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Strengthening Your Service Culture (Part One)

customer service culture


We are big believers that strengthening your service culture is an important component for a successful customer experience program. That’s why we recently hosted a Leadership Lunch with Phoenix-area business leaders to discuss this very topic.

Take a look at your competitors’ websites (maybe even your own). I bet most express their love for customers and creating compelling service experiences. But do they really back up those claims? The reality is that too few executives truly embrace what it means to have a service culture that permeates the organization and empowers every employee to own their part.

Companies that excel at the customer experience do so because they have created a deep-rooted customer-centric culture. Here’s how they strengthen their service culture:

Customer Experience Must Start at the Top

Without question, strengthening your service culture needs to be directed by the C-Suite. And you can’t just pay it lip-service. Employees need to see you walk the walk. At our Leadership Lunch, one attendee described how her organization makes the customer experience a central topic during all employee quarterly meetings. We love the message this sends to employees – customer experience is a year-round endeavor.

Leadership must also have a direct link to the voice of the customer. One of the best ways is with a Customer Advisory Board program. You can even listen to recorded conversations between your front-line employees and customers.

Making the investment must also be a priority. One strategy gaining momentum is retention marketing. By placing more emphasis on customer retention and loyalty, you not only effectively create a second sales team of enthusiastic promoters, you show employees that you are committed to fostering a culture of customer success.

Make A Strong Service Culture Central to Your Company’s Mission, Vision, and Values

Along with being a top-level focus, the customer experience and strengthening your service culture must also be baked into your mission, vision, and values. It can’t just be words on a piece of paper. It must be reflected in the way that you hire, promote, and recognize your people.

A couple of well-known examples are companies like American Express and Intuit. Both routinely rank highly for customer loyalty and satisfaction within their respective industries. In the case of American Express, customer commitment is their number one value (and it has been for a very long time).

Innovation, Development, and Improvements Must Be Customer-Driven (or Informed)

Leaders are constantly making decisions about how to run the business. Shouldn’t customer input help guide decision-making? Surprisingly, this is not something innate to many companies. One concept adopted by Amazon is to place an empty chair in every strategy strategic meeting. This chair represents the customer and stands as a reminder that the impact on the customer should be a primary consideration in every decision.

At our lunch, several companies shared their approaches for ensuring customers remain at the forefront of their decision-making with programs such as executive sponsor programs and business mapping exercises.

Understand the Customer Journey and “Moments of Truth”

It’s interesting to us how few companies actually think about this in a formal way. What are the steps in the journey that your customers go through? Are there breakdowns from one phase of the engagement to another? A customer journey mapping exercise can highlight opportunities for improvement or identify where to smooth out the process to reduce any friction customers may experience.

Walking through the customer journey and mapping the key moments of truth is an excellent exercise for employees as well. That’s because it allows them to think about the customer journey in ways they never have before.

One luncheon attendee shared a story about how their organization gained a new appreciation of the customer experience by conducting this exercise. While the output was valuable, it was the process of mapping the customer journey that provided the vision and transformation they needed.

Establish a Clear Business Case For Customer Service Excellence – with Quantifiable ROI

Intuitively, we know that we should be servicing our customers well, treating them well, and creating more promoters, but it’s a lot more powerful when you are able to quantify it. And you have to demonstrate clearly to employees that a customer-focused culture pays off.

Metrics that show employees these efforts positively affect the business include customer lifetime value, customer retention, share-of-wallet, and referrals.

As you can see, there are many ways to reap the business benefits of a strong service culture. But we’re not done. Read part two of our blog on strengthening your service culture.