School of Business Entrepreneurship Conference. He said that their customers defined luxury not just in terms of elegant surroundings but also time. The management was astute enough to understand this and sought to provide their clients the luxury of time through their timely and impeccable service. This required people at the front-line—doormen, bellmen, waiters—to be empowered to make decisions that they felt were necessary to satisfy their guests. At Starbucks, the front-line staff is authorised to give ‘care tokens’ in the form of free coupons to customers who have had to wait or those who might otherwise be disgruntled.
Lack of focus: The success of any initiative hinges on the drive and support of the senior leadership. Ravikumar attributes the deficit in service levels to the lower shades of focus accorded to customer service by the top management. This, he says, is borne out of the fact that customer service heads are frequently placed a couple of notches below marketing heads in organisational structure charts.
Customer service, a team game: Customer orientation cannot be the responsibility of a single department as it does not work as a standalone project. It requires a change in mindset and an integrated approach that is ingrained in the organisation’s DNA. Pratap points out that Maersk is seeking to promote this through training and the dissemination of its cultural amplifiers—focus, simplicity, team work—which inherently embody the essence of customer orientation. Chandrashekhar Mukherjee, vice-president, Human Resources, National Stock Exchange, cites the example of an FMCG company he has worked with earlier, where everyone, irrespective of function or role, is expected to visit customers to gather feedback and participate in on-shelf quality audits of products. This not only helps establish a closer rapport with the customers, but also generates greater interdepartmental understanding.
The author is director of Delta Learning, a human resources consulting and training company