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Customer service

The eight fundamental elements of a winning service culture

11th Dec 2018
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Customer loyalty success depends on culture. So how do you ensure you have the right culture in place?

One of my associates uses the following phrase when working with manufacturing organisations, to help them understand the importance of culture:

New Tools + Old Culture = No Change

It’s a great thought and I think there’s an alternative version of this that applies to building customer loyalty, which is:

Right Techniques + Wrong Culture = No Customer Loyalty

I have in mind the vast sums that are wasted on customer service training programmes for frontline customer serving people, trying to teach them the right techniques, when what is really needed to make a worthwhile long-term difference is changes to the culture of the organisation. So what is organisational culture? A simple definition I like is:

Culture is the way an organisation thinks, acts, understands and connects with the world around them.

I’m convinced that culture is fundamental to everything an organisation does. No amount of training will make a lasting difference, no matter how good it is, if the culture of the organisation does not encourage, support and reward the behaviours it advocates. So what are the key elements of a culture that will do this? I think the 8 key fundamentals are –

  1. A person’s character and ‘cultural fit’ should have equal (or maybe more?) importance to past experience, education or technical ability when recruiting.
  2. All employees need to be given clear guidance about the organisation’s customer focussed culture. They should not be left to discover or figure it out for themselves.
  3. Employees should be encouraged to help shape and develop the service culture. They must not feel disconnected from it.
  4. All strategic decisions should be driven by the culture and should never be made without regard for the impact on customers.
  5. All goals, metrics and rewards should align with the culture and the customer service aspirations.
  6. All business processes must be customer-focussed and designed to serve the people that serve the customers. They must never cause ‘awkward situations’ for employees when serving customers.
  7. Employees must be encouraged, empowered and rewarded for ‘acting for the customer’. There should be no constraints on their ability to do this.
  8. Leaders must reinforce the desired culture through their everyday decisions and actions. They must never be allowed to ignore or contradict it.

These fundamentals present tough challenges for any organisation. They are especially challenging for leaders who must set the example to others. But all these are achievable and, in my view, essential if sustainable customer loyalty is to be achieved.

So how does the culture of your organisation match up to these challenges. And if it doesn’t, what will you do about it?

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