“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” ~Peter Drucker
A strong customer service and customer experience culture will invariably lead to happier customers and happier employees, which leads to repeat business and customer loyalty. Competing just on price is no longer sustainable, with so many options available right from the comfort of your own computer.
Businesses that want to stay ahead of the competition are doing so by building relationships, excelling at customer service, and making it easy, enjoyable and occasionally entertaining to do business with them. It’s all about creating value and exceeding expectations. As the saying goes: “Customers remember the service a lot longer than they remember the price.”
So how do you make sure your company, no matter the size, is doing whatever it takes to make sure your customers (and employees) are your best source of advertising? To make sure they are singing your praises across town and the internet? To make sure no negative tweets go viral?
The answer lies with the same thing every time: Attitude. With the right attitude, any company can create the right culture that will support the objectives, goals and aspirations of the business. It will guide the choices that will need to be made at every touch point along the customer journey. It will steer you in the direction you want to take with employee engagement. And it will set the course for the policies, procedures, standards, beliefs, core values and principals you want to establish.
Hiring the right people that fit within the culture of the company is the next important step. The old adage “Hire for attitude, train for skill” is especially important for any customer facing position. Any position that deals with customers has to be filled with people who genuinely want to help the customer. Again, this comes down to attitude and the desire to help people.
Once the foundation for the company is set, education is the key. Everyone from the top person down to the newest hire must be onboard in order to deliver a consistent product or service. Examples need to be set by senior management for all to see and emulate. It is not just training, but educating everyone as to why customer service, repeat business and customer loyalty are so important to the bottom line of everyone: employees and management. Education should be an ongoing process, not a one-time class.
Empowering your employees is a critical step in creating a culture that benefits both customers and employees. Your employees want to feel as if they are part of the solution, but if they have to keep checking with a supervisor or manager before they can provide a resolution, they will lose their motivation quickly. Customers want their problems sorted after their first contact with a business. They don’t want to keep repeating themselves over and over to various people who have to keep checking with their supervisor before a problem can be rectified. Set limits, but empower your employees to make decisions. If they happen to mess up, it is a great learning tool for everyone. Just remember to discuss the proper solution in private, away from customers.
Finally, be generous with rewards and recognition for your employees. Celebrate them in public. Put positive comments on a board in a public place for all employees and customers to see. Discuss how creative thinking helped solve a problem that everyone can learn from. Have fun team building exercises or team lunches every so often. Celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, new babies and milestones. Happy employees will always give more than unhappy ones, and your customers will certainly notice the difference. Happy employees equal happy customers.
Once your culture is established, it now needs to be refined. It is never completely finished, as it should be a living, breathing, growing benchmark for the company. Make sure to have regularly scheduled meetings (once a month, once a quarter, twice a year) with all employees to get their feedback. It can be by division, by department or collectively. It is important to make sure your employees know they have a voice and there are people in upper management who are willing to listen to that voice. Communication is always the key.
Your customer centric company culture sets the groundwork for everything that happens (or doesn’t happen) in the course of your business. Make sure you give it enough time to get it right. It could be the difference between failure and success. And you’ll never have to worry about those negative tweets!