Customer service, according to Shep Hyken, is not a department.
Hyken is a customer service and experience expert and is behind one of our 21 can’t-miss customer service Twitter accounts.
Customer service “is not found in rules and policies,” Hyken wrote recently. “It is a philosophy, and to be successful, it must be embraced by every member of an organization, from the CEO to the most recent hire.”
Is your company culture influenced by the philosophy of customer service?
A customer-centric company culture doesn’t happen by accident. But it can yield dividends for organizations that put in the effort to create it.
Great customer service can increase customer loyalty and word-of-mouth reputation, both of which have direct positive impacts on your bottom line.
On the other hand, failing to build a customer service culture can mean worse service, lowering your customer retention, and potentially harming your reputation.
Below I’ve compiled some advice for creating a customer service culture in your organization and have quoted a few customer service pros on how and why they’re doing one of the two essential steps for building a customer service culture.
2 steps to building a customer service culture
Building a customer service culture comes down to two must-dos:
- Hire correctly
- Treat your people well
Here’s why: It’s much easier to create a customer service culture with agents who have the capacity to be great at customer service and who are already bought into the vision of a customer service culture than to try to sell skeptical employees on the idea.
Treating your employees with care and consideration sets them up for success. It’s much easier to be a top performer when you’re being treated well than when you’re under unnecessary stress.
Customer service is a hard job, so making it easier for your agents helps them succeed. And it sets a good example for them for how to treat others well.
Here’s how to hire the right people and treat them like they’re valuable.
1. Hire for personality and goals, not skills
Skills can be taught. Personality and values? Teaching those is much harder.
Instead, focus on so-called soft skills, such as communication skills, a positive vibe, and patience. It’s much easier to teach a patient person how to use your ticketing system than to teach someone who’s good at ticketing how to control their temper with a customer.
I’d argue that values are even harder to teach than soft skills. If someone inherently prefers getting things done quickly to doing them well, that’s going to be a difficult preference to change. Similarly, if an agent doesn’t really care about creating and maintaining a customer service culture, getting them to care may be an uphill battle. It’s easier in the long run to hire people who are already motivated to help contribute to a customer service culture.
But how do you find them?
To ensure an alignment of values, Amit Sharma, CEO of Narvar, interviews everyone his company ends up hiring, which means 15 to 20 interviews per week. In these interviews he asks questions designed to determine the following:
- How well they’ll work with the existing team now and in the future
- How they’ll contribute to a diverse and inclusive workplace
Finding someone who will be a positive contributor to a customer service culture “requires hiring for values fit, not for culture fit,” writes Sharma.
That’s because culture comes from values, not the other way around.
Hire for values and personality, and train for hard skills. If you get people with the right priorities and soft skills in place, creating a customer service culture becomes much easier.
2. Treat your agents well
Once you’ve got the right people in place, it’s time to treat them well.
One of the most consistent findings in social psychology is the reciprocity principle. It states that you’re much more likely to treat someone well who’s treated you well.
In the context of creating a customer service culture, treating your agents with care and consideration will motivate them to reciprocate by giving you their best at work. It also provides an example for them to follow when dealing with customers. Care and consideration begets care and consideration, both to the company and the customers.
So what kind of workplace benefits have the best outcomes? Of course you want to pay them fairly, give them enough vacation time and paid sick days, and provide quality health insurance. For employees who work in your office, I think the best thing to do for them is feed them breakfast. And for everyone else, pay for their gym membership.
Why these two things? Well, not only are they acts of goodwill, but they actually lead to better performance all on their own.
Feed your employees breakfast
Creative culture blog 99U points to numerous studies linking eating breakfast to increased productivity. Plus, there’s evidence that breakfast eaters are healthier, which further enhances productivity.
The first step to building a customer service culture is finding agents who have the right values and personality. But people who are hungry and cranky aren’t as able to contribute to building a customer-first environment. You’re going to build a customer service culture faster if those agents are able to perform closer to the peak of their ability.
Jay Hum, a product manager at Pivotal, says feeding his engineers a hearty breakfast at the same 30-minute window every day syncs everyone to working at the same time so they can collaborate, and it gets their energy levels on the same plane.
If you’re worried about costs, there are opportunities for tax breaks for feeding your employees.
Provide gym memberships
Another habit that enhances productivity is going to the gym. Regular exercise can help prevent depression in at-risk individuals.
Similarly, exercise can reduce the negative impact stress has on the brain, which can make your agents less prone to burnout. Even the most values-aligned employees will have trouble building a customer service culture if they’re not mentally well.
So make it as easy as possible for them to do so. If possible, choose an office with a gym. If that’s not an option, offer to subsidize their membership to a nearby gym. And take advantage of any tax benefits you can get for doing so.
Breakfast and gym memberships aren’t cheap. But well-fed, energetic agents provide much better quality customer service than hungry, tired employees. If you have the room to experiment in the budget, try it for a year and see if agent attrition goes does and customer satisfaction scores go up.
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