Developing a service culture can be a challenge. It takes time, effort, and commitment on behalf of the entire organization to create an atmosphere where service excellence is not just something that management expects, but also something that everyone wants!
This blog post will explore seven steps to cultivate a service culture in your business so you can be more effective at providing exceptional service for your customers.
What is a customer service culture?
A service culture is about much more than customer service. It’s the entire atmosphere in which you do business, how employees are treated and how they interact with each other and customers.
Are all service cultures created equal? Not necessarily! A service culture can be something that you develop yourself, or it could be an extension of what your company already does. Even if there isn’t a clear definition of service excellence in your organization, this doesn’t mean that you cannot take the initiative to create one by following the seven steps outlined in this article.
Why is having a solid service culture important?
A positive customer service culture has many benefits for the business, the customer service team, and, of course, your customers.
For businesses, a positive service culture has many advantages, including:
- Increased employee engagement and satisfaction
- Improved customer service metrics
- An enhanced company image that helps attract talent and build brand loyalty
- The list goes on!
For customer service teams, a positive service culture offers many benefits as well. It helps employees feel more committed to their work and the company, which results in increased motivation and commitment. In turn, this leads to higher productivity for both individual team members and the entire team.
Customer service teams can benefit from developing a strong service culture in the following ways:
- Better working relationships with colleagues (a more socially cohesive work environment)
- Greater job satisfaction, which leads to higher productivity and decreased turnover rate among employees
- Stronger empathy for customers when handling difficult situations
As a result, customers appreciate the enhanced customer service experience offered by service teams with a strong service culture.
5 Key elements that make up a service culture
Positive customer service culture doesn’t just happen—it must be cultivated.
Here are the five key elements that make up a positive service culture:
- Customer centricity: focus on customer needs and feedback, not only to improve your service but also as an opportunity to learn from customers.
- Systemization of work processes: document policies and procedures for all aspects of service delivery so they can be communicated clearly among employees.
- Team empowerment: let team members know what is expected of them and give them control over how things get done (within reason).
- Feedback loop: make feedback available to employees so they can see how their work affects the customer experience.
- Public recognition: acknowledge great service when you see it, both publicly and privately!
Let’s look at what steps you can take to create a customer-centric service culture at work!
Step 1: Service first, profits second
You don’t have to sacrifice service or customer satisfaction for the sake of profit. You can actually increase your success if you take care of customers properly. Put your customers first. They should be the most important part of your service, not just a stepping stone to making more money and growing your business. Your customers will notice the difference!
Prioritizing your customers doesn’t mean that you can neglect your service team. You still need to provide employees with the right tools and training they need to offer excellent service. Treating customers well doesn’t have to be expensive!
Step 2: Communicate service goals
It’s important to set service goals for the entire company. If you don’t, employees won’t know what they are working towards or how their work contributes to service excellence. You can share your goals with everyone in your organization so that everyone is on the same page and knows why customer service matters to them personally as well as professionally.
For example, if service excellence is a company-wide initiative, you can use service goals to demonstrate how great customer service will benefit each department. For instance, customer service reps should understand how client retention affects the bottom line. And managers need to recognize that happy employees are more productive employees who generate better results for their organization.
Once everyone understands what service excellence means, they play an active role in achieving this goal. They’ll be able to focus on delivering great service rather than just going through the motions because “that’s their job.”
Step #3: Make sure your team members feel appreciated
There’s nothing like recognition from management or co-workers when someone goes above and beyond what is expected of them. This is especially true if an employee goes beyond their call of duty to service a customer or resolve an issue.
If service excellence is something that you stress in your organization, make sure everyone knows they are valued and appreciated when they go the extra mile to help customers.
Celebrating service victories with employees is a great way to show them how much their hard work matters. Service culture should be about rewarding people who excel at delivering excellent service.
Recognizing such things as customer loyalty, retention, and repeat business (all good signs) will also motivate others around you because they’ll see firsthand the results of their efforts.
Step #4: Develop service culture through your vision and values
Every organization has a different customer service philosophy, but it should all boil down to the same thing: providing top-notch service for customers!
Make sure that this is reflected in your company values or mission statement. If it’s not, discuss how you can incorporate service into both areas of focus.
For example, service excellence can be incorporated into your company vision by including service-related goals and objectives. On the other hand, your values should reflect service culture through team members who show empathy, commitment to building relationships with customers, respect for others’ opinions, or loyalty to the organization.
Step #5: Make a commitment
Service excellence can’t be sporadic, or it will never become part of your organization’s culture. You have to show that you are committed to customer service and demonstrate this on an ongoing basis. This can be achieved by setting measurable goals, introducing training programs, and rewarding employees who provide great service.
If these things aren’t included in the company’s annual budget, they won’t get done because people simply won’t take them seriously. This makes service seem like something extra rather than necessary for success. That’s exactly what needs to change if you want service excellence within your company culture.
Step #6: Provide adequate staff training
Make sure that every new hire receives the proper training on how to handle complaints and solve problems in a way that creates happy customers and adds value to your company’s bottom line. Let them know they are not alone and that there is always someone who can help if needed!
Ensure all employees receive regular recurrent training and coaching so they remain up-to-date with industry standards, best practices, and changes in company policies and procedures.
Step #7: Measure service culture efforts
You need specific measurements that show whether employees are being successful at delivering service that meets customer expectations.
If you don’t have one already, establish a system of measuring service outcomes so customer service managers and employees can monitor their efforts. Keeping track of customer service metrics will help you determine how service culture is affecting your bottom line.
You can’t improve what you don’t measure, so it’s important to monitor and analyze your metrics on an ongoing basis to ensure that service becomes part of the company’s DNA!
Examples of a positive service culture
Zappos, the online retailer, has a customer-centric service culture built into its business model. Employees are encouraged to be themselves and provide service that goes above customer expectations. It’s part of their philosophy for doing business. Zappos achieves this by paying service employees above-average wages and providing thorough customer service training. As a result, it developed a positive culture that makes doing business with them an enjoyable experience.
Another example is the Ritz Carlton organization. Its employees are taught service excellence at every level of the organization, from high-level executives to entry-level employees. They are expected to treat every customer like a member of the family, and they do this by following high service standards. They are committed to building relationships that last, which means they work hard at making sure all customers feel welcome and essential.
What is your service culture philosophy?
Do you already have one? If not, developing a service culture philosophy will help you clearly define expectations for employees.
This philosophy should include your service values, vision, and goals that express the company’s commitment to customer service excellence. This will provide guidance for employees and managers alike on how service can be a competitive advantage for your organization.
Achieving this type of alignment requires planning and working together as one cohesive unit. It is not an easy task, but companies that take the time to develop a service culture will see positive results!