Developing a Culture of Customer Service

John Krautzel
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The internal dynamics of your company affects the quality of your customer service and how clients perceive your business. Every interaction with your staff gives customers a sense of how knowledgeable, passionate and motivated your employees are. If you want to attract and retain a healthy client base, you need to focus on the internal culture of your business.

Your company's culture has a big impact on your customer service — and consequently — your productivity and profits. Your employees set the tone for the kind of treatment your customers get and determine the image your business projects, so you need to seek out strategies to develop a positive culture by providing your employees with the support and resources they need.

1. Communicate the Importance of Customer Service

Set an example from the top down to develop a culture of customer service. From the CEO to the new hire, every employee within your organization should know why excellent customer service is important. Provide examples of how customer service strategies impact the bottom line, the longevity of the business and the sales of products and services. Create a sense of loyalty to the customer and bring all levels of management and representatives on the same page regarding the importance of customer satisfaction.

2. Set Clear Expectations

Make customer service a top priority by setting expectations for all employees to follow when interacting with clients, potential customers and even co-workers. Organize brainstorming sessions or meetings to request input from your employees when developing sales scripts or troubleshooting strategies so that everyone feels invested in the goals and strategies of the company. Regular meetings or gatherings also provide employees with the opportunity to clarify procedures, ask questions of upper management and bond with fellow employees. Transparency is the key to developing a positive culture that fosters excellent customer service.

3. Offer Comprehensive Training and Evaluations

It is difficult for employees to succeed if they lack proper guidance and training. Make professional development an important element of your orientation sessions for new hires and weekly or monthly meetings with customer service agents. Provide tips for dealing with difficult customers, set goals for satisfying clients and offer feedback on performance regularly to keep your staff motivated. Have upper-level managers check in with employees regularly to offer further support and guidance and provide specific feedback on performance when needed. This helps build a positive rapport with the staff and improve the morale and culture of the organization.

4. Create Incentive Programs

Even the most efficient and self-motivated employee craves recognition for a job well done. Seek out ways to recognize and reward your employees for going above and beyond when assisting customers. Host celebrations or luncheons to praise employees who have received high marks on customer feedback surveys, or produce a monthly newsletter that highlights innovative strategies and positive results of your employees. Create an incentive program that is based on customer ratings to further motivate and inspire your staff. Acknowledging and praising specific actions of employees is a great way to enhance the culture of the company.

5. Hire Selectively

Unfortunately, negativity is contagious, especially in office environments. If one employee is not supportive of the core values and mission of the organization, the negativity can spread, which ultimately impacts the culture of customer service. If this is an issue within your organization, you need to modify your hiring process. When screening candidates, evaluate not only their skills and experience, but also their enthusiasm and adaptability level. Consider whether or not each applicant fits into the culture of the company. Seek out candidates who are motivated to make a difference and impact the culture and the customer base positively.

To develop a culture of customer service, management and employees must be committed to the goals, mission and vision of the company. Articulate the importance of keeping the customer happy while also working to keep your staff satisfied, fulfilled and motivated. A happy employee is typically more willing to make your customers happy, which is the key to attracting and retaining clients.

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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Hema thanks for your comment. I think that @Erin answered it for you. Negativity breeds negativity. If the team is negative, it won't be long before the newcomer takes on the same negative attitude. The supervisor needs to do some weeding out or at least put them on notice that if things don't turn around with their attitudes that they will all be looking for a new job. I hate to use threats to get the job done but sometimes that's what it takes. If organizations can do as @Erin mentioned, they could easily combat any negativity and turn it around quickly.

  • Erin H.
    Erin H.

    Many organizations teach employees to think of other departments and co-workers as their internal customers. This concept make all employees responsible for the treatment of everyone that they come into contact with. Thinking of other departments and divisions of the company as an internal customer empowers employees to go above and beyond.

  • Hema Zahid
    Hema Zahid

    A company’s customer service can definitely be hampered by negativity. Hiring employees who fit the company’s vision is one way to keep the entire team motivated, but sometimes an ideal employee can change and develop a negative attitude. How should a company deal with that one employee whose negativity brings down the morale of the entire team?

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for your comments. @Erica so very true. The higher ups do need to set that positive example as to how important customer service is for any company. After all, if you don't have customers you won't last long! @Jacob it is so true that many companies look at their customer service when they are trying to cut costs in the company. It always seems to be the customer service that takes the biggest hit and then they want you to be able to cover it as if you still had the same amount of CSRs. Ridiculous! Companies need to value their customer service reps - treat them good and pay them right. They will truly benefit in the long run.

  • Jacob T.
    Jacob T.

    I think the piece that is missing from this article is that upper management and front line manager need to provide their employees with the resources to execute the vision for customer service. I have worked for many organizations that spent huge sums of money training and building a service oriented culture and then cut costs at every customer facing position. It is impossible to slow down and take the time to provide superior service if you are forced to frantically try to cover what was formerly three separate positions.

  • Erica  T.
    Erica T.

