By Robert C. Johnson
For consumers, it’s not difficult to spot a disconnect between a company’s customer service promises and the corporate culture the customer actually encounters during a support contact. Virtually all businesses say they value their customers, but who hasn’t had the experience of receiving truly lousy customer service? So where did the breakdown occur? The company culture is usually where brand promises are kept – or broken.
Companies don’t set out to treat customers poorly. But they may inadvertently create a culture where bad customer service is the rule rather than the exception. On the flip side, businesses that are cognizant of how corporate culture affects the customer experience can consciously cultivate a workplace mindset that consistently delivers a positive experience. Here are five ways corporate culture can affect the customer experience – for better or worse:
- Happy cultures produce happy customers: Businesses that find a way to keep employees happy on the job consistently provide good service. Just as a profit-driven company that sees employees as mere line-items on a balance sheet is likely to send the message that customers are just a number, a company that values employees will produce employees who value customers.
- What gets measured gets done. When employees are appraised on customer satisfaction as part of their performance assessment, they will naturally work to provide excellent customer service. They’ll look for new ways to make sure customers leave every interaction satisfied, and they will go the extra mile to resolve issues. Using customer satisfaction as a measure of on-the-job success is one of the surest ways to guarantee great service.
- Hypercompetitive company cultures rarely put customers first. When a corporate culture is marked by infighting and fierce competition between coworkers, teamwork goes right out the window, and that undermines the company’s ability to deliver a great customer experience. Friendly competition can be good, but when the workplace is too competitive, customers will pick up on the hostility and desperation.
- Employees who