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10 steps to build a true customer service culture

by Ana Lopez
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What is a customer service culture? It’s how your company views, treats and interacts with employees – or how it plans to do so. While the ultimate results depend on the individual behavior of agents dealing with customers and the type of support provided by back-office agents and technology, the source of this stems from the broader ethos that exists that supports or sabotages excellent customer service performance and employee engagement.

In my work as a customer service consultant and transformation expert, I balance the time and resources I spend on more hands-on endeavors, such as customer service training and eLearning production, with the broader issues of creating the right supportive customer service culture. It’s really that important. Here are ten ways to dig deeper into what’s important here and kickstart your cultural results.

Related: The Best Customer Service Companies Spend These 8 Minutes a Day Getting Better Than the Rest of Us

1. Create a meaningful statement of purpose

This can only be one sentence long. Ideally, it summarizes your company’s values ​​and goals, particularly in how you strive to support your customers.

Think of the Mayo Clinic’s “Patients’ needs come first” or the type embraced by five-star and other luxury hotels, such as Four Seasons Hotel’s “We strive to treat guests the way we want to be treated” or Fairmont Hotel’s “We put moments into memories.” This should be something your employees can easily remember and embody in their daily work, not a jargon-laden, pompous, multi-page work destined to be written in someone’s drawer, never to be seen again.

2. Develop a philosophical framework

This can be a little longer but short, with 9-12 principles. Socialize these throughout your company in every way you can. I would suggest whitewashing that in a smaller format on a laminated, accordion-folded business card so that employees can easily refer to it.

These principles should guide your staff in their customer interactions and remind them of what matters most in their day-to-day work. (Sound crazy? The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company has been following this approach since 1983. Their accordion-folded business card — “the cred 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 and praising employees for taking the initiative. This fosters a sense of trust and autonomy among staff, ultimately leading to better customer service for customers – partly because of the creativity it evokes in employees and partly because problems (and opportunities!) can be responded to in the real world. time by the first employee she encounters, a customer doesn’t have to suffer “I need to talk to my manager before I can help you like that.”

Related: Quality Customer Service Recommendations

4. Hire personalities

Focus on personality traits during employee selection rather than just valuing skills and previous experience, as employees may have different aptitudes for service. This is important because not everyone is cut out for customer service, and it’s more important to have empathetic, friendly, and willing employees to genuinely engage with customers.

Related: Stellar Customer Service Begins with the Hiring Process

5. Engage senior leadership

Involve the CEO or senior management in onboarding new employees to emphasize the importance of service from the start. This helps demonstrate the importance your company places on great service, permeating your entire organization. When employees see their CEO or other executives prioritize service excellence, it can help create a sense of ownership and value in employees.

6. Do a short “customer service refresh” ritual daily

I recommend sticking to 8 minutes or less! In this ritual, discuss a single principle of customer service excellence and acknowledge the great 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.

Related: The Best Customer Service Companies Spend These 8 Minutes a Day Getting Better Than the Rest of Us

7. Lead by example

Manage from the shop floor to support your service culture and provide the opportunity for “immediate correction”. Leading by example is crucial when it comes to customer service. You can’t expect employees to prioritize service if they can’t see you doing it yourself. By getting out of your office and interacting with customers, you can show the importance of service to your employees and what it looks like in practice. Equally important, you can see in real time how your frontline customer service is making a difference, as it gives you the chance to correct missteps before they fester and eventually become the norm.

8. Provide thorough customer service training

This ensures that all employees have the resources to deliver the best service. Make sure this includes “situational empathy” training and the all-important service recovery training (working with upset customers) that will enable success in even the most dire situations. Mine company offers training that covers all of the above, with an exclusive focus on customer service and the culture in which it resides.

9. Foster an ethos of lateral service

This ethos is where everyone pitches in, including senior staff, to get things done. Seeing senior staff willing to roll up their sleeves and assist where needed can help foster a sense of teamwork and collaboration. (Think Disney: how someone, even a suit-clad executive, interrupts his walk through the park to deal with the litter he encounters.). Additionally, during busy periods or difficult service scenarios, it can be beneficial for everyone to pitch in and lend a hand – both because of the effort expended and the morale boost it can bring.

10. Encourage innovation in all employees

Nothing can be more frustrating for a well-meaning customer-facing employee than having to repeatedly solve the same problem or work with cumbersome tools when that employee has an idea for improvement.

By implementing these customer service culture catalysts, you can lay a foundation for superior customer service and employee engagement to help your business succeed. These tactics require long-term commitment and focus – creating a culture of service excellence is an ongoing commitment that requires constant refinement and improvement. But the reward can be significant: happier customers, engaged employees and a better result.

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