The recipe for a customer-focused team culture

We’ve all had a lacklustre, by-the-numbers customer experience. The fake, plastic monotone, “Would you like fries with that? / Thank you for calling, have a nice day.” approach – not so much customer service as lip service. They’re doing everything their employer is asking, saying all the ‘right’ things, word-perfect… but what’s missing is the attitude.

And just to be clear, I don’t expect 110% enthusiasm either (too much is off-putting) but conducting a transaction like an extra from Day of the Dead will not result in a satisfied customer (no matter how great the product they’re buying) and definitely won’t get you those ‘raving fans’ and word-of-mouth recommendations that every business is aiming for.

Customer service guidelines and policies are fine and useful (essential, even) but if they’re to translate into genuinely great customer service, your people need to understand and commit to what they’re doing.

Ingredients of a customer service culture

Every organisation’s recipe will differ, depending on their products, services, market, size… BUT the basic ingredients are the same:

  • Every employee must understand how their role and actions impact on the customer (whether they deal with customers directly or not).
  • Awareness and skills training and/or coaching relate to your customer service vision, values and policies – with a focus on what employees can do to make the policies, etc. a practical reality.
  • Make every decision with the customer in mind – ask: are you doing the right thing for the customer (hint: that’s not necessarily what the customer is demanding).
  • Role modelling by leaders and managers is essential – any hint of do as I say not as I do will undermine all your efforts.
  • Empower employees to do that right thing – give them freedom to make decisions and minimise hard rules on how to deliver great customer service. If they really understand the goal, why not give them freedom over how they get there?
  • Whatever respect you want customers to experience, make sure that employees are experiencing that too within the organisation.
  • Delivering great customer service is an ongoing process – skills and approaches can be constantly honed through feedback, performance management and training.
  • Celebrate successes – reward and share stories of jobs well done. Individuals deserve recognition and can inspire others.

Finally, one for larger organisations with a dedicated customer service department… “dedicated”, that sounds good. But the risk is that people see customer service as someone else’s responsibility, which can lead directly to the by-the-numbers attitude that we started with. When every individual employee is effectively a customer service department, you’re getting somewhere.

Remember you’re moulding the culture – watch out for cultural lag

Simply put, ‘cultural lag’ describes a situation in which ‘material culture’ (systems, procedures, technology, etc.) changes more rapidly than ‘non-material culture’ (attitudes, perceptions, values, etc.) If we expect non-material changes to occur at the same rate as material changes, people can be left foundering in the wake of the new environment or ways of working. This often results in resistance, an unhealthy nostalgia for the “good old days”, and general feelings of uncertainty, confusion and not being able to cope. Remember if you don’t carry the workforce with you, you haven’t created a customer-focused culture. Lip service cultural change results in lip service for the customers.

We trained hard–but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form into teams, we would be reorganised. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganising. And what a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation.

–Gaius Petronius Arbiter

If you want to explore customer service culture further give us a call on 01582 714287. We’re here to help.

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