Developing a Customer Service Culture


Many companies are facing increasing competition in the market place and an inability to predict market direction.  Markets are becoming increasingly unpredictable.  How can any company survive the traumas of the market place?  The answer to survival lies in developing the organization’s culture so that it is totally customer-committed, service‑responsive and service-driven. Customer service implies transforming the company so that its core vision relates to and is perceived by staff and customers alike to be high quality service performance. This commitment to customer service will transform the organization and improve the bottom line.

There are significant issues related to customer service including:

  • Changing the role of managers and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to take responsibility for customer service and to see service excellence as their first and foremost responsibility.
  • Providing the resources to facilitate a company-wide change process through organization development.
  • Gaining commitment for service quality and action from senior management.
  • Appreciating that high quality customer service is a competitive position enabling higher product price, higher profit margin, higher market share and greater customer and client loyalty.
  • Delivering service quality beyond a client’s expectation.
  • Transforming the organization so that everyone is customer responsive and empowered to act.
  • Management realizing that employees deliver bad customer service because of the models of service delivery demonstrated by superiors who now have “arrived”, spend much of their time behind desks. At least 20% of CEO and manager’s time should be spent with customers.
  • Appreciating that ineffective customer service stems from unclear or non-existent customer-focused company vision, mission and philosophy.
  • Defining what is customer service.
  • Training managers to manage service delivery.
  • Seeing that management of service leads to greater profits.

Addressing the issues listed above will lead to a customer-focused organization where service will be the competitive edge.  To achieve this a company will need to be committed to a service-driven organization development process in order to create a truly customer-driven culture.  What steps must a company take to institute this?

  1. Gain senior management commitment and sponsorship to change the organization’s culture.  This is absolutely essential if the change process is to work.  Part of the process will be to develop a customer service orientated vision, mission and philosophy statement and strategy.
  2. Communicate the mission and philosophy to all staff and involve them in the process.
  3. Undertake a customer service audit to identify needed areas of change and to prepare management and staff for change.
  4. Implement a company-wide education and training process to establish changes to customer service systems, standards, communication and attitudes.
  5. Develop customer service teams to continue the change process.
  6. Appoint facilitators to ensure the change process continues.
  7. Review and evaluate the changes.
  8. Make necessary changes and continue the process in a systematic way.
  9. Ensure that staff value and focus on customer service by rewarding it significantly.

The keys to the process are commitment, leadership and the acceptance that if customer service is managed properly it will improve the profitability of the company and its market position.  Central to the success of the whole process is the drive and inclusion of all staff but particularly the top team and the CEO who must lead the process.