The ugly truth about customer excellence

The ugly truth about customer excellence
We Finns often critique ourselves for not being good at sales and marketing. This was proven to be more than just a myth in a poll presented in a recent Finnish TV document. While it seems that this is something we openly admit to, are we as eager to admit that we don’t really understand our customers? Or that we are not able to serve customers in the best possibly manner? I believe not.


Still the root cause for lacking skills, motivation or struggling sales and marketing efforts may actually lie in our lacking customer understanding. We often hear managers of different businesses say that their customer service is excellent and that it is one of their competitive advantages. However, almost as often we hear customers, perhaps even more commonly international customers, say that Finns do not know how to provide excellent customer service.


The question is of course how we define excellent customer service.


We might too often think it is just about being able to provide a good quality product or service that fulfills our promises and meets deadlines, combined with a friendly enough conversation sharing relevant facts. Unfortunately, this is just not enough to be able to compete globally. A new kind of broader understanding of customer and service excellence is needed to enhance success of many Finnish businesses. The entire customer journey should be in focus. From the first touchpoint to a product or service, to experiencing the design, to the actual buying decision, to delivery and finally to after sales/service and how this whole chain supports the total customer experience. Often this involves more emotions than hard facts, more human dimensions than just a fluent process, even though these also need be in their place.


Customer excellence is something that is created through every touchpoint, both online and offline as well as in both human and spatial context. Therefore, customer excellence concerns all parts of an organization. It should be on the top of the agenda for HR, R&D, production, sales, marketing, ICT, technical support, business development, controlling as well as for the executive leadership team. What is essential in creating customer excellence, is how all the pieces fit together. But more than anything, it is about how valuable and appreciated our customers feel themselves. How they were emotionally met and touched and how their expectations were exceeded. Also the physical environment and aesthetics play a significant role in the total experience and should not be underestimated. Even though Finns might appreciate simplicity, the case might be totally different with customers coming from different corners of the world.


Therefore one elementary lesson in customer excellence, is to do one’s homework well: to really find out what different customers expect and appreciate, not just base our choices on educated guesses. In many businesses we are only starting to realize the ‘ugly truth’ about our actual service standard from an international perspective. On the other hand, some of us may have experience of some great Finnish pioneers to benchmark against when it comes to customer excellence like KONE, Kovanen, Nautor, Alko, that give us hope of a brighter future.