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How to Create a Customer Service Culture

As every business owner and manager knows, great customer service doesn’t just happen, it’s nurtured and cultivated, examined and refined. But you can’t deliver great customer service without a culture that supports it. Simply put, if you don’t make customer service a priority, employees won’t be inspired and motivated to work to improve it. The following four steps can help you make customer service the core of your business by engaging staff at all levels of the organization.

Define It
Customer service has many meanings. At a hospital, it may be providing warmth, privacy and safety. In a body shop, it could be fair prices and quick turn-around. It’s important to define what customer service means to your company from the perspective of your customers. Do they value your low price above all else, or is it your products’ craftmanship and quality? Create your service philosophy based on what your customers value most. Consider asking employees for their feedback, especially front-line staff who have frequent interaction with customers. Finally, when defining your service philosophy, create something brief and memorable. For example, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel moto is, “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” Singapore’s “GEMS: Go the Extra Mile for Service” defines the nation’s service mindset.

Communicate It
When rolling out your service philosophy, it’s not enough to simply unveil it and expect everyone to embrace it. You have to explain why customer service is important. What impact does it have on the company short- and long-term? You can elaborate on your core philosophy with a (brief) list of core values that describes how customers, employees, and vendors should be treated at all times. Additionally, reinforce the core philosophy and values in different ways throughout the company (Ritz employees carry laminated “credo cards,” for instance).

It’s important to be clear about the customer service behaviors you expect from everyone and include this in new employee training. All Disney new hires, for example, complete a “traditions” course explaining the company history with customer relations and how it is the backbone of Disney. Implement regular customer service refresher courses for all employees, as well.

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Live It
Once you have defined your unique service philosophy or motto, you must live it. It’s important for leaders, managers and supervisors to fully embrace it in both their words and actions. Employees won’t believe your service philosophy – or visions or mission, for that matter – until they see leaders actually living it. The manager who says, “Get out there and serve!” then stays comfortably in her office is not a service leader. A service leader is on the frontline, helping where ever she can, especially during busy times or when customers are angry or staff are overloaded.

Measure It
If you want everyone in your organization to understand, embrace and embody your service philosophy, then you must be transparent in your efforts. Share service quality metrics openly so that all levels of the company become obsessed with improvement.
Behavioral research has shown that you get more of the behavior you reward, so be sure to recognize staff who are doing well.

A service philosophy isn’t developed overnight, and a service culture takes time to develop. That said, when employees are completely immersed in the same interests as the company, everyone benefits.