The Beginning of the Customer Service Culture

Lauren Krause
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Individuals provide customer service based on skills inherent in each person. However, a customer service culture comes from a company-wide statement created by a firm's leadership and top executives. This type of company mantra should be short, to the point and memorable. Putting good customer service to work in a practical sense starts with the philosophy behind it.

Customer service expert Shep Hyken explains that a company's specific definition of its customer service culture tells clients exactly what to expect. Hyken's favorite mantra belongs to Ritz-Carlton, whose philosophy reads, "We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen." Essentially, Ritz-Carlton asserts its employees act respectfully, kindly and compassionately towards their customers. The company also expects their clients to be viewed as upstanding citizens, no matter what. This company mantra helped make Ritz-Carlton into one of the most well-respected hotel chains in the world.

This succinct snippet of customer service culture came from a title of Horst Schultz's thesis paper he wrote when he was 15. Those nine words later defined the company he led as Ritz-Carlton's president. Inspiration for a customer service starting point can come from anywhere, but it must be accepted by everyone for it to work. This acceptance starts with leadership and percolates down to the rest of management and employees.

Zappos defines its customer service culture as "Delivering happiness," and Ace Hardware goes for "Helpful." These mantras are simple, are easy to remember and override everything else a company does. Without specific customer service goals, a company becomes listless and loses customers quickly. These theoretical statements, backed up by practical methods, are part of the reason why Ritz-Carlton, Zappos and Ace Hardware continue to be profitable. All three brands are well-known in their respective industries. All three firms avoid disastrous public relations guffaws. All of these companies know how to win and keep customers for life.

This level of success would not be possible if every vice president, manager and employee failed to grasp this kind of customer service culture. Practical methods must be used to ensure employees know how to implement the theoretical concepts inherent in a customer service mantra. Executives should train all levels of their employees to be cognizant of what customer service entails. Offer incentives for staff to go back to college and get degrees to advance within the company. Have a training day once per year. Send relevant staff to industry conferences to learn tricks of the trade. Plenty of opportunities exist for companies to create exceptional customer service employees, so take advantage of them. The long-term gains may outweigh the short-term costs by increasing employee retention, producing more competent individuals and edifying people who want to learn more.

The key to profits within a company is to have customers willing to pay money for a product or service. It is nearly impossible to keep customers without a viable customer service culture within your firm. Make sure every employee knows what to expect with regards to serving customers from their first day on the job; otherwise, you may lose revenue quickly.


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