when it comes to the relationship you have with your customers: When you make a mistake you should admit it, learn from it and do your best not to repeat it.
— Richard Moroney / Venue Manager / The Dunsborough Hotel
Without listening to your customers, which shows empathy and without responding which demonstrates awareness and care, there is no customer service and therefore a likely business failure.
— Peter Lech / Proprietor / Karta Drink
My industry’s a social one, but it’s often forgotten that part of conversation is listening. If you’re not listening and responding to your audience on Social Media you are missing the point. People will disengage from you, and likely straight into the arms of your competitors. What better way to hear the good and bad about your product or service than to listen to feedback from those who use it!
— Carma Levene / Social Media Specialist / The Social Chameleon

The basis of SECS is understanding your Moments of Truth

The concept I have long been a fan of in reviewing the level of SECS afforded by a business first came onto the management radar screen in the early 1980’s when Jan Carlzon was brought into Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) as the new CEO. Within a year of his taking over the position the company was back in the black and earned a reputation as one of the world’s best airlines. Jan accomplished this turn around by analysing and improving customer touch points or Moments of Truth. Reviewing every customer interaction opportunity, Jan ensured that the service afforded by SAS at each touch point was professional and user friendly from the perspective of the customer.

Any contact with the customer is a ‘Moment of Truth’ in so far as we have the opportunity to create a moment of magic, or conversely, a moment of misery.
— Jan Carlzon, CEO Scandinavian Airlines

Reviewing your Moments of Truth

Every business should regularly review their customer touch points or Moments of Truth, challenging whether each interaction experienced by a customer is a positive, negative or redundant one. Strategies should then be enabled to minimise the chance of a negative opportunity occurring and to enhance the likelihood of an exceptional interaction. Jan also suggests that there are often customer touch points in our sequence of service that serve no purpose for the customer; businesses should challenge whether in fact they should keep them.

Such a simple process to complete for you to gauge how you are performing through the eyes of your customer. If you would like Scope to facilitate a SECS session for you, don’t hesitate to contact us. The benefits afforded will be returned ten-fold.

SECS on easel

Want more? MJ shares her thoughts and tips on becoming a SECSpert...click on the video link below.

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Maria-Jane Satterthwaite

After being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at 29, MJ knew her journey was going to be unique! 

No way was she going to waste any of her years working 9-5 under poor leadership! She seized the opportunity to become an independent worker; starting her own Registered Training Organisation, Scope Vision.

MJ’s curiosity into what drives people, and businesses, to achieve success has been the passion recognised in her award-winning business. The drive to continue to train and embrace lifelong learning has been her key to success, and she wants to see this happen for others.

20 years on, the passion and curiosity she’s used to shape the businesses she works with, and her longevity in these relationships have inspired her to think about the future of work; what this will mean for workers in general and indeed her own business. Find out more about MJ