What Makes a Culture of Great Customer Service?

There are a lot of opinions about customer service:
How should it be done?
What should be avoided?
How can you tell if you’ve succeeded?
And if you check social media these days, you will see many examples of what happens when there is bad service.

So how can we make things better?

The other day, in a Tweetchat organized by Roy Atkinson (twitter @HDI_analyst) of the HDI, Marsha Collier (@MarshaCollier), Greg Ortbach (@gregortbach), AlHopper (@alhopper), and other participants provided some great suggestions, that I thought were worth sharing.

In general participants felt that the impact of internal culture on customer service was huge.

“Culture isn’t a slogan, it’s not a tee-shirt or a mug. It’s what people actually do.”

“Internal culture is the foundation of any customer service operation whether internal or external.”

“An employee’s experience translates into the customer experience and customers can pick up the underlying culture in the same way they can tell if an agent is smiling.”

Here are some additional thoughts and suggestions from the participants.

1)      Where does a customer service culture originate?

“If you want enthusiastic loyalty from your customers or IT end users, you must first develop it with your agents. You won’t satisfy customers with dissatisfied agents.”

”It’s the responsibility of the C-suite to provide the support, systems passion and commitment to that culture. Then it can take root and thrive throughout and organization. It should start at the top but it takes groundswell to turn it into reality. Every part of the organization needs to live and breathe it and be held accountable. Everyone must buy in for it to be genuine and sincere. A team can have great service culture but when an organization doesn’t support them then the cross teamwork will suffer. Culture can destroy the team and the team can destroy the culture.”

“Culture should start from the first hire. It should be explicit in the job description. It’s easier to teach a skill to someone who has a great attitude than teaching a skilled person to have the right attitude.”

“One radical idea which has worked is actually involving the client or the end user employees that your agent will service in the last stages of interviewing.”

“A good customer service culture
cannot be an afterthought in the business.”

2)      How should a customer focused culture be conveyed to new hires?

“Although culture must be harnessed from the top down, existing employees truly convey the culture.  It cannot be conveyed by motivational posters on the walls, an employee handbook that no one reads or insincere emails from leadership that have not bought in themselves.”

“A strong culture will sustain a strong customer service department. But you have to keep adding the right people –on-boarding, training and more training – it’s ongoing, never go to autopilot.”

“Whatever you do don’t throw new hires straight on the phones.”

“Customers whether internal or external should not be the practice ground for new hires. “

“Use a buddy system harnessing your best customer service staff. Leaders should practice what they preach in front of new hires. They should mentor new hires not leave them to their own devices or bring in their values from other organizations which may not be in-line with yours. Managers should set team goals and nurture a passion for quality customer service.”

3)      How much do policies matter to an organization’s culture?
Are they an accurate reflection of it?

“Policies are as good words on a document unless they’re effectively implemented and practiced.”

“Policies that get in the way of action don’t show a great care for customer service. Policies either support or destroy a great service culture.”

4)      What are some elements of a culture of good customer service?

“Outstanding service values are inherent in the organization. That organization will be focused on experience before profits and customer service will be a factor in any final decision making.”

“It starts with hiring people who value customers. Good staff know when it’s ok to go counter culture to care for the customer, but they won’t stick around long enough. A culture of good customer service includes empowering the workforce to serve as needed without retribution for people who think outside the box to resolve issues.”

“Trust creates a good culture. Mistrust destroys a good service culture.”

“It’s important to treat the front line as the most important employees. They are closest to your customers. Involve them in planning and decisions. Celebrate them and recognize above and beyond service.”

5)      As an organization grows, is it easier or harder to keep a consistent customer service culture?

“Keeping a consistent customer service culture depends on the number of silos the company has developed and how many transactional leaders there are trying to claim territory.”

“If the rows in the garden have been planted in an orderly fashion, it’s much easier for consistency as they grow.”

These are some interesting opinions, don’t you agree? Now it’s your turn:

What have you done to foster good service culture and skills in your department?
(Please provide your answers in the comments)