Customer Care Culture
Why do so many business professionals and organizations continue to treat customer care culture as non-relative? Incidentally, this question equally targets anyone concerned with building a customer care culture—whether executives, brand managers, marketers, salespeople, and even janitors.
Because anyone in the company could be in contact with a potential customer at any time. It doesn’t matter what role they play within the organization. The topic of culture as a whole is quite complex and can’t be covered in this one article; it couldn’t be covered in one or two books. Countless projects and research papers have been written on the subject of culture—many in the past five years alone. Nevertheless, to begin to improve the culture in an organization, it’s necessary to summarize a few critical points concerning culture, both from an organizational and societal standpoint. That foundation will allow a further exploration of the core topic: nine ways to build a culture of customer care.
Culture Is Like a Mountain: It's Not Formed Top to Bottom
It may seem strange to think of culture as being like a mountain, but this illustration is borrowed from a slightly similar assertion that culture is like an iceberg. Understanding how both benefit the earth in totally different ways, it seems that while they’re similarly shaped, mountains are more representative of what culture does for society as a whole.
Much like the iceberg analogy, the visible portion of a mountain is merely a tip of what lies beneath the surface. Mountains can drill down three-to-four times deeper in the earth than the elevations reached by their peaks. Considering some mountains reach as high as 27,000 feet, imagine how deep it must go down into the earth. Apparently, if the earth had no mountains, it would be just as lifeless as Mars. Mountains prevent the earth’s crust from quaking continuously as well.
Like a mountain, the most noticeable characteristics of culture are merely small segments of a much bigger whole. Just like we can easily describe what a mountain peak looks like, we can also outline the observable behaviors and practices of a culture, even if it’s not our own. However, the majority of what comprises a culture can’t be quantified and resides in minimal consciousness. Though interpretations and core values make up about 90% of most cultures, it’s behaviors and social practices (the top visible 10%) that arrest people’s conscious awareness.
By now, you should have somewhat of a picture of why many organizations have a hard time building a solid organizational culture. Traditionally, organizations focused their culture-building efforts on behaviors and social practices. Executives and managers have long thought cultural change should start with those “on the floor.” After all, it’s lower level management and employees are the ones on the front lines. Excluding pyramid schemes, forward-thinking organizations are beginning to realize good leadership must include the base. Now we’ve come full circle: from cultural governance to the inverted leadership pyramid. This maximizes the potential for meaningful communication, and creates a flexible and responsive potential for customer care.
To succeed in implementing the following nine ways of building a customer-centric culture, one should first comprehend the definition of culture. Forget about changing behaviors and practices until you’ve cemented the foundation with explicated interpretations and core values.
1. Introduce a Well-Crafted Mission Statement
When you’re thinking about the future of your organization, a well-crafted mission statement is incredibly effective. It helps your organization better identify the purpose of its work and the goals it’s committed to accomplishing. If your company already has a mission statement, it’s not a bad idea to create mission statements for each department as well. It helps teams develop sound strategies to achieve their goals. Mission statements are the foundational building blocks most successful organizations are built on. It ensures stability through the challenges you and your teams face in the future.
The strength of your mission statement matters because you, your team, and your partners will use it as a guideline for all actions. It shouldn’t only be something you use at the start of your organization; it’s something that is consistently used when making decisions and working towards goals. This holds especially true for the frontline, such as call centers and other customer service departments. It’s so crucial, as a matter of fact, that online services exist specializing in helping organizations create mission statements for their call centers.
2. Create a Strong Leadership Philosophy Framework
A strong leadership philosophy framework is pivotal to managing a team successfully. Rooting your leadership methodology in a strong, concise collection of values and principles to bolster commitment to your goals. This keeps employees consistently motivated and encouraged—rather leaving room for fluctuation. While many organizations are aware these ups and downs exist, they understandably fail to create a working leadership philosophy framework. Thoroughly conceptualizing how to develop a leadership philosophy can often be an arduous task. But good things come to those who show persistence.
Netflix understood this well over a decade ago and created Netflix Culture Deck. One only needs to look at how successful the video streaming company has become over the years to be a believer. Within Netflix’s Culture Deck you can find a very strong leadership philosophy framework. One section of its Culture Deck, its states:
“Many companies have value statements, but often these written values are vague and ignored. The real values of a firm are shown by who gets rewarded or let go. Below are our values, the specific behaviors, and skills we care about most. The more these values sound like you, and describe people you want to work with, the more likely you will thrive at Netflix …. It’s easy to write admirable values; it’s harder to live them. In describing courage we say, “You question actions inconsistent with our values.” We want everyone to help each other live the values and hold each other responsible for being role models. It is a continuous aspirational stretch.”
Sound inspiring? If it does, keep in mind that is only a very small excerpt. Remember that philosophy is more than a statement and can take time to fully develop. It’s advisable to read through some of Netflix’s Culture Desk to get an idea of where to start.
