We have all experienced what it feels like to have a memorable
customer service moment. It's a moment when your expectations were
not only met, but were absolutely blown away. You can make an
emotional connection to a business or a brand because of that one
experience. So then what does it take to create that culture in
your own business?
Leading The Change
Driving an organizational shift toward a higher standard of
customer care and service must begin at the top of the
organization. Without the clear buy-in and participation of top
leadership, lower-level associates will see and feel the lack of
support from the top down. As a leader, it's crucial that you have
an unwavering belief in the new culture and a clear vision of what
success looks like. Without these two leadership attributes you run
a very high risk of a failed implementation and an unsuccessful
Most businesses make the mistake of hiring people for positions
without understanding that a service perspective is important for
all employees. Having both an internal and external focus on
customer service is a characteristic among successful
organizations, which provide world-class service for their external
guests as well as their own workers.
- Behavior Based Interviewing: Interview with people's past
performance in mind--it's the most accurate predictor of what their
future performance will be.
- Determine ahead of time what skills, attitude, temperament and
background the ideal candidate will posses, and do this before you
- What motivates the candidate? Is it a paycheck, or the
satisfaction of a satisfied customer? The answer to this question
will tell you a lot.
One of the most important aspects in creating a service culture is
setting expectations for each employee starting from the first day
on the job. Successful service organizations like Ritz-Carlton,
Starbucks, and The Four Seasons ensure that all employees go
through the companies' orientation program on the first day of
work. New employees learn about the company culture, the
expectations for all employees, and what behavior will and will not
be tolerated. New-hire paperwork and benefits forms take less than
20 percent of the entire day. In other words, time is spent on
educating new employees, not simply covering the paperwork.
- If you don't have an orientation program with clear
expectations, develop one. Make sure that at least 75 percent of an
employee's first day is spent explaining service standards,
expectations, and benefits of the culture.
- Be sure to identify both internal and external customer
service--one without the other never works.
- Role-play specific customer service issues with your employees.
The more practice they have dealing with difficult customers, the
better they'll be when it actually happens
Train and Develop Your Staff
One of the secrets to a happy staff is ongoing development and
learning. Continuing to train your staff not only shows an
investment on your part, but also equips your employees to be
better at their jobs. By providing new skills and training,
employees will not only be more likely to stay with your
organization, but they'll be better able to respond to your
- Ask your employees what training or tools they need to be
- Cross-train every employee possible so customers get the help
they need even when an employee with specialized knowledge is out
Reinforce Service Standards
The most successful service organizations don't simply "talk" about
their service standards, they live and breathe them every day.
Every department manager, director, and general manager knows the
standards by heart, exemplifies them daily, and even quizzes
front-line employees on them. Service is the backbone of their
business and they know without it, the company wouldn't survive.
- Talk about a different service standard at each department
meeting, as well as how everyone is contributing to it.
- Every month. publicly recognize someone in the organization who
best exemplifies a service standard.
- Make sure all key personnel and leaders are on board with the
Empower Your Staff
One of the most often used and painful service expressions is "I'm
sorry, I'm just not allowed to do that; it's against company
policy." Successful service organizations empower their employees
to do whatever it takes (within reason) to satisfy the customer.
For example, Ritz-Carlton allows every employee to spend up to
$2,000 on any one guest to exceed customer expectations and make
their experience memorable. Don't get in the way of your employees:
Let them take care of the customer first, and explain the reasons
to you later. The money your company spends in comping a hotel
room, taking a dessert off a bill, or providing your service at a
discounted rate will come back tenfold.
- Have an organizational system that helps your employees take
care of the customer. Customers need to be taken care of at the
first point of contact, not the fourth.
- Let your employees know that they're in charge of their
customers. Tell them to do whatever it takes to bring customers
- Continually ask your employees if they need anything to be more
effective with your client-base. If they do need something, give it
Measure Your Success: Solicit Feedback
In order to create and maintain a culture of service, companies
must continually seek out and embrace complaints and then resolve
them. Many organizations don't want to hear from their customers
for fear of what they might say. That is exactly why they need to
hear it! By walking the floor of our business, calling current
clients, and sending out customer service surveys, managers can
measure the impact of their company's culture. Although some of
comments can initially sting, the end result is an honest
organization that isn't afraid to admit when a mistake has been
- Ask for unsolicited feedback from customers whenever possible.
- Publicly celebrate "success stories" that customers pass along.
There is no better way to ensure a behavior continues than to
reinforce it positively.
- Post customer service scores wherever possible. Visibility
creates focus, and focus creates success.
2006 ASTD, Alexandria, VA. All rights reserved.