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What is customer service culture? It’s how your company views, treats and engages with employees – or how it intends to. While the end results depend on individual customer-facing employee behaviors and the type of support provided by back-office employees and technology, the source of these comes from the larger ethos that exists and supports or sabotages excellent customer service performance and employee contract.
In my work as a customer service and transformation consultant expert, I balance the time and resources I devote to more practical efforts, such as customer service training and e-learning production, with the larger issues of creating an appropriate customer service culture. It really is that kind of important. Here are ten ways to dig deeper into what matters here and jump-start your culture results.
1. Create a meaningful statement of intent
It can be just one long sentence. Ideally, it encapsulates your company’s values and goals, especially in how you strive to support your customers.
Think of the Mayo Clinic’s “Patients Needs First” or the type adopted by five star and other luxury hotels, such as “We strive to treat guests as we would like to be treated” from the Four Seasons Hotel or “We turn moments into memories” from the Fairmont Hotel. It should be something your staff can easily memorize and embody in their day-to-day work, not a jargon-laden, pompous, multi-page job destined to linger in someone’s drawer, never to be seen again.
2. Develop a philosophical framework
It can be slightly longer but brief, containing 9-12 principles. Socialize them throughout your business by any means at your disposal. I would suggest tolerating this in a smaller format on an accordion-folded laminated business card for easy employee reference.
These principles should guide your staff in their interactions with customers and remind them of what is most important in their daily work. (Sounds silly? The Ritz-Carlton hotel company has taken this approach since 1983. Their accordion-fold business card — “the credo card” — is carried by every employee on-site and on the phone.)
3. Show explicit and frequent support for employee empowerment
Do this while emphasizing the importance of judgment calls and congratulate the employees to show initiative. This helps to foster a sense of trust and autonomy among staff, which ultimately leads to better customer service for customers – partly because of the creativity it engenders in employees and partly because the problems (and opportunities!) can be resolved in real time. times by the first employee who meets them, no need for a customer to suffer “I need to talk to my manager before I can help you in this way.”
4. Hire personalities
Focus on personality traits when selecting employees rather than only valuing skills and previous experience, as employees may have varying aptitudes for the department. This is important because not everyone is cut out for customer service, and having employees who are empathetic, kind, and willing to genuinely connect with customers is more important.
5. Involve senior management
Involve the CEO or the senior management in the integration of new recruits to emphasize the importance of service from the outset. This helps demonstrate the importance your company places on excellent service, which spills over throughout your organization. When employees see that their CEO or other senior executives prioritize service excellence, it can help instill a sense of belonging and worth in employees.
6. Perform a small daily “customer service refresh” ritual
I recommend keeping it to 8 minutes or less! In this ritual, discuss a single principle of customer service excellence and recognize the excellent service provided by employees. This is another great way to reinforce values and create a positive feedback loop for employees. By discussing customer service best practices during a daily huddle or similar team meeting, you can help foster a culture of continuous improvement.
7. Lead by example
Manage from the ground up to provide support for your service culture as well as to provide an opportunity for “instant correction”. Give the example is essential when it comes to customer service. You can’t expect employees to prioritize service if they can’t see you doing it yourself. By stepping out of your office and interacting with customers, you can demonstrate the importance of service to your employees and show them what it looks like in practice. Equally important, seeing, in real time, how your frontline customer service can make a difference, as it allows you to correct missteps before they escalate and eventually become the norm.
8. Provide In-Depth Customer Service Training
This ensures that all employees have the necessary tools to provide the best service. Make sure this includes “situational empathy” training and the all-important service recovery training (working with upset customers) that will ensure success in even the stickiest of situations. My business offers training that includes all of the above, with an exclusive focus on customer service and the culture in which it resides.
9. Foster a lateral service philosophy
This philosophy is one where everyone steps in, including senior executives, to get things done. When employees see that senior leaders are willing to roll up their sleeves and help out when needed, it can help foster team spirit and collaboration. (Think Disney: how anyone, even an executive wearing a suit, will interrupt their walk in the park to deal with the trash they encounter.) Additionally, during busy times or difficult service scenarios, it can be beneficial for everyone to participate and lend a hand, both because of the effort expended and the improved morale that this can lead to.
10. Encourage innovation from all employees
Nothing can be more frustrating for a well-meaning customer-facing employee than having to solve the same problem over and over or working with cumbersome tools when that employee has an idea on how to improve.
By implementing these customer service culture enablers, you can create the foundation for superior customer service and employee engagement to help your business succeed. These tactics require long-term dedication and attention. Creating a culture of service excellence is an ongoing commitment that requires continual refinement and improvement. But the payoff can be significant: happier customers, engaged employees, and a better bottom line.