Consistently providing exceptional customer service goes beyond your daily interactions with consumers – it is woven into the very fabric of your business. To reap the most significant benefits from extraordinary customer service, organizations must invest in creating a customer-centric culture.
Your culture is the DNA of your organization. Creating a customer-centric culture takes a holistic approach in which the impact on customers is acknowledged and prioritized with every action throughout the organization. For example, when defining processes, setting the strategic direction, adopting and deploying new technologies, or training and developing employees and leaders, it is vital to identify and understand the impacts on customers.
When you think of customer service, it should not be merely product-focused or sales-focused but should be a prevailing value in all organizational functions and departments. Therefore, we suggest that leadership and employees commit to the following three actions to effectively create a customer-centric culture:
Understand Your Customers
Who are your customers? Often, we tend to think of customers as those who directly purchase goods and services, and we think of customer service primarily occurring in retail and service industries.
However, customer service is not limited to the retail and service industries. Regardless of your industry and whether you work in the public, nonprofit, or private sector – there will always be a customer. In healthcare, your customers are the patients and their families. In education, your customers are the students. In government, your customers are your community members. In the private sector, your customers are the consumers and end-users of your product or service. Therefore, the people who are affected by your product, service, or role are your customers.
But customers are not just limited to individuals outside of your organization. We also have internal customers, including employees or other teams, departments, and groups within the organization. While you might not be directly involved with the external customers, you are undoubtedly directly involved with your internal customers. Often you will find that how teams and individuals inside an organization communicate and work together reflects the way employees interact with external customers. Therefore, creating a culture of internal customer service excellence will positively impact external customer relations.
Hire Customer-Centric Employees
Companies and organizations that use their values to guide talent management activities are likely to be more successful at hiring for cultural fit. Therefore, if your organization is committed to creating a customer-centric culture, then values related to customer service must take center stage. Your organization’s behaviors should illustrate the value, from hiring and training to advancement and succession planning.
Hiring for cultural fit does not mean that you create an organization full of the same people; instead, you hire a group of individuals that express shared values through a diversity of perspectives and bring unique attributes and strengths to the table. For example, you may hire a customer-centric employee who enjoys building relationships with others and easily connects to each person they encounter. A different team member may be just as customer-centric but doesn’t do as well during face-to-face interactions. Instead, they thrive when designing processes and workflows that create a seamless user and customer experience. These individuals are not the same, but they do share customer service as a value. To begin hiring customer-centric employees, do the following:
- Reframe the job description to include desired attitudes, values, and expectations.
- Ask all potential candidates, regardless of position, questions to gauge customer orientation.
- Remember that soft skills matter! People who can communicate, express emotional intelligence, and work with others are more likely to provide exceptional customer service. More on that later.
- Create an onboarding process that encourages new hires to develop a holistic view of the organization and understand your impact on your customers’ lives.
Invest in the Professional Development of your People
Creating a customer-centric culture begins with your employees because they will likely be the ones who interact with your customers. Therefore, you will need to invest in your employees to invest in customer service. As mentioned above, soft skills have a lot to do with an employee’s ability to provide exceptional customer service. Employers should provide training that develops skills needed to build a customer-centric culture. The 10 skills below are all considered soft skills, and if you take a moment to consider each one and its corresponding definition, you will easily be able to make the mental connection as to why each one is so important to customer service.
- Empathy – The ability to emotionally understand the feelings of others and clearly see the perspective of another person.
- Communication – This is quite broad and includes the ability to speak, write, read, listen, and interpret body language. Communication in this sense is the ability to be understood and understand the messages of others.
- Emotional Intelligence – The ability to be aware of, control, and express emotions. Additionally, those with high emotional intelligence can listen for implied customer needs that may not be directly expressed.
- Conflict Resolution – The ability to recognize when conflict arises and resolves the conflict to work toward a positive solution.
- Active Listening – Paying attention to someone to hear the implied and explicit message. Those with the ability to listen actively give the speaker full attention and listen actively and empathetically to the views of others.
- Problem Solving – The ability to work through the problem and reach a solution in a decisive manner. This person can recognize a problem quickly, analyze its features, develop solutions, decide on a course of action, and communicate solutions effectively.
- Positivity – The ability to remain positive in the face of conflict or problems, and use positive language to steer a conversation toward resolution.
- Adaptability – The ability to embrace change and adapt to various situations quickly. Also, the ability to thrive and make the best of unfamiliar situations.
- Professionalism – Ability to demonstrate integrity, act responsibly, take accountability, and exhibit strong work ethic.
- Desire to Learn – A growth mentality that seeks to improve skills, knowledge, and abilities. Someone with a high desire to learn will recognize self-limitations regarding knowledge and seek out opportunities to fill potential knowledge gaps.
Peregrine provides an assessment that measures proficiency in the soft skills needed for exceptional customer service. Additionally, we provide you with online and flexible online training that will help you or your employees develop these skills.
Putting your customers front-and-center in everything your organization does is vital in creating sustainable success and fostering a sense of workplace satisfaction. Although these 3 suggestions for building a customer-centric culture can have a significant impact, the most important action you can take is to be constantly proactive and make customers the focus. This means humanizing customers, providing them with what they need, personalizing their experiences, and keeping their wants and perspectives top of mind. A great way to start better serving your customers is to invest in customer service training for your employees. The Pathways Program, Fulfilling Customer Expectations, will teach you how to apply strategies that leave customers satisfied and happy. The program is online and on-demand – making it a convenient and flexible option for your organization.