3. Unequivocally Asserted and Exhibited Support for Empowerment
Empowerment is something that should be confirmed within your foundational documents; reiterated in your training; and reinforced daily by those in positions of leadership. Employees should be praised consistently for exercising initiative instead of “laying down the law” any time empowerment doesn’t go exactly right. Countless companies try to inspire their call center staff with vague statements like “Employees are empowered to treat every customer with the best service possible.”
However, to turn empowerment into something beyond empty lip service, it should be understood that an employee’s judgment call, even those that prove erroneous, is the prerogative of each employee. This, of course, must be brought to life through those in management and leadership positions first. For them, it should be almost a religious duty to praise and uplift employees for exercising empowerment even when the outcome isn’t perfect. This makes it clear that your organization is sincere about supporting empowerment.
4. CEOs and Senior Leadership Gets Involved With Organizational Socialization
In terms of building a customer care culture, this should be a non-negotiable aspect of your organization. This is the only way you can send a clear message that you value your employees when new talent joins the ranks. When new people first get hired, it’s an important time for them and your organization. Oftentimes it’s not even about the job or amount of pay someone receives that affects how they end up feeling about their job; most of the time it’s how they’re treated, especially by the senior leadership. If you don’t take this seriously, any plan of truly creating a solid culture of customer care is doomed before it ever starts.
There is a reason why some establishments seem to have a “revolving” door of new hires while others do not.
5. Hiring People for Their Personality Traits Rather Than Prior Experience
According to an article published by the Harvard Business Review, Chad H. Van Iddekinge, Research Professor of Management at Florida State University, assessed the link between employees’ prior work experience and their performance and found no direct correlation between them. It didn’t matter what kind of degrees they had, tasks completed, roles held, or the relevant functions or industries they worked in—at the end of it all, none of it translated into better performance. In other words, experience doesn’t give you a good picture of a new hire’s potential success.
6. Establish a Daily Customer Service Huddle
A daily customer service huddle is between five and seven minutes long. It usually only consists of one department where employees share positive customer stories, provide updates, share information, and discuss other developments. If you’re thinking, “But we don’t have time for additional meetings as it is,” remember that it’s called a “huddle” for a reason. Football huddles usually take less than a minute or so for a team to come up with a strategy. In a way, a daily customer service huddle is the same idea—a brief gathering of those who work side-by-side to go over things that should take place that day.
Most importantly, it’s intended to bring about solidarity and unity. It also helps to have a different employee lead the huddle each day, so the ritual becomes a multi-pronged catalyst of the customer care culture. Furthermore, not only does it develop leadership skills among employees but it gives a clear idea of who would make a good manager in the future—hiring management from within is always suggested. A huddle provides senior leadership opportunities to recognize employees for their great ideas and service as well.
7. Leading From the Trenches
If we were to compare running a company to commanding an army, then it’s important to know that the best military leaders of all time were known for leading on the frontline. During WWI and WWII it also became known as “leading from the trenches.” In a company environment, the trenches are usually called “the floor,” but the same idea applies.
Men like General George S. Patton, General Douglas MacArthur, and Sun Tzu were renowned for being frontline leaders. Historians have written many books about their exploits, and most agree that the most successful military leaders were those who earned the admiration and loyalty of their troops. The same analogy plays out in today’s business world. This is because managers who never come out of their offices don’t have the opportunity to give their much-needed support and guidance to their organization’s budding customer service culture.
8. Provide Employees With In-Depth Customer Service Training
While some argue that this point doesn’t seem like a cultural thing, it’s a principle that is inescapable. It doesn’t matter if every employee has the best intentions, or that you are the most careful about selecting employees—those things simply aren’t enough, In-depth customer service training is essential.
9. A Productive Work Environment
When it comes to a productive work environment, this can mean both physically and emotionally. How a workspace is designed can have a significant effect on how well employees stay engaged with their work. Then, of course, there is the emotional environment of the workplace.
Understanding the Overall Benefits of Building a Customer Care Culture
When your organization has a strong and well-established customer care culture, your customers will naturally feel like they’re a member of that culture. Employees should be trained to think in a customer-centric manner. But in order to get them to think this way, you must first treat them in an employee-centric way. As a result, your strong customer service culture will promote a richer, more engaging customer experience.
Without building a strong customer care culture, the customer-centric approach doesn’t completely work its way into a unified prioritization of customer satisfaction. Customer care isn’t about giving away freebies, deescalating tense situations, or ensuring satisfaction after a call or email interaction. While these things are important, there is a lot more to it than smiling over the phone and trying to say the right things with a nice voice.
Here are some values that resonate through a customer care culture:
- Building Brand Loyalty
- Powerful Positivity
- Focus on Outcomes
- Understanding the Journey
- Mapping the Experience
- Going above and beyond
Millennial’s Customer Care solutions are designed to take your customer care culture further. We strive to make an emotional connection, leaving your customers feeling valued. That’s what