By Kristy Westfall Moyer, Signature Worldwide
Want to get the best from your employees? Create an environment where customer service isn’t just the name of the game—it’s a way of life.
Service is what sets us apart these days. It is not just about technical aspects of product or service offerings any longer. Our world has changed dramatically over the last decade, as have our customers and their expectations. However, the employees are the real differentiator. Are they delivering legendary service on a consistent basis? How do you change your service from a function to a passion? Create a service culture!
“You’ll never have a product or price advantage again. They can be too easily duplicated. But a strong customer service culture can’t be copied.”—Jerry Fritz
“Traceability” is the new buzzword in the food industry, soon to trump “sustainability.” Though sustainability is growing ever-more important in the food world, it starts with the foundation of being able to trace food back to its roots and knowing the history and background of what we are eating.
“Service Culture” soon will top the current ways we refer to providing excellent customer service. It is not that we will stop striving for top-notch customer service or creating amazing experiences for our customers in order to gain their loyalty. It has to do with more than that. We must ingrain it into everything we do.
For it to be sustainable, we must be able to trace it back to the beginning: What are we trying to accomplish, why, and how are we going to get there? We cannot expect our employees to create legendary customer experiences consistently until they know where we started and where we want to end up. Although service culture is not a new idea or phrase, having a strong one in place is the only way forward in this ever-increasing competitive marketplace.
What Is a Service Culture?
A service culture is an environment made up of various factors, including the values, beliefs, rituals, and practices of a group or organization, ensuring that employee behaviorsare linked to key business outcomes.
Building and reinforcing a service culture does not happen overnight, and it cannot simply be a concept. Creating and maintaining one requires focused efforts and commitment, and action from the entire organization. Every person must embrace the fundamental service concepts and actively look for ways to create new or greater value for each other and their customers.
It starts with developing and unifying your vision, mission, and values and then developing a road map to take you from start to finish. This includes defining how each employee can affect those goals and then detailing their specific behaviorsin order to understand how their role can influence the entire culture.
How Do We Build a Sustainable Service Culture?
While it is not easy, it is deceptively simple. Start by committing to do the work that is required. Once your goals are in place and shared with the employees, they should be able to answer these questions:
Ask everyone in your company right now, if they can answer these questions. You might be surprised!
Based on your ultimate vision for the organization, tell employees what the goals and objectives are, what the standards are, and what you expect of them in order to help reach those targets. Help them see how each task they do affects the entire company.
The how is done by training. Do not forget that providing initial training only, no matter how excellent it is, will not bring lasting behavioral changes. Training establishes a strong foundationand creates a platform for learning, but real behaviorchanges occur in the reinforcement components of the program. Reinforcement must be ongoing and will only work if the leaders buy in and are involved.
Get Leaders Involved
The best way to inspire your employees is for them to see the leaders are taking part in the training. It proves to them the importance of the training. Over the years, I have seen numerous leaders who talk a great game about wanting to improve customer service but fail to start with the person in the mirror.
Not attending or driving any training program, internal or external, sends the message to your employees that this is not so important. Leaders must get involved and stay involved.
Additionally, the answers to the questions, “How will I know if I am doing a good job?” and “How will you help me get better?” boil down to one key reinforcement component: coaching. It is important to talk about the why and the how on a consistent basis. If they only hear it during orientation or in a training room, they will not use the skills daily. Celebrate the good and coach on the opportunities. Make it fun and uplifting because employees want to work in a positive environment. Happy employees make happy customers!
Coaching based on the positive will encourage self-discovery and will promote consistent performance improvement throughout the organization. Do not leave it to a once-a-year review to share with employees how they are doing. Coaching eliminates surprises, can stop less-than-legendary behaviorin its tracks, and reinforces excellent performance.
Ask your customers along the way if they are noticing the changes and reaping the benefits.
Trace your culture back to its roots and define the goals for the future. Implement it; share it with employees; and help them understand the how, the why, and the what. To sustain the culture, you should train, train, and train. Set expectations. Reinforce them through positive coaching. Review progress for employees and update them on the company’s progress on a consistent basis.
Your new service culture will indicate to everyone that your customers are the top priority. Employees will buy in and be on board as part of the culture, and your customers (and organization) will win.
“In business today, service is not an issue: If you don’t provide service, you’re out of business.”—John Bell
Kristy Westfall Moyer is a training account manager with Signature Worldwide, a Dublin, OH-based company that offers sales and customer service training, marketing, and mystery shopping services for a variety of service-based industries. For more information, call 800.398.0518 or visit www.signatureworldwide.com. You also can connect with Signature Worldwide on Twitter @SignatureWorld and on Facebook.