How to embed Customer Service Excellence into your company culture
Robert Milnes, Senior Consultant at Renault-Nissan Consulting explores ways to create a culture of Customer Service Excellence in any organisation.
In a world of practically unlimited choices for consumers, customer service excellence is often the only meaningful and sustainable differentiator in business.
Maturing markets, connective technology and globalisation have all led to a rise in customer expectations for superior service, meaning organisations need to work smarter if they are to build meaningful relationships and win the loyalty of customers for the long-term.
As such, organisations must adopt a strategy of continuous service improvement to create more value for customers. By focusing on service, a company can create more unique experiences that will help create relationships with customers that last longer and become more profitable over time.
However, as more businesses realise that superior service is a key competitive advantage, the big challenge is not merely to improve service performance, but rather to build a culture of customer service excellence that is completely and utterly ingrained into the way your people think, act, and communicate.
In order to successfully and sustainably differentiate based on service, companies must create an environment where continuous service improvement becomes the focus and the responsibility of the entire organisation – not just the customer service department. From back office staff and HR to those right at the coalface – employees must be motivated, supported and recognised for consistently taking action to create value for both customers and colleagues at every turn.
And the benefits are many. Not only do organisations with a strong service culture realise sustained improvements in customer experience, but they also create a better place to work. Such environments engage and motivate employees to improve performance, and they also help companies attract and retain top talent.
Here’s how you can use continuous improvement strategies to start embedding customer service excellence into your company culture.
Create the customer service excellence vision
The first step to take towards ingraining customer service excellence into company culture is to create your clear, customer-focused service vision that you can communicate to your organisation.
This will be an identifiable set of service characteristics that will define precisely how your organisation sets itself apart from your competitors. Many companies define their service vision through a set of statements – such as mission statements, vision statements, and value statements – that act as guiding principles.
These principles will be the service promise you make to your customers, and so it is important that you ensure that the promise is achievable, and more importantly, that it is shared by all teams within the organisation. Indeed, each and every employee should know the principles by heart, and they should be embedded into all areas of training and development.
Develop the strategy
Your customer service excellence strategy will determine the overall direction of your organisation going forward. It will be a high-level plan that will communicate to everyone involved with and within the organisation, exactly how better relationships with customers are to be developed, with the ultimate aim of maximising customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Importantly, you must acknowledge that your strategy is flexible to the processes of continuous improvement, and will develop and mature over time. To this end, a continuous improvement strategy based on Six Sigma methodology is recommended. The PDCA (Plan, Do, Study (Check), and Act) cycle, for instance, can be adapted to all situations where improvement is required, and consists of a logical sequence of four repetitive steps for continuous improvement and learning:
• Plan – Plan ahead for change, gathering insights and identifying clear goals
• Do – Execute the plan in all areas in which a need for improvement has been identified
• Study – Check the results, remembering that the goal has been to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty levels, not team efficiencies or other internal operations
• Act – Take action to standardise or improve the process
Your customer service excellence strategy should also aim to align departments and drive everyone towards the same service goals. Communication is of course key in this regard – keeping everyone informed of progress, upcoming initiatives, and even failures will avoid conjecture or any drop in team morale, and build towards your “One team, one vision” culture that will ultimately serve as the basis for continuous customer service excellence.
Involvement at every level
Embedding customer service excellence into company culture will only be possible by placing employees at the heart of the organisation, and exceeding their expectations so that they are inspired to exceed the expectations of your customers in-turn, and not simply delivering the bare minimum of the services promised.
Involve your employees in every discussion and in every decision that you take along the road to customer service excellence, and empower them to put their opinions forward by ensuring that those opinions are heard and actively considered. Creating an almost fanatical obsession with customer service excellence is the name of the game, and that is only achievable when employees believe and feel as if they are an important and valued part of the organisation.
Recognition is important here – and true recognition goes beyond financial reward. Any organisation can simply give an employee a bonus or raise when they serve customers better. But throwing money at people doesn’t show that you really care about them, and certainly won’t go very far towards building that culture of customer service excellence – a sustainable culture.
Meaningful recognition is the better approach to take in addition to any of the usual financial rewards. And recognition can be as simple as a senior manager taking the time to call or come and meet an employee – or group of employees – doing great work and giving positive feedback in-person. By way of an alternative or perhaps an additional strategy, is for recognition to be peer-led, where employees routinely nominate their colleagues for doing great work. Indeed, this type of recognition is what’s required if you are to build a culture of customer service excellence through which employees are driven by the service improvements they are empowered to make, and not simply by incentives which may not be sustainable over the long-term.
Ingraining customer service excellence into company culture will be practically impossible without the buy-in of team leaders. It is only when service leaders are passionate, consistent, and are reinforcing messages of customer service excellence at every turn will your people be able to understand that service is of utmost importance at your organisation.
Highly visible leadership is critical here, for it provides the powerful reinforcement needed if a new service culture is to be engendered. Managers and leaders who are passionate about customer service excellence, and are visionary, charismatic and inspirational in their endeavours, will lead your people to achieve great things for the organisation.
But effective service leadership goes beyond just good management however, as customer centricity needs to be built right into traditional managerial skills. You will need to provide high-quality training and development for your leaders, through which the importance of customer service excellence must be continually reinforced, with the ultimate goal of changing mindsets and attitudes towards customers.
Achieve customer service excellence with Renault-Nissan Consulting
Today, customers demand the highest possible service and so it is a customer-focused culture that you must create. In order achieve customer service excellence at your organisation, you must define your vision for it, develop your strategy, get the buy-in from team leaders, and then involve employees at all levels.
At its core, a culture of customer service excellence is about building a community of people who don’t question why they’re doing amazing things for your customers – they understand the ‘why’ and do them because they’re for the good of the team and the company. Moreover, it’s about giving your employees the tools and the guidance to do great things for your customers themselves, and then inspiring them to get on with it without question, ensuring that every single customer has a great experience with your organisation.
All of this will create happier and more engaged employees, which will translate into better customer satisfaction, longer-lasting relationships, greater market differentiation, and increased profitability.
At Renault-Nissan Consulting, we identify the changes required in your organisation to ensure that it works more efficiently and effectively from top to bottom, and implement the right tools and methods for ongoing customer service excellence success.
With 28 years’ experience and 300 consultants working in a range of sectors, become more successful and more profitable with Renault-Nissan Consulting, and reap the benefits of world-class customer service excellence. Get in touch today to find out more about our Customer Service Excellence Consulting Services.