The chain restaurant branded itself as a fun place to eat. In reality, it often wasn’t.
Servers struggled to provide fun service because they had too much to think about. The company had a litany of service steps, procedures, and brand promises to follow.
It was enough to make your head spin:
- Four service focus areas
- Four separate cornerstones of guest experience
- Sixteen steps for serving every guest
- An internal customer service slogan
- A customer-focused mission statement
It was a challenge to keep all of it straight. Even the chain’s executive team didn’t agree on what was most important. Servers often found themselves just trying to be efficient.
These servers were inundated with Too Much Information, or TMI. It’s an epidemic that affects many customer service employees in a wide variety of industries.
TMI causes employees to divert critical brain power away from focusing on their customers. It’s harder for them to build rapport and critical opportunities to serve are missed.
In many organizations, customer service TMI comes in the form of too many service steps, standards, and principles. One contact center asked its agents to follow 35 steps on every call. A credit union asked its tellers to follow 21 steps with every member interaction.
TMI can even have a negative impact on customers. The venerable McDonald’s brand has suffered in part due to a dizzying array of menu options. Their menu has bloated to 121 distinct items (not counting different sizes), up from just 26 in 1980.
TMI creates noise that makes it hard for customer service employees to prioritize service. The solution is to cut out the noise.
Home Depot is a success story that I profiled in my book, Service Failure.
Between 2007 and 2010, they embarked on an ambitious simplification program in an effort to improve customer service. Marvin Ellison, Vice President of U.S. stores, said in an interview:
First, we simplified things for the stores, giving them three primary things to focus on: remaining in stock, store appearance, and customer service.
One example was 200 weekly reports and emails that were sent to each store. These were merged into a one-page scorecard. Information and tasks had previously overwhelmed both managers and employees. Now, their top three priorities were clear.
The results were impressive. Home Depot increased their American Customer Satisfaction Index score from 67% to 75%. Their net promoter score increased from 48% to 68% during this same time.
The restaurant chain improved service quality by taking a similar approach.
First, their executive team and store managers all agreed that the company’s mission was the most important description of outstanding customer service. This gave everyone a clear customer service vision to follow.
They also paired the sixteen service steps down to eight guidelines. These guidelines emphasized fun service over efficiency, which was the hallmark of the restaurant’s brand.
Cutting through the information clutter requires organizations to identify what’s truly important. Here are three steps you can take.
Step 1: Articulate a customer service vision. This is a clear definition of outstanding customer service that is shared by all employees. It should serve as a compass to help point employees in the right direction. You can download the customer service vision worksheet to create one for your organization.
Step 2: Measure what’s most important. Companies measure a lot of stuff, but often ignore what should be their top priorities. If service is your top priority, then make those metrics front and center. Better yet, set a goal around service. You can use the SMART goal worksheet to do this.
Step 3: Focus on the priority. Employees understand something’s importance by how often you talk about it. Simplify your messages to focus on the top priority. Written communication, team meetings, and one-on-one conversations should all be focused and concise.
Customer service TMI comes from the top. Elite customer service leaders know this and obsessively protect their employees from TMI to help them stay focused.