This is the #3 Principle in the series, Core Principles for Delivering an Exceptional Customer Experience.
A Service Culture is Paramount
An organization’s culture is made up of its shared values, attitudes, standards and priorities. To put it another way, culture is the personality of a firm. Just as our individual personalities shape our personal interactions and how people respond to us; an organization’s culture has a profound impact on how that organization interacts with its customers and how those customers respond.
A positive culture is going to keep people engaged. It is going to help build relationships both internally and externally. It is going to increase efficiency and add resilience to the organization. Culture affects all of an organization’s interactions with their customers, as well as what is going on behind the scenes, which also impacts that customer’s overall experience.
A service-oriented or customer-centric culture is going to allow an organization to consistently deliver high-quality customer experiences. Always putting the customer first will build trust in the organization. It doesn’t mean that a company is going to get CX right each and every time, but if the customer experience is a core value the company is going to get it right in the long run. These organizations can make the customer experience a key differentiator and use it to build a competitive advantage. Unlike competitive advantages based on technology, marketing or positioning, an advantage rooted in an organization’s culture is going to prove durable.
In my role as a Director and head of Dalbar’s Service Quality Measurement program, I spend most of my time working with the contact center. While the contact center certainly does much of the heavy lifting when it comes to the customer experience, at least they have the luxury of a direct cause and effect. At the end of the day, every department, and every employee contributes to the customer experience. A customer-centric culture encourages this mindset across the organization and leads to consideration of how decisions away from the front line will impact customers.
So how does one build a service culture? Culture is an amorphous thing, not simply a policy that can be set or an investment that can be made. That does not, however, mean that we are powerless to drive the culture within our organizations. Below are a few building blocks that can help create a service culture and encourage customer-centric thinking.
A vision gives purpose to a firm. They can be internal or something that is broadcast to the outside world. A few examples of customer-centric visions include:
- Nationwide is on your side
- You’re in good hands with Allstate
- Everyone deserves a Guardian
These taglines promote lofty goals and directly relate to how these firms view their customers. To really reinforce a service culture, however, these goals need to be more than just a marketing spin. They need to guide decision making and be a part of day-to-day life. Translating these goals into concrete objectives for individual roles will focus an organization, making sure everyone is pulling in the same direction. This will increase buy-in, drive employee engagement and become a source of pride for staff.
One way to view Culture is the sum of the small stuff. Something as simple as the language we use day-to-day can have a profound impact in the aggregate. The Ritz-Carlton, who certainly knows how to deliver amazing customer experiences, describes their staff as “Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen”. This simple statement has become a cornerstone of who they are, how they view themselves and how they view and treat their customers.
Something as little as referring to a department as a “Service Center” or “Client Solutions” instead of a “Call Center” can likewise have a big impact on mindsets and customer interactions.
Recruitment and Orientation
Culture starts on day one. Some of the top-performers within DALBAR's own Customer Experience Audits make a point of talking about their DALBAR Service Awards during the recruitment process and reinforce that commitment to delivering award-winning service throughout orientation and training. This shapes the next generation by introducing a key component of their culture right off the bat.
Rewards and Recognition
I always say, “If you want to know what is important to an organization, look at their associate scorecard.” At the end of the day, employees will perform to that scorecard. You can talk to me about how important the customer is until you are blue in the face, but if the quality of service I am delivering only represents 10% of my performance review, it is clearly not a priority.
The same goes for recognition. Zappos, the online shoe retailer known for their customer experience, celebrates and brags about their longest call (10 hours and 43 minutes). While that is certainly extreme, it clearly communicates how important customer interactions are and makes a stark contrast to contact centers that focus primarily on maintaining a low average handle time.
- By Brendan Yeager