A thriving customer service culture is a powerful force. It’s a feeling that “the way we do things around here” is pro-customer and, not incidentally, pro-the people who serve the customer. When the culture is vibrant enough, it shines a clarifying light on company goals and daily practices, keeping those that are aligned front and center, with resources appropriately allocated in their support. It makes it clear whom to hire and helps make the best of those who have been hired.
And it provides a clear path toward a sustainable, red-ink-free bottom line by moving your product or service out of the commodity category in the public’s mind.
So what is a customer service culture?
My definition of customer service culture—the practical, working definition I use on the jobsite as a customer service consultant and turnaround expert (and how I define it in Ignore Your Customers (and They’ll Go Away [HarperCollins Leadership], from which this explanation is adapted) is as simple as 1 and 2 (there’s not even a 3). Your customer service culture, for better or for worse, has two primary elements:
1. The way your company treats its customers.
2. The way your company treats the people whose job it is to take care of these customers: employees, as well as vendors and subcontractors.
The fundamental complication with this definition is that there may not be a single, all-the-time way that you treat your customers, nor one single, all-the-time way that you treat employees, vendors, and subcontractors. So, to get the full measure of a culture, we’ll need to subdivide items 1 and 2 and look separately at…
• How you treat your customers, employees, vendors, and subcontractors on a normal, stress-free day (when money is flowing, nobody’s called in sick, you’ve got your “A team” working) and
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• How you treat these entities when you are under stress (in the face of tight resources, a hurricane on the horizon, difficult customers, intensive shareholder demands, difficult personal times for yourselves as employees and leaders, etc.).
(For a printable copy of the Solomon Service Culture Matrix, email me – firstname.lastname@example.org – and I’ll hook you up. )
Your goal, then, is to fill all four of those boxes, replacing those four question marks in an equal, and equally positive, manner. This is a straightforward goal, but one that will never expire, and never be decisively achieved; it’s by its definition ongoing. But that makes it an inspiring, always available, always visible mountaintop to wake up in the morning and strive toward.