10 Steps to Building a True Customer Service Culture

Good businesses provide good customer service. Great businesses exude it. And if you're figuring out how to improve customer service within your organization, building a "customer service culture" is a great first step — a big-picture viewpoint that molds organizational processes around doing right by people. Creating a customer service culture isn't always easy, but a directed effort can do amazing things for your company, your people, and — most important of all — your customers. Let's take a look at 10 tips designed to help businesses as they undergo the process.

Illustration of a group of happy employees celebrating their great customer service culture. Above them floats an icon that says 10 Steps.

1. Start With a Mission Statement

Your mission statement should capture your company's core values as they relate to taking care of customers. It should be short enough to be memorable but long enough to be meaningful — something understandable and catchy so that all employees can grasp the essence of the changes you're trying to make.

2. Expand to a Philosophical Framework

A business doesn't open up one day with employees knowing how to be good at customer service. It takes effort. Having a philosophical framework — consider it a larger take on your mission statement — and sharing it with your employees can help direct that work. Keep it short enough that it could be printed on a pocketable card for reference.

3. Embrace — and Display — Empowerment

In a healthy customer service contact center, representatives have the power to make things right. And they know they have that power because the people they report to explicitly tell them so and support it. The idea of empowerment should be reiterated in your training, reinforced by your leadership, and displayed via initiatives that call out and reward agents who exercise initiative.

To take empowerment beyond lip service, you need to make it clear that judgment calls, even those that prove to be expensive, are the prerogative of every employee (after a training period, of course). It's a key part of learning how to provide customer service and a main operational point you must focus on when transforming to a customer service culture.

4. Rethink the Traits That Make People Hirable

In short, your interview process should prefer certain personality traits over prior experience (though experience should still be given a level of preference and respect). As you build your roster over time, look for the true service-minded people and give them the tools to move through the organization. Front-line managers are one of the most important aspects of building and maintaining a customer service culture.

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5. Involve Senior Leadership in Onboarding

When creating a customer service culture, having the CEO or senior leadership directly involved in training is nonnegotiable. There's no better way to stress that your organization takes customer service seriously — to reinforce that senior leadership is directly interested in front-line employees' ability to perform and succeed — than to have executives present. This also allows you to instill your mission statement and philosophical framework from the top down from day one.

6. Start Every Shift With a Service Stand-Up

Whether you call it a lineup, huddle, stand-up, or something else, starting every shift by discussing key customer service principles is an excellent way to set the tone for the day. Particularly if you have employees take turns running the short meeting, this ritual can be a multipronged catalyst of culture. It both directly shares and reinforces knowledge across the group at once and gives employees the chance to develop leadership skills.

When you're working on ways the company as a whole can improve customer service, a daily reminder like this fosters togetherness and morale among the people with a direct impact on the initiative — namely the representatives who connect directly with customers.

7. Discourage Office-Based Management

Floor leadership is another nonnegotiable aspect when you're creating a customer service culture. When a manager hides in their office, they miss numerous chances to show team and culture support. This calls back to the hiring tips above: Make sure the right people are in the right roles and that your managers are the type of people who will move about and interact often, looking for opportunities to help.

8. Take a Long Look at Customer Service Training

Training isn't often thought of as affecting a company's culture that much, but it's different when you're instilling a customer service culture. Letting reps know the rules, processes, and touchpoints guiding their daily interactions is essential. Reassure them about the many ways your organization empowers them to do right by customers. If you're taking the time to select the best people, also take the time to give them the best possible training.

9. Eliminate 'Not My Job' Thinking

This key point of lateral service is one any business considering how to improve customer service should give full consideration. It's demonstrated when everyone, including senior staff, pitches in to get things done in crunch time. One famous example is how Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh manned the phones during the holiday rush.

A lateral attitude solves practical problems, improves morale, and demonstrates very clearly to all employees that everyone in the company is working toward a single, shared goal.

10. Foster 'All Hands' Thinking

Encourage all departments to be involved after a customer service mishap to identify what led to the problem and find ways to prevent it in the future. This has direct value in improving results, but it also has cultural value by demonstrating what is valued within your organization. Remember: Accountability and an earnest desire to learn from past mistakes are cornerstones of building a customer service culture.

Follow these 10 steps, and you’ll be well on your way to creating a customer service culture that’s consistently rewarding for your company and your customers — a culture built on and bolstered by the full range of communications technology.

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