Do you ever wonder why your customer service is not at the level you would like? It may be that you have not created a true culture of customer service in your call centre. Peggy Morrow shares her ideas with us.
An organisation’s culture defines how things are done in that company. It is “baked into the organisation” and becomes “just the way we do things around here”.
Yes, the interpersonal skills and professionalism of call centre employees are critical for success, but if you believe that training in these skills alone can guarantee the success of a call centre, you are setting yourself up for failure.
So how do you go about changing a company’s culture to one of fanatical devotion to the customers?
Here are just a few ideas for you to try that I have observed and implemented in other companies.
1. Create a Service Vision or Statement
Without a shared sense of vision of where management wants to take the level of service, all customer service efforts will dissolve into a list of confusing, time-consuming projects and initiatives all going different directions or nowhere at all.
People will be constantly battling over what to do. “Should we give this customer her money back or insist that it is against our policy?” or “How far should we go in satisfying our customers?” are just some of the questions that a customer service vision will help to answer. When you have a vision, your employees will be able to answer these questions on their own, because they will know the level of commitment to customers that you want.
It can be as simple as “We deliver WOW Service” or “We want to provide legendary service in every experience”. “Exceptional service without exception” and “Delivering memorable service” are two additional possibilities other companies have used.
Once you have established your vision, you must repeat, repeat, repeat and communicate it often and through many channels. Have executives find three or four opportunities a day to tie conversations into the vision. Listen to everyone’s feedback on the vision and the best way to get there.
You can’t just roll it out one time and expect people to buy into it or it will be perceived as “the flavour of the month” that if ignored, will quickly go away. Repeat it again and again on posters, mugs, in meetings, performance reviews, plus other communication channels and tell “hero stories” in your employee newsletter. When the same message is heard at least six different ways, it will begin to take root in your culture.
2. Walk the Talk
If a culture of customer service excellence is to grow and thrive, management must have a consuming desire for it to be that way and the energy to ensure that this desire spreads throughout the organisation.
Management must lead the way and model the service philosophy and vision. After all, if you don’t practise what you preach, how can you expect everyone else to do it? If you often do the opposite of what you say, no one will listen to you. The enthusiasm of your employees reflects that of the manager and your staff will take their cue for how to treat the customer from those higher up on the ladder. American humorist Will Rogers said, “People learn from observation, not conversation.”
People will look at where you spend your time as to how important things are. If people see you doing things that make life easier for your customers, see you talking to or otherwise caring for customers and the people who serve them, this it what they will value and imitate.
3. Be Fanatical about Getting Customer Feedback
Management must make the measurement of service quality and feedback from the customer a basic part of everyone’s work. This information must be available and understood by everyone, no matter what their level. The entire organisation must become obsessed with what the customer wants.
One call centee has signs all over saying, “Is it good enough? Ask the customer.” This statement serves as a constant reminder to everyone that the customer is the ultimate judge of whether the service is what it should be.
Make sure that everyone, from the top down, knows of the results and receives recognition for the things that are going well.
Behavioural research has shown that you get more of the behaviour you reward. So don’t make the mistake of only mentioning the areas of poor performance; also mention and reward those who are doing well.
Some other things that are important in establishing a culture of service are things I am sure you are already doing.
- Setting service standards and goals, then measuring, and using them as a motivational tool is critical.
- Make sure that you are rewarding employees for the desired behaviour. If your employees look around and see that speed is recognised more than making the customer happy, guess what will happen?
- Make sure all policies are “customer friendly”. A company where a true culture of service exists is one where all your processes and procedures are built for the convenience of your customers instead of the other way around. Whenever there is a question of which way to do something, the company with a deeply ingrained customer service culture will choose the way that is easiest for the customer, even if it costs a little more.
And finally, remove those who don’t fit the culture. You must quickly weed out those who cannot or will not believe in the customer-centred culture of the company. One of the strongest messages you can give about the importance of customer service in your organisation is to get rid of those employees who are not customer focused.
The minute your people are hired they are bombarded with the culture of the company. Even if they came on board totally committed to customer service, when a company’s culture does not live, sleep, eat and breathe that the customer comes first, this attitude will quickly go away and new employees will model the behaviour that they see around them.
That is why establishing a culture of being fanatical about the customer is so important. It can’t be changed with a series of training classes or a simple memo from the president that “We will now become more customer friendly.” It will not and cannot happen overnight.
You need action to encourage people to accept the new culture and patience to give the culture time to become ingrained.
For over 27 years author and consultant Peggy Morrow has worked with companies to improve profitability through exceptional customer service and employee performance. Sign up for her free monthly ezine at www.peggymorrow.com