Creating a Customer Service Culture

Creating a Customer Service Culture

December 19, 2018 Good to Know 0

How do you create a customer service culture? It begins with an identifiable vision and clearly defined goals that are shared throughout the organization. It goes beyond the customer-facing staff to encompass every employee in every department, all working to support that vision.

I worked with a client who had identified their organization as being in the process of building a customer service culture. They realized that this involved everyone and had arranged for training for their internal staff.  Unfortunately, they hadn’t gotten the word.

“Who is your customer?”I asked fifteen skeptical participants. Their body language sent the message that a root canal would have been preferable to being there.

The program had optimistically been named “Internal Customer Service”, with mandatory attendance by people who had specifically chosen career paths that enabled them to avoid customer service. Yet here they were.And clearly unhappy with the line of questioning.

“I don’t deal with customers.”

“Me, neither. It’s not my job.”

“Ha! You wouldn’t want me near the customers!”

Internal Customer Service. I was hoping that the title might have provided a hint. Or that the program would have been explained to them by their managers when they were signed up.

“You’re right, you don’t deal with external customers. The people we might refer to as the ultimate customers- that critical piece that keeps you in business and paychecks. But you do deal with the people who deal with the external customers. Those people, your colleagues, are your customers.”

This might have been even worse news to them. There is often a cultural disconnect between people with extremely different job preferences who don’t understand each other’s jobs. Too often that lead to communication breakdowns, where each side blames the other for resulting problems. Which al too often impacts the customer. Loan application taking too long? The customer rep didn’t fill it out right. No, the loan processor is taking too long. And it’s the customer who suffers.

For any organization to claim it provides extraordinary customer service every employee needs to understand and buy into his or herrole in supporting that shared goal.

There are key steps an organization needs to take to build a customer service culture. It starts at the top, with clear communication and accountability.  The CEO sets the tone,and senior management executes. Through middle and junior managers to all staff, there needs to be consistent messaging that clearly identifies the vision- what does extraordinary customer service look like? -, defines the corporate goals and the supporting department goals, all the way through to each employee’s specific job description and individual goals. This enables company-wide accountability in all areas.

Communication must be on-going and open. Honest feedback is critical to enable adjustments and changes that support extraordinary customer service.  The people closest to the front lines usually have the most valuable information. They need to feel comfortable and safe sharing it.

Once everyone knows what positions they’re playing, it’s critical to ensure they have the necessary knowledge and skills. Conduct a skillsassessment to determine training and coaching needs and provide appropriateprograms. On-going coaching helps turns the skills learned in training intolearned behaviors and new habits. Coaches should be skilled in assessing skillsneeds, providing practice and giving constructive feedback. Again, ensureaccountability. Doing your clearly defined job can’t be optional.

It’s easy to say you provide extraordinary customer service. But the customer’s actual experience will be determined by the amount of work and commitment to that goal by everyone in the organization. How do you think your business would stack up?