By Micah Solomon, Contributor, Forbes
Whether or not it was deliberate, your company has already developed a customer culture. Although there are many times, as a customer culture and service culture consultant, that I wish I could begin my work on a completely blank slate, that's just not the reality at any existing company.
If yours is a company where employees wander in about 9:04, although your sign says you open at nine, you have a customer culture.
If yours is a company where the founder can be heard kvetching about customers "always trying to take advantage," you have a customer culture.
If yours is a company where longtime employees are quick to tell the new hires, “this place stinks; never mind what our marketing claims,” you have a customer culture.
If yours is a company where senior employees discourage new hires from going the extra mile (or even the extra inch) in service of a customer, you have a customer culture.
If yours is a company where employees apply their creativity to finding ways to tell a customer “no,” or “not my department,” or “I can’t help you ‘til next week,” rather than “yes,” you have a customer culture.
I think you get the picture. The problem, quite obviously, is that this kind of customer culture, which has developed accidentally rather than by design, is a negative one that doesn’t serve customers, or your company goals, or your employees, for that matter.
In contrast to the examples above, a company with a positive customer service culture is one where you’re likely to observe most or all of the following:
- A default of yes: Even before a question or request leaves a customer’s lips, employees are poised to respond positively, no matter what the customer might need.
- Positive peer pressure: You’ll find employees making it clear to other employees that “the way we do things around here” is to treat customers right.
- Going beyond the minimum: I’m not exactly talking about the notorious “giving 110 percent,” but more about giving 100% and having it be the right 100 percent. In an organization with a great customer service culture, employees are motivated to use their creativity and energy in pursuit of customer-friendly action.
- Purpose-driven behavior: Employees’ action will be driven by a profound, and pro-customer, purpose that inspires them to go beyond and outside of the basic job functions you’ll find listed in their job description or on their daily to-do list.
- An ethos of lateral service: A positive customer service culture is one where there’s no “not my job/not my department” to be found.
- Eagerness to innovate on behalf of the customer: A positive customer service culture is also a fertile ground for customer-focused innovation, where there’s a willingness to try new ways of serving customers in the hopes of improving the experience for them moving forward.
- Eagerness to share best practices: Hoarding of information and techniques that could help make life better for customers is anathema in a positive customer service culture.
Does this sound like your company? If so, good on you — and I encourage you to do everything you can to nurture and sustain the culture you’ve created and/or are a beneficiary of.
If, on the other hand, it sounds like I’ve just described a company that bears only a limited relation to yours, then it’s time to get to work. (Here are articles about how to define and develop a customer service culture that will serve you well, about how long it will take, and about a cultural landmine to avoid along the way.)
Because every day that a negative customer culture is allowed to fester is one day too long.