Creating a Culture of Outstanding Customer Service

Creating a Culture of Outstanding Customer Service
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By Matthew Nederlanden

I was playing Cards Against Humanity the other day with a couple of employees and a few other friends and I drew the question, “When I am a billionaire, I shall erect a 50-foot statue to commemorate ______?” For the uninitiated, Cards Against Humanity is a card game where at the beginning of each hand, a different person draws a question card, each player plays an answer card, and then that person judges the “best” answer.

Simple enough, but the rub is that the answers are usually socially unacceptable or downright horrendous things like “a windmill of corpses,” “my crippling alcoholism,” or “edible underpants.” When all your choices are bad ones, the “best” becomes a rather subjective word meaning most inappropriate, nonsensical, crude, or funny depending on the judge. Half the fun is figuring out what other people will define “best” when there are no good answers.

So, back to the question I drew: “When I am a billionaire, I shall erect a 50-foot statue to commemorate ______?” When it came time for my employee to play, he had drawn one of the rarer cards: one that allowed you to write in your own answer. He quickly scrawled on it “Customer Service.” The room erupted with laughter.

My company provides HD security cameras, but what brings people back is our customer service. Our technical support is 100 percent free and never expires, and our salespeople are genuinely concerned with solving customer needs. We believe that great, memorable service brings people back and gets them to spread the word. That’s our competitive advantage in a crowded market. We are committed to investing in customer service and in our service teams.

Consistently providing stellar service to each and every customer, no matter who he or she speaks to, is not easy, however. It takes more than the right policies. You have to foster this kind of culture.

Collect Quantitative Data

The first step in creating a customer service culture is developing systems to regularly and routinely solicit real feedback from your customers. As management guru Peter Drucker is often quoted as saying, "You can't manage what you don’t measure.” Customer reviews give you a unique window into what your customer thought and felt while interacting with your staff. In order to create a customer service culture, you need an accurate picture of the quality of your customer service.

Recognize Great Customer Service

What we’re all prone to do is to focus on the negative reviews. While it’s important to take seriously and act on the constructive criticism received, the positive feedback is just as important and often neglected. The real key to fostering a customer service culture is celebrating the positive with every bit of energy that you use to respond to the constructive criticism.

If you want to build a strong customer service culture, the most important task that you will do this week is to recognize excellent service from a least one member of your staff. Recognize them publicly, in front of the entire team, if possible. Set a weekly goal of recognizing at least two different “service olympians” -- that’s what we call our people who go above and beyond.

How you recognize customer service is almost important as that you recognize customer service. Don’t throw a party for excellent customer service. Don’t buy gift cards or do contests. Just show that you read the customer reviews about your own company.

There’s nothing wrong with these things, and I’m not saying that truly exceptional customer service isn’t worthy of a party or gift card. But there’s a tendency to overcomplicate and overcompensate. Don’t make the barrier of entry to recognizing great customer service too high. The hectic reality of a growing business will keep you from letting your people know you notice and value great customer service. Whatever you choose to do, you must still be able to do it during the week where you close on a new building, negotiate a merger and change suppliers. This recognition needs to happen no matter what.

Let the Team Reinforce the Culture

We created an internal email address that can only be emailed from employees who have an email address at our company. This email address goes to all the members of our team. We use it for two things: company announcements and to celebrate exemplary service. When we first set up this email, only executives could use it to make company-wide announcements. But one of the wisest decisions we ever made was to open this process up to all employees. Our culture of celebrating exceptional service has now spread throughout the team, with everyone celebrating great service and delighting customers.

The other systemic change concerns who gets the emails that we created when receiving a review. Often review-collection companies advise setting up the email notices about new reviews to go to management staff or ownership. Instead, it is best to have it feed into your company ticket system. This makes responding to reviews easier, keeps everyone’s eye on goal of great reviews, and creates a consistent morale boost.

To be a company that is known for customer service, you must be intentional about encouraging and celebrating great acts of customer service. You have to set the tone, but then you also have to create systems that make sure that the culture of great customer service becomes self-sustaining.


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