Creating a Customer Service Culture

by | Oct 21, 2014 | Customer Service

“The right measure is not how many customers you’ve got, but how closely you hold them”. – Ron Kauffman

In the current competitive market scenario, organizations cannot afford to be anything but customer focused. Some organizations are still lagging behind and there are some that do not appreciate the how vital their employees are in displaying and delivering a customer focus. Very few companies have mastered the art of creating a customer service culture through empowering their employees to build and sustain it. Those who truly focus on the customer are able to build and maintain market supremacy.

Creating a Customer Service Culture is everyone’s responsibility and must in fact start at the highest level – the CEO or President. When such influence emanates from the top, employees find it easier to build and sustain a service culture. Customer service culture is not only for external customers – the ones who pay you for products and or services – but also for internal customers. The employees that work towards providing the relevant information to customers and others within the organization that help this information to be made possible. Everyone together only can drive the service culture.

Creating a customer service culture is not dependent on the size of the company. Any business – multi-national organization or a small enterprise – all need to build this culture. You could be the top person in the company or the front-end customer service agent – the task of creating such a culture lies with you. Everyone in the company should act as the face of the organization and be mindful of how their actions and words will affect this culture when they interact with any one making contact with them. Customers can meet you anywhere – you could be waiting to buy lunch in your uniform when a customer walks up and provides feedback. The manner in which this query or feedback is dealt with will either have a positive or negative impact on the customer. Customers form opinions based on every interaction. If customers are displeased with even one interaction, they are likely to back off and not provide repeat business. In addition, more frustrated ones would tarnish your reputation by posting negative comments on visible platforms like social media. This translates to lesser business, decreased revenue, reduced opportunities for benefits and training for employees and no upgrades in the technology and office equipment. This in turn would mean lowered employee morale and a whole cycle of employee and customer dissatisfaction, having disastrous results.

Since no two companies are similar, creating a service culture would mean different things from one to the next. The other factors in the company’s culture like values, vision, mission, practices and the likes determine how and what a service culture should be. Other factors that would contribute to a service culture would be with regard to the particular industry the organization belongs to and the kind of policies and procedures in place. The culture of the company is exhibited by its members – how they behave, speak, dress, interactions with others and mainly through their skills, attitudes and knowledge levels. As service providers, if the only focus is receiving pay without focus on the customer, you can be sure that the company will suffer in the long run since the customer will not receive service in the way they should.

At an organizational level companies have values and ethics by which the company conducts its behavior. Ideally, companies must base the values and vision statements on customer feedback to ensure focus on the customer. They must get buy-in from the staff to develop and or change values and link these values to portray their brand. It must be ensured that all employees, irrespective of level, align and display behavior that complements the values such that each one is a live example of the brand and customer focus. Words used in the value statement, maybe such as teamwork, integrity, care – are actually entrenched in the business and each member rather than just being words put on paper. When customers perceive that each member of the organization is ‘living’ these values, they are more likely to be attracted to such a company. Creating a customer service culture is a factor of all these attributes and their actual practice when dealing with the customer. Customers should be able to clearly see that they are the focus of the company which in turn will make them trust the company and become loyal over time. A service culture intertwines your company’s vision with that of the customer’s vision for their own company. This serves as the backbone for successful and sustained business.

Companies must ensure that the concept of creating a customer service culture starts at the top. Employees emulate that which they see coming from the highest rungs and cannot be expected to behave differently if what they see does not match a service culture. Top bosses must embody the service culture and their actions must be consistent with the company’s values. The enforcers can scream themselves hoarse and no one will abide if certain behavior is expected only from the members at lower levels. There would be widespread distrust and if forced in to behaving a certain way, most employees would find themselves other jobs.

There should be a feedback mechanism where the top brass can understand if their behavior is being seen as aligned to the company values and a commitment to a service culture. Methods like 360 degree feedback are highly effective as it provides a complete picture of how one is being viewed. Feedback is solicited from the person’s peers, subordinates, customers and other members in the organization. Leaders that strive to develop a service culture must accept the feedback received and ensure that steps are taken to rectify any issues that are in focus. Team meetings and all employee meets are all forums that encourage the culture of openness and being active listeners. This fosters trust and allows the building and sustaining of a customer focused culture. Such methods of feedback – allows both external and internal customers to have a say.

Companies that listen to these comments will be able to reorganize their processes and strategies proactively and ensure that there is satisfaction for both internal and external customers. To sustain a service culture, companies must allow for a certain budget to be in place to be used for customer service activities. Budgets must allow for better equipment, technology, training programs and hiring of new staff. Lack of resources or a failure to allocate budgets for this important exercise will be a negation of a customer service focus. Employees would be constrained by lack of skills and knowledge and would find it difficult to service the customers even as trends and technology changes almost daily. This lack of aligning customer feedback with internal processes is what causes the breakdown of service and does not foster an environment for a service culture.

Companies that fail to align so, will also fail to implement a Customer Relationship Management system. CRM for such companies remains a fancy term that is ‘beyond reach’ and one that cannot provide a feasible return on investment. CRM as a software package helps companies with consolidated data of the customer. It achieves this by segmenting the customers, explaining which customers must be targeted and how the products can be packaged so as to be attractive to the customers. It also provides guidance on the best strategies to sell to their current customer base and the easiest methods of billing. However, companies must remember that this software cannot be successful on its own. Building relationships with customers through a service culture will also make them want to stay on with you. In addition, the company’s employees must know the use and effectiveness of this software for it to work. Building trust and fostering cooperation will make it easier for your employees to work in tandem with the company’s policies and help to build a service culture.

The most essential part and bottom line in creating a customer service culture is that everyone in the organization contributes and understands its importance and the consequences of ignoring it.

“Customer service is not a department, it’s everyone’s job” – Ken Blanchard

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