Customer Service

8 Key Steps to Establishing a Customer Service Culture

Customers are a company’s greatest asset.
Because without customers, there’s no company.”
–Erwin Frand

Many businesses have experienced declining revenues and lower budgets during our current weak economy. Budget cuts often result in reduced staff and lower quality services. This does not make sense to me. I think it’s during down times when customer service should be more important and retention of loyal clients even more important.

Many businesses look to service as a competitive advantage when price wars do not drive revenue. Big business marketers are returning back to the “service sells” mindset. However, while many offer great customer service, very few actually deliver. Problem is, very few marketers have ever actually served a customer.

I have had the chance to develop and interact with customers throughout my career. When you work in a service-based industry, it is inevitable that customers will give you feedback. Your customer’s perception of your business and the future will be shaped by how you use this feedback.

Retrospectively, the majority of my interactions with dissatisfied customers were not due to a poor product but a disappointing customer service experience. Why? Because product isn’t personal; customer service is. Let me briefly share eight steps that will help you create a culture for customer service.

1. Customers are the reason you do work. Not an interruption.

It sounds so obvious, doesn’t it. How many times have we entered a business only for it to be waited on by someone who is busy with a “non-service” task or answering the phone? People often lose sight or value the customer and become distracted by the day-to day tasks. While there are many tasks that must be done, you can’t afford to sacrifice customer service. Your team and you must prioritize customer service. Without customers, there is no company.

2. Train, train and train again.

Cross train all your staff to be able assist customers, regardless of their department. Customers don’t want to have their problems solved by employees who aren’t empowered or able to help them.

o Continue to provide customer service training for your employees. Once they have provided excellent service, train them again.

Role play scenarios can be helpful for your staff to recognize and appreciate both the easy and difficult service opportunities. An employee who is comfortable in dealing with difficult situations will be better equipped to handle them.

3. Encourage your staff members to serve

o Create a system for staff members to assist customers. They should be free to respond to customer complaints and provide outstanding service. Your staff should be able to service customers by creating a structure.

o Create a discretionary budget for employees that they can access in order to help customers before you lose them. I was surprised to learn that a major hotel chain has a monetary reserve per employee and per year. This allows them the flexibility to deliver exceptional customer service. This allows employees to correct a mistake or provide a memorable customer experience. While I don’t advocate spending large amounts of money on customer service, it can make a big difference.

Ask your staff to suggest tools that would allow them to deliver better service. You wouldn’t send a fireman to a burning house without the appropriate equipment. If you fail to equip your staff with the tools they need to serve your customer, you have little choice but to give poor service.

4. Service personal

o If possible, greet repeat customers by name

o Give a handshake and introduce your self. Personal service can not only keep customers happy, but also help to diffuse stressful situations.

o Thanks your customers for their loyalty. It truly does make a big difference.

5. Even if you need to say “No”, it’s OK to say “Yes”.

o Support your employees when they make customer service decision. My business policy is that employees can act freely without fear of repercussions as long as they meet a customer’s needs. This has led to a greater willingness and ability to serve customers.

Sometimes you can say “no”, but that could have major implications for your business. Ask yourself, “Am i willing to potentially lose 10 clients as a result of this interaction?”

6. Offer a solution

o Shift away from the problem to the process of resolution.

o Give the option to choose from several options.

o Place yourself in their shoes.

o Get involved with the customer to determine the solution.

o Clearly state any limitations.

7. Recognize your staff for their outstanding service

o Create a customer service award program to recognize employees who provide exceptional customer service. Perhaps you’ve tried them without success, and don’t believe they work. If the program was like many others I have seen, I would agree. Break the mold. One of my most successful clients offers spa treatment to his female employees if a customer recognizes them for outstanding service. For every five unrequested, positive comments from customers, another client gives his employees a “day of pay.” These are just a few of the many examples that go beyond the norm. For customer service, be creative and spark some excitement among your staff.

o Make sure to recognize employees at staff meetings. People want to feel valued and leave a mark. It can be a big difference to take the time to acknowledge them in front their peers.

8. Ask your customers to rate your service.

Asking customers is the best way to determine if they are satisfied. You could use questionnaires, customer interviews, or comment/suggestion card cards. Talk to your customers and staff informally. Ask them what they think about the service that you provide. In the ideal scenario, you will use both.

You might wonder, “Why should i ask for trouble?” You never know what you might find if you ask. That’s the point. You will see that most customers won’t voice dissatisfaction with your service. They will leave and never come back. If you don’t ask about the quality and reliability of your service, it is possible to make incorrect assumptions. You may think you can lower service levels simply because there are fewer complaints. This might lead you to create problems or turn off customers.

However, customers who are satisfied with your service send a message to their friends that you care about them and your business. While there might be some criticisms, it is possible to learn from your customers what you are doing well and make improvements.

You will also benefit from the interaction. Each interaction is an opportunity to provide customer service. Each interaction should be taken advantage of.

We continue to do business with businesses and people who provide excellent service. Even though we might not say it, we continue to do business with service providers that provide good service. We will tell our colleagues and friends about exceptional service if it is. We also vote with our feet when we are not satisfied with the service.

The TARP study was commissioned by the White House Office of Consumer Affairs in 1980. This report revealed these facts about unhappy customers.

96% dissatisfied customers don’t complain directly.

90% of the population will never return.

One unhappy customer can tell nine other customers.

13% will tell at minimum 20 other people

Superior customer service remains one of the most important deliverables for the business world. While selling service is easy, delivering that promise can be a huge challenge. Let me ask you: What can I do to improve my service? These eight steps will help you create a customer-centric culture that is both superior and enjoyable.

We are a team of professionals with each having two decades of experience in start-ups, sales, marketing, finance, HR, large scale project and profit centre management and running mature cross functional operations. At we are big believers that knowledge transfer is critical to our industry’s evolution. We love to share our experiences and learnings through our online resources.

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