Developing a Customer Service Culture

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What signals does your organisation send about customer service?

I mean really send?

We’re not talking platitudes here.

We’re talking real actions that back up the words.

Daily doses of things that signal the importance of the customer; day in, day out.

Senior managers have a huge part to play in developing a customer service culture

A customer service culture starts from the top. 

In organisations where senior managers talk to customers, or even spend a day in a customer service department answering calls and using their internal processes; a little bit of magic starts to happen.

Not only are they able to cut through internal red tape, make a few phone calls to get a systems glitch or a process amended; they send a huge signal to the organisation.

Their presence says “I value our customers and the work that our customer service teams do highly”

Enough said.

Now you might be thinking, "Well our managers don’t step foot here. That says a lot about what they think of us and the customer."

Invite them.

Ask them to come and see for themselves the issues that your customers have with your brand.

Hire for attitude. Train for skill

One of the Customer Service Managers we have met over the years has a little trick as part of her interviewing process.

She always does something during the interview which means she needs some help – drops some papers, spills some water – you get the drift.

Does the person who is being interviewed help her, or are they passive watching her struggle?

Their response says a lot about how they will help customers.

Know what customer service behaviours are good for your customers and look for them during your recruitment process.

Train and keep training

What does your on-boarding or induction programs say about your organisation?

Do you recruit people for great customer service behaviors and then spend all your time talking about the systems and procedures they need to follow?

When do you talk about the importance of customer service to the business?

Does your good work get undone when they meet their new colleagues who tell them how things really work?

How often do you revisit the skills and principles that are relevant to the level of customer service that you want to deliver?

Depending on how often people leave or how long they stay with you, might impact the amount of time that you spend refreshing people with some customer service training.

I use the word “refreshing” purposely.

It’s too easy to slip into your internal world, where tasks and your operational environment become more important than the impact you have on your customers, particularly when you are busy.

It’s important to spend time helping people connect back with their purpose, to HELP customers.

Regular training with reinforced messages really make the difference.

Share the love

We all want to be appreciated; to feel that we are doing a good job. It is ESSENTIAL to recognise the difference that people make.

How good are you at sharing the good stories so that people feel they have value?

In all the organisations we've worked with, there is one truism. Those that feel valued do better work.

Share good news stories in your daily huddles; thank you letters, emails or social media comments. Internal newsletters can go a long way to reminding people of your "Customer Service Heroes" and the customers they've helped.

What's a better way to start a shift than by reminding people of the difference they are making to their customers and therefore the organization.

Learning and improvement and its impact on a customer service culture

One of the big frustrations that most senior managers have is often how passive people involved in customer service can be.

They know that the answer isn’t right for the customer but within the system it’s easier to work with the next query or problem than put something right for all customers. And so history repeats itself.

Sure enough, it’s a customer service equivalent of Groundhog Day.

How much emphasis do you put on helping people to learn to solve problems for customers?

Do you encourage people to solve; really solve problems for customers?

And when one of your team makes a mistake, how do you help them learn from it?

Rewarding the right behaviour

Reward is a hugely complex area; and one I’ll leave for the experts. But if you want to develop a customer service culture you’ll need to reward great customer service behaviours.

We've worked with lots of teams over the years, who have said “I couldn’t agree more with you. If I were to do that it would be great for the customer and great for the business / organisation. But if I do that I’ll be penalised because I won’t meet this part of my objectives”  This seems to happen most often in call centres who have a very stringent call quality system.

When was the last time you reviewed how you monitor call quality?

Does your process encourage the behaviours that you want?

Do they reward the behaviour that you want to see, or are they counterproductive?

One team - no silos

A good customer service department and a good customer service culture has its finger on the pulse. It can tell you the challenges that the organisation is facing, whether that's a product quality issue, a systems issue, or a long running feud between sales and ops.

A good Head of Customer Service can really focus the Senior Management Team on the impact operationally and reputationally of some of the day to day issues you are facing.

Putting your customers and their experience at the heart of what you de helps people to see things from a different viewpoint. And that can bring a real shift in people's thinking.

Final word - Customer Service is good for business

Developing a customer service culture is good business sense. Happy customers buy more, and they come back more often. But it goes beyond a set of metrics.

Happy customers and happy employees go hand in hand.

If you treat your customers well, it sends a very strong signal. People are proud to be part of that. They want to stay working in a team that does that.

Stable happy teams deliver great customer service.

A virtuous circle.

And one that will affect your bottom line.

Good numbers and smiles..... what's not to like?

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