Sunstone is 100% committed to both keeping our employees safe and doing well as a company, but we all deal with life struggles and changes differently. We concentrate on the current best practices for keeping our employees safe while keeping quality work as a top priority, and providing a remote work option for our employees has been one such effective strategy. It brings me great joy to report that, so far, we have effectively maintained both the health and employment of all our employees. As I was recently reflecting on this, I decided to ask Al Secchi, our global customer support and sales manager, what he has learned professionally these past two years.
Matt Stevenson: Al, thank you for joining the conversation. What have you and the team learned over the past few years on how to serve our customers?
Al Secchi: Thank you Matt, it’s great to be able to share the ideas my team came up with to answer that very question—how to best serve our customers in this time of unprecedented challenges.
We all got through a pandemic, but we also saw how fragile our global supply chains can be. As time went on, a “new normal” set in that redefined our industry, the country, and the world. Businesses closed, jobs were lost, and essential workers were put into a new environment—one whose war cry centered on being “safe and healthy.” Those who were required to go into the office had to wear masks, had their temperatures taken when they walked in the door and throughout their day, had to wash and disinfect continuously, and had to maintain a safe six-foot distance from each other. Workers who could work remotely did so.
Stevenson: How did Sunstone create a customer-centric environment in this type of situation?
Secchi: With so many changes and unknowns, the critical part of creating a customer-centric work environment was put at risk. Some businesses needed to reduce work hours, cut staff, or simply couldn’t deliver the product or service that they had promised to their customers. Company buyers and consumers alike were forced to search for new, reliable sources. Without a reliable source, businesses struggled to maintain production, causing a domino effect further down the supply chain—no materials, parts, product, sales, revenue and ultimately, no jobs. Customer service people had their work cut out for them; they had to ensure ongoing business while providing reassurance and peace of mind to both their existing customer base and new customer prospects.
Stevenson: What does customer service look like now, or rather, what does it need to look like to not only meet but exceed the needs of customers so that it’s memorable enough to create loyal customer advocates? How do we create this exceptional level of service in today’s world?
Secchi: Simply put, it takes a team. Not just any team, but a team of committed customer service professionals who understand both the challenges of the company they work for as well as the needs and expectations of the customers that they also work for. To be able to support a customer and provide the highest level of service, you must first know what you can commit to and how best that commitment fits into the customer’s supply chain—both in product and delivery. After all, isn’t that what we all want when we’re looking for a product or service—a company whose employees understand your needs and are willing to do whatever possible to meet those needs?
Stevenson: What do you think customers are looking for?
Secchi: With all the uncertainty, the one shining light is how a business focuses on its customers and helps them be successful. Sure, everything may be a little different, but the customer’s need is still there, and meeting that need is the most important thing. Customers are looking for a “reliable partner” that shows an understanding of their needs; one that gains their confidence and builds a level of trust that they can feel good about. Along with this, customers want to be able to reach you easily in a way they’re comfortable with, so you need to provide multiple communication channels via technology—phone, chat, email, and text—so customers can feel confident about you and your work. They also want you to be proactive in contacting them with both the good news and the not so good news. The important thing is that you proactively reach out and be that honest, helpful partner they are looking for. Don’t make them have to contact you; you need to reach out to them in an honest, helpful, and timely fashion.
Stevenson: Can you give an example of how you do this?
Secchi: I tell my customer service team to consider themselves master chefs with “customer service” as a menu option and a main dish that everyone wants to be tasty and satisfying.
Stevenson: Thank you Al, it’s great that your team strives to give customers peace of mind and improve their experience. I agree that it does take a team. A big shout out to you and your team for their hard work. I love how each member thinks of themselves as a master chef, allowing them to cater and personalize the experience for each customer in each evolving situation.
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This column originally appeared in the December 2022 issue of Design007 Magazine.