    I agree that it's important for management (CEO's and high-level executives included) to set an example for all employees to follow when it comes to customer service. How management interacts with clients, or how well management handles customer issues and complaints (whether on the phone or in person) sends a clear message to all employees that customer service should remain a top priority at all times.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the comments. @Katharine that's great that the company didn't make you respond from a script. I detest that as a customer! When a company treats you with respect, you will try even harder to do what's right. @William I don't think that there is any one comprehensive CSR tool. So true that companies should invest in training needed for their particular industry and product. Many companies will do intensive training for the first week or two of employment. This is where they can weed out those who are not from that who are going to make great reps. @Lydia so very true that you can lie during an interview. That's why I think that all interviews for a CSR position should be behavioral types so that you can really see what you are getting. During the interview put them through a mock call and see how they react. Granted they will be on their best behavior during the interview but the interviewer will still get a good idea about their personality, their voice and can decide if they should be on the front lines.

  • Lydia K.
    Lydia K.

    I disagree that hiring for cultural fit always leads to great customer service. In today's job market anyone can look up the company's mission statement and claim to support it during the interview. And, looking for cultural fit can sometimes lead to stereotypes. Employers shouldn't lose sight of the fact that for a customer service role, what's more important is how a candidate relates to customers. So really an efficient hiring process should aim to find out the candidate's philosophy of customer service and see if it matches the company philosophy.

  • William Browning
    William Browning

    What kind of tools can you recommend to help customer service clerks? Does one type of tool cover everything comprehensively, or should businesses invest in multiple avenues to train customer service experts? Training, along with attitude, is such an important aspect of dealing with customers. Although companies can't train for attitude, they can develop the right strategies for creating the best customer service agents on the planet.

  • Katharine M.
    Katharine M.

    I worked for a retail store once that said its customer service policy was simple: use your judgment and do what's necessary to help the customer. I liked this because not only did it focus on the customer, it also gave employees the feeling that they were smart enough to handle situations as they arose- basically, the company was expressing its faith in its employees.

  • Laura W.
    Laura W.

    I think all of us agree that customer service is important and that it can make or break your company. The strategies above are very helpful, but do you really think an existing culture in a company can be radically changed? To me, it sometimes feels that (company) culture is a tide that's too strong to swim against.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the comments. So very true that CS always seems to be on the bottom rung of a company when it should be at the top. Without good customer service, how long will the company last? Selective hiring certainly should be a priority here. I think that a good way to find out if the candidate would be a good fit would be through a behavioral interview. They should be given a script and have to role-play to see how they react. Of course the candidate is going to be on their best behavior but the hiring manager should be able to tell if they are faking it or not. @Abbey it does seem like common sense that the CSR understand their role and the importance of it but we all know better. How many times have you made a call to a company only to get someone who argues with you or doesn't like to your complaint or makes you go through a 15 minute call only to be told - sorry I can't help you. I will have to send you to someone else so that you can go through another 15 minutes of explaining your issue!!!!!

  • Abbey Boyd
    Abbey Boyd

    The best way to motivate employees to provide excellent customer service is to emphasize the importance of it. Showing employees why the customers are so valuable to the success of the company is crucial. Explain to the employees that their jobs depend on customer satisfaction. If the customers aren't treated properly, they will do business elsewhere, which makes a direct impact on profits. This seems like common sense, but sometimes it needs to be reinforced in employees' minds.

  • Kellen P.
    Kellen P.

    Selective hiring is so important. I think sometimes hiring managers don't go far enough to determine if a potential employee is the right fit emotionally for the corporate culture! They may be qualified on paper, but sometimes candidates may be too negative for the particular workplace. You do not want to bring that kind of "energy" into a happy group of workers (regardless of how skilled the candidate may be).

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the comments. @Shannon so very true. One of the things that Beyond does on a continual basis is team building exercises. Always a lot of fun but a learning experience at the same time. It bolsters camaraderie among the team members and allows them the opportunity to get to know each other even better. The best team exercises are when the teams are mixed up. Remember in school or college when you had to do a group project and the teacher/professor picked groups at random? What fun that was! @Jay it's hard to try to cover every possible scenario from a psychological point of view. But one thing they do need to conquer is assisting a customer off-script. Have you ever called a company with a question only to get the run-around because your question was off script? This always reminds me a Friends episode where Phoebe was hired to work in a call center and make sales calls to sell printer toner. The supervisor said that everything she needed to know was in the manual. Just follow it. The first call the guy said he didn't need toner because he was going to kill himself! Sure we laughed but you never know what that customer is going to say. Common sense is needed and a way of escalating the calls is priority.

  • Jay Bowyer
    Jay Bowyer

    I think good customer service training programs absolutely have to go beyond the basics. Tips are fine, but don't apply to every situation, because you're dealing with people — and people are very diverse. Instead of a basic set of tips, it might be more effective to approach customer service from a psychological perspective. It can be very empowering for customer service agents when they're prepared for many different types of customer in advance.

  • Shannon Philpott
    Shannon Philpott

    Clear expectations in any work environment are crucial. The morale and dynamic of your team also contributes to the type of service they provide. Would you recommend team-building activities or ice breakers to foster a sense of customer culture within employees? I've always found that when employees are happier on the job they tend to provide better service.

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