customer-focused cultureFor about five years of my life, I boycotted “Big Cable.”

I like to call this time my one-woman stand against big cable.

During these years I used my phone as a personal wireless modem and forfeited TV (which I don’t watch anyway, so that wasn’t a struggle).

But, as someone who works from home, internet was important.

I ended up paying waaaaaay more to use my phone for everything, but I felt the cost was well worth it for my radical social statement.

I’ll also remind you this was before Apple TV, TiVo, or the like. So the fact I didn’t have cable DID seem radical to many.

What Caused This Stand-Off?

A cultural trend across “Big Cable” to completely ignore the need for a customer-focused culture.

I’m sure anyone who has ever, ever, ever dealt with any cable or internet service provider understands this pain.

One day after my waiting on the phone for more than an hour (for the third time that week), only to be passed around to three people, none of who could give me a resolution (or even a straight answer), I had enough.

I told them they could just cancel my service. I refused to put up with their nonsense.

(The best part? I received a “customer-experience survey” call from them WHILE I waiting in cue to talk to someone.)

I went five years in my one-woman protest until a move left me no other options.

The memory of this time of rebellion popped-up last week, when once again I dealt with our internet provider multiple times, without a successful resolution.

(Although 90 percent of the customer service reps I talked to were extremely helpful, even though they still had an inability to solve my problem.)

But this blog isn’t about me ranting about my internet provider (well, OK, maybe it is a little).

It’s about the importance of a customer-focused culture. what that really means, and how to develop it among your entire team.

Each team member in a successful customer-focused culture shares the same vision for how to treat a customer and why service is important.

Develop a Customer-Focused Culture

You can say customer service is important, but if you don’t clarify what that means through word and actions, it will mean nothing.

For a successful customer-focused culture, you need:

  • A strong and consistent service mission and vision;
  • Team member education (as part of onboarding and beyond);
  • Leadership action; and
  • Both operations and goals that support the vision.

It will just be lip service.

It All Starts With a Service Mission and Vision

The term “the customer is always right” is credited to retailers Harry Gordon Selfridge and Marshall Fields as a way to help their staff understand their vision for customer service.

As customer experience guru extraordinaire, Jeannie Walters, says (title provided by me, official title is CEO of 360Connext, but I think mine is more accurate):

The biggest mistake I see is when leaders make a proclamation about being a more customer-centric culture, but do NOTHING to back it up. Saying it, announcing it and hanging a banner with “Customers First!” doesn’t really change a culture. The best companies, the ones we KNOW have this type of culture, actually know what they are trying to deliver by having what I call a Customer Experience Mission. This defines what’s most important so everyone in the organization understands what to do when the inevitable judgment calls arise. Our mission is “To Create Fewer Ruined Days for Customers” and we ask ourselves if what we’re doing lives up to that on a daily basis. It is not just something on a poster!

What to Include in Your Service Mission

A customer service mission:

  • Ensures everyone is on the same page as far as what a customer-focused culture looks like for your organization
  • Clarifies each team member’s role to make that vision a reality
  • Gives people a sense of purpose, ownership, and pride

Think of it a bit like strong school spirit.

Choose the language carefully. It must be both motivating and inclusive.

It needs to provide a concrete picture of what success looks like. How does the customer feel when the organization executes on the mission properly?

It should also be challenging.

Present it to your team as just that, a vision of what is exceptional.  One which isn’t status quo, but stands out from the crowd. It should be a fundamental part of what differentiates your organization from your competitors.

Jeannie has a great tutorial to help you create your own customer-focused mission statement <—HERE.

Set Customer-Focused Goals

Even the most “get up from your seats and march through the aisles” service vision, won’t translate into actions on the part of your staff if it is not partnered with customer-focused goals.

Do you evaluate your call team based on evaluated based on call handle time? Then you can’t also expect them to prioritize customer service and successful call resolution.

Do you measure your retail team based on sales volume alone? You can’t also hope they’ll focus on customer satisfaction.

When you want customer service to be a priority you must make it one – in team goals, operations, and your leadership.

No matter how excited a team is about a high and mighty poetic service vision, they will always prioritize the goals laid out for them first.

If you are struggling with customer experience or poor customer service interactions, look to see if the goals team members have for their positions align with your service vision.

If they don’t, change them.

Exceptional Customer Experience Requires a Customer-Focused Culture

So what is the moral of this story? Customer service isn’t about a fancy jingle or unlimited return policy. It’s not even about getting my internet service in a timely manner (big sigh).

It’s about creating a service culture which guides your leadership and team in all operations, decisions, and goals..

What is your organization’s customer-focused vision? How do you make sure your full team is engaged in making it a reality?

Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is chief marketing officer for Spin Sucks, an integrated marketing communications firm that provides strategic counsel and professional development for in-house and agency communications teams. She is a weekly contributor for their award-winning blog of the same name. Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

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