“People want to be part of something larger than them. They want to be part of something they are really proud of, that they’ll fight for, sacrifice for, and that they trust.” – Howard Schultz
Every company should have an intrinsic culture, ‘spelt out’ in its mission, vision, and purpose statements. Given the utmost importance of customer service today, we think every company should also have a customer service statement, illustrating the company’s vision in this realm. A customer service statement should display the underlying value a company attaches to its customers, and provides a guide and direction for all employees to deliver top class service to its customers. This ‘statement’ is a written and lucid definition of the kind of service that the company seeks to deliver to its customers, and elucidates the role each employee would have in making it happen. Either the customer service statement can be a ‘standalone’ one, or woven into the vision or mission statements, the value statement or the company’s overall customer service philosophy.
A customer service statement is a like a beacon or a compass that guides every level of employee – top leaders to the frontline staff – on what kind of service the customers of the company expect and deserve. We know that today, top class customer service is essential to the survival of companies (let alone success), and hence a customer service statement becomes indispensable towards ensuring that a company survives and over time become successful. If a company did not have a customer service statement to start with, it could first introduce it within a smaller team – the service team for example – to help it get recognition and buy-in from the rest of the organization. The important thing to remember while creating a customer service statement (as with the other statements in the company) is that it must be easy to remember, decipher, and ‘recite’. A complicated and lengthy statement would serve no purpose, and even if it were the best, would not be actionable by employees if it does not ‘say’ clearly, what is expected from them.
Just like the company’s culture, values, and mission /vision statements, the customer service statement must also be shared across the organization, should be part of new employee orientation, displayed visibly in the physical offices, and company’s intranet. Remembering the statements is not essential but employees must understand the ‘spirit’ of the words, and the expectation from each employee through the statement. The customer service statement is what a company hopes to achieve for its customers, leading to success for its business and hence must be widely understood, accepted, and practiced regardless of department, level, or pay grade, and what employees must deliver to every customer, every time. This statement is for employees only – it should be what gets them excited and motivated to come to work, and deliver superior performance and service each day. The customer service statement is not shared with customers but rather a company’s ‘secret’ that customers should only be able to feel through the service they receive.
Just like the company’s goals, the customer service statement should be observable, measurable, actionable, and trainable. This effectively means that through every action of an employee, and interaction with customers, it should be possible to ascertain whether the employee was able to achieve what would be required through the customer service statement. Does your company have such a statement? If yes, what were the points you kept in mind, and what preparation was made before actually finalizing the customer service statement? We believe that this statement should have a wide scope – covering the entire organization. However, if your company would be unable to manage the transition all at once, it could initially cover a team or two. The customer service statement would be more effective if built on the existing foundation of the company’s culture and vision – this way it would be easier to gain agreement and affinity. As mentioned earlier, any new venture / initiative must receive buy-in and support from the end users – and hence, taking inputs from employees on what they believe should be included in the customer service statement would gain consensus for it right at the outset.
Post gathering all the inputs it is essential to gather a small yet knowledgeable team to help put the statement in writing. This ‘team’ must include at least one person from the core customer service team, one mid-level supervisor, a person at the next level from the supervisor, and definitely a person representing the top line of leadership. The reason for this mix is to have representation from all levels of employees – the frontline staff, interacts directly with customers daily, and hence would have real time information and knowledge. The manager / supervisor would provide the link between the top line and base level staff, while providing their expertise gained through managing the ranks. The top line person would provide the necessary authority figure, gain necessary approvals, and be able to take quick decisions on behalf of the company, especially from the financial angle.
A customer service statement must meet some simple criteria – as mentioned, firstly it must be lucid and easy to understand. Secondly, it must be a reflection of the company as it is and what it hopes to become in the future, and most importantly the kind of service that the company would want to provide customers on a consistent basis. The ideas must come from the employees, and once it is written, it must be shared with all to check back on whether that it makes sense, nothing is left out, and if required to make some additions. Every group represented through the mix of frontline staff and leaders would have a varying perspective, and it would help if the customer service statement could resonate with some portion of their ‘side of the story’.
After finalizing the customer service statement, it would be necessary and a good idea to communicate it to the entire organization. Everyone should be able to understand what the statement means, how it would benefit the company, customers, and each person, and the role that each person would have in making it a success. Each person should feel enthused and excited to carry the statement forward through their daily work, and want to make a concerted effort in ensuring that it is able to achieve the goals of the customers, the company, and each individual therein.
A customer service statement should be engaging – that would be fundamental to its success. It should give people a reason to work better, give them a sense of purpose and oneness, add value and meaning not just for customers, but for each person in the company. Employees should be able to gain the confidence that if they practiced the values mentioned within the customer service statement, they would be able to achieve growth and success for the company, and in doing so for themselves too. For a company, this statement would form the cornerstone of future programs and initiatives around. It would inspire, arouse feelings of collaboration, ambition, commitment, and enthusiasm – feelings that no training program for customer service, can ever achieve.
All companies today claim that they offer the best in class customer service, but they are unable to display their abilities in this regard since they lack the ‘internal strength and willingness’ to do consistently. A customer service statement grabs and sustains attention by being distinctive, motivating, clear, and sending a powerful statement of purpose for all. When customers experience service from the company, they should feel engaged, and when employees provide customers service excellence they should feel motivated to do better. Does your company have a customer service statement it is proud to display?