By Debi Ann Smart, CCSM Graduate
Businesses have come to realize that customer service is a non-negotiable part of their product offering. The quality of customer service you deliver can either ‘make’ or ‘break’ your business. The customers and potential customers are no longer limited by geographical boundaries when it comes to selecting a product that suits their needs. Their options are limitless! The stakes are so high, a potential customer can drop you like hot potatoes before you ever get the chance to say hello.
Owing to this discovery, many organizations have embarked on implementing strategies that will result in quality customer service. However, it is a commitment to giving customers outstanding service and value for money that delivers ongoing profits and growth all businesses crave. If you are indeed serious about making this commitment you definitely MUST spend the rest of your ‘business life’ building and refining a customer service culture. How do we build a customer service culture?
Three excellent tips for building a customer service culture are as follows:
- Craft the experience you want your customers to have;
- Involve your employees in the culture building process;
- Build your business around your customers.
Craft the Experience You Want Your Customers to Have
Every business has a service culture. Service culture may be seen as the prevailing attitude of a business’ staffing towards the business or its customers. Put another way, it is the behaviors and attitudes that are widely accepted as the norm within the business’ environment. The harsh reality is even if you never take the step to build a service culture, one will evolve without your permission. That is why it is very important to craft the experience you want your customers to have very early in the game.
How do we do that? We do this by putting on paper exactly what your ‘normal‘ would be towards your customers. Start the crafting process by documenting and establishing:
- Your customer service policy;
- Your strategy for handling customer complaints;
- Your customer service charter
- How you intend to impress your customers every time you connect with them;
- How you would monitor, evaluate and improve customer satisfaction.
But it doesn’t stop there! After documentation, action must follow. You must give the “crafted experience” life by making sure that it is lived out by everyone who forms a part of your team.
Involve Your Employees in the Culture Building Process
If you want the customer service culture to come alive, you must get your employees on board. In other words, you must make them a part of the process. One of the first things you should do is to create a culture of shared ownership. This can be done craftily through your orientation where you can lay a platform which will enable your incoming employees to become “partners” in business with you; creating an environment where they become one with the vision or the business’ purpose for existing.
Your employees should also participate in the culture building discussions where they are encouraged to give feedback and share their suggestions and concerns for how service culture can be improved. Further, have your staff witness their suggestions and concerns being treated as valuable.
Here’s one tip!
One key element for building an excellent customer service culture is attracting and hiring the right fit for your business. As mentioned in the book – The Commitment Engine by John Jantsch, you attract the right fit by putting on display your business’ purpose, beliefs, practices and actions as the leading elements of your brand. You do that, and persons will know automatically what is expected of anyone who wishes to work within your organization. If a person’s does not want to or does not believe they can live up to those standards they will eliminate themselves, making the process for finding the right fit easier.
Additionally, involving your seasoned employees in the recruitment process is a wise move to make as it has a two-fold effect: (1) it would help build a deeper sense of ownership in the direction of the organization and (2) it would create a heightened interest in and sensitivity to impacting their working environment.
Build your Business Around Your Customers
Building your business around your customers demands a mental shift in the way you relate to your customers. If you are not in business to help your customers or to satisfy a need, I encourage you to rethink and determine your reason for existing as a business. Persons who are in business to see whatever money they can get out of their customers will actually be making a huge mistake. Rather than treating our customers as walking, talking money machines, we should work towards building lifelong relationships with them.
That is how you develop a customer service culture. A customer service culture makes your customers the center of attention. A good customer service culture places the customers at the core of the business and makes them its reason for being.
Building your business around your customers would mean you making a commitment to learning what your customer’s needs and wants are, and working tirelessly towards improving your product offering to meet those needs. This will require that you commit to observing, listening and capturing meaningful information that will enable you to improve the customer experience that will keep them coming back. You would need to change your business focus to one that makes customer input the engineer of the end product and the overall customer experience.
Customer service in this era will determine whether your business graduates to the winning circle. That’s why it is highly important to place customer service in the spot light and work tirelessly at building a customer service culture for your business. If you neglect to do that, a service culture will evolve without your permission; one that you may very well find very difficult to reverse if you do not deal with it early enough. So take some time off now, and craft the service culture you would want your customers to experience.
Involve your employees in the process of developing that culture and ensure that it is lived out by everyone who forms a part of your team. And while you are doing that, make a commitment to observe, listen and capture meaningful information that will propel you to improve your customers’ experience; one that will keep them coming back.