As more companies become truly customer centric in the age of customer service and user experience, it’s important to note that the change has to come from within. When looking to be a service-minded organization that puts customers at the forefront of all that you do, your internal corporate culture must reflect the values that align with desirable customer experiences for you to be successful. So how can you ensure that customer experience is a fundamental part of your company culture?
1. Understand that customer experience is everyone’s job
In order to establish customer experience as the red thread in your organization, you must first ask the question what is the definition of customer experience? The answer may be very personal. But if you start by thinking about customer experience as each element of your business and the relationships you have with prospects and customers through their entire lifecycle, you’re off to a good start. Then consider that a truly integrated customer experience culture should be an element of everything you do internally and externally, and that can look different from company to company.
It’s likely that in your growing organization, you’ve developed roles with titles such as account manager, customer success associate, or customer service representative. These people in your organization are on the front lines of customer interactions, mitigating issues, troubleshooting over chat and phone, and ensuring on-boarding and product usage are going smoothly. But in order to create a customer experience culture, the customer-forward approach doesn’t stop at these teams.
Employee training should include what it means to be customer centric
Let’s face it, service-mindedness doesn’t come naturally to everyone. For many people within organizations, such as those who work on development, or in human resources, the customer needs and customer service are not high on their list of priorities for their specific jobs. But in order to create an entire culture around the customer, you still need to include everyone in learning about what it means to your organization to be focused on the customer.
Internal organizational culture in modern times is heavily dependent on values. To truly emulate the value of service, everyone has to have a clear picture of what that means. When service-mindedness is practiced within teams and across departments, it will more easily be reflected in outward communications and interactions. Plus, encouraging team members to be service-minded towards one another just makes for a strong workplace culture in general.
New-hire onboarding should discuss these organizational values, and if you need to go through change management for existing employees, training should include what a customer centric culture is. This may mean everything from going through the phraseology and terms to use when regarding customers, to how to always be thinking about customer wants and needs when developing products, services, and experiences, and how to better support staff who are customer facing.
Your employees should never ask why is a customer centric culture important? From day one, it should be very clear to them not just how to prioritize the customer, but also the purpose behind service-mindedness. Understanding the why can help to instill this value deeply into their work psychology.
2. Equip your teams with the tools that help them help customers
One of the best lessons I ever learned working in the hospitality industry, many years ago, was that managers who take care of their employees never have to worry if their employees will take care of the customers.
This kind of mentality, one in which staff are entrusted to do their jobs well, but are given the right resources and support, is fundamental to creating a healthy internal culture that is service minded. When you can ensure that you give your teams what they need in order to help customers, you won’t have to worry so much about customer satisfaction.
Ask, don’t assume, what your staff needs
When building internal culture that underscores service, it may not just be enablement solutions or productivity technology that is the answer. Sometimes, creating comfortable and enjoyable working environments can benefit the overall wellbeing of your staff, which translates to better customer experience.
To know what it is that will enable your employees to be the best they can for customers, ask them. Some of your staff may want more learning and development opportunities. Some may need more dynamic working spaces so they can either collaborate better or work in solitude. And some may just like to have more tools so they can be their most efficient. While it’s not likely possible to give each and every employee exactly what they want, reaching a consensus about how to improve the overall culture can be realistic.
Talking to your employees about their own needs is also one of the best ways to understand customer needs. By asking your staff about recurring problems they have, or their ideas about what would make their jobs better, you can garner insights into what it is that they hear from customers or prospects, or issues that they commonly run into. One of the best ways to begin to approach implementing customer experience culture is to stop assuming you know what people want, and instead learn from them directly.
3. Create the right communications culture internally
When building a customer centric culture, communication will be a fundamental element both internally and externally. Successful customer experience is about engagement, and a big part of engagement is ensuring that dialogue is possible through a number of channels. And while your organization may have many ways for customers to get in touch, these structures should be prioritized within your company as well.
Communication is fundamental for any efficient and effective organization, but even more so when creating a customer experience culture. This is because without trust, openness, transparency, and support, it’s too easy for things to slip through the cracks and this will end up hurting end users.
Employees should never fear talking to superiors
The most toxic work environments I can think of are ones where employees are too afraid of being reprimanded or punished to bring up issues to superiors. Also problematic are environments where directness isn’t appreciated so issues are swept under the rug and confrontation is avoided.
In these cases, more often than not the end customer will suffer because their problems won’t be handled quickly or expertly enough, or issues will go unsolved until they become so major you just can’t avoid them any longer.
These cultural values are often set by management and leaders. Not only do you need to ensure your staff feel that you are approachable, but you also need to make the time for your employees to talk to you. If you seem too busy, this can also be a factor in your teams avoiding communication. When you make yourself available, show your staff that you will support them when they need it, and build a culture of trust and understanding, this will reflect in how they communicate with customers.
4. Ensure management and executives are leading by example
In the same vein, a customer centric organization is led by managers who walk the walk. Just as it’s important for leaders to create the communication pathways used internally that will be reflected by staff in more meaningful and open external communication, upper management and executives must live and breathe service culture every day.
In strong workplace cultures, employees should have role models from within the organization that they can emulate and turn to for guidance. Since it is often the executives and management who set the tone in an organization, they should be clear on what service means to them, how they plan to be more service-oriented, and expectations they have on their employees. And while underscoring the value that customer service is everyone’s job, even leaders should help create and learn the customer experience practices that are utilized in customer facing roles.
How to create a customer service culture? Employee empowerment
When employees feel supported by leadership, they are much more likely to feel empowered and perform at higher levels than they would in organizations where there is no such environment. We’ve learnt that employees are our greatest asset, and no amount of technology or budget can replace true talent. Employees feel most empowered when there is responsibility, accountability, and autonomy expected of them, but also when they feel that their superiors act in accordance to their own expectations.
So when building a customer service internal culture, leaders must prioritize alignment of their own activities with these principals. Even for CTOs or COOs, who may never come into contact with customers, they need to show their direct employees how everything your organization does relates back to the customer. When all employees are empowered to be customer focused, and the mentality is emphasized by leadership, it becomes much easier for the values to be put into practice.
5. Be solutions-oriented
No matter what kind of company you have or what industry you’re in, customers are looking for solutions to their problems. In becoming a truly customer centric organization, you have to be constantly thinking in a critical way that is oriented to a solutions-first mentality. Having a culture of customer experience does not mean you are easily able to explain away problems, or cover up mistakes with apologies and freebies. It means that you meet your customers where they live and exist and offer ways to make their lives better. And when problems with your products or services arise, you don’t argue the point - you fix it.
Miscommunication is bound to happen. Expectations aren’t always met. But how you respond to mishaps speaks volumes to the character of your employees and your organization as a whole. This is why it’s so important to meticulously build internal support for customer relations - because it will become very obvious very quickly when you haven’t put in the work to develop the right organizational environment that supports customers.
Be proactive instead of reactive
To make things easier, your organization can create standard procedures for helping customers with common issues. But a true solutions-oriented customer experience culture means that you can anticipate needs, and be proactive in your service. Plus, you need to adopt the mentality that customer service isn’t just about addressing problems, it’s about any kind of customer interaction that delights and ensures satisfaction.
Your organization should be thinking constantly about how to turn existing customers into loyalists, how to make on-boarding, product set up, or service delivery as simple and painless as possible. You should be considering how to adapt to different customer needs in terms of their level of independence, or if they desire to be walked through every minute detail of what becoming your customer means. Anticipating ways that you can show up and proactively engage your customers, rather than only communicating after a problem arises, can make an enormous impact in their overall satisfaction.
Building an internal culture of customer experience is not something that happens overnight. But it should be something that is prioritized, emphasized by leadership, and ingrained into all that your organization does. When you prioritize your focus on the customer and utilize internal practices that encourage an environment of service-mindedness, then the mentality will be reflected in all of your employees, and in turn to all of your customers.Creating an organizational culture that emphasizes customer experience doesn’t always happen over night. But if you want to begin to improve employee engagement and your organization’s capabilities for servicing customers, start with an effective customer experience solution. CloudApp visual communication features can:
Creating an organizational culture that emphasizes customer experience doesn’t always happen over night. But if you want to begin to improve employee engagement and your organization’s capabilities for servicing customers, start with an effective customer experience solution. CloudApp visual communication features can:
- Easily create support materials and tutorials
- Optimize customer support workflows
- Provide customers with detailed answers and close Zendesk tickets faster
- Track & process bugs faster and document problems
- Improve customer support initiatives - download your FREE 6 slide template here
Learn more about CloudApp for Customer Support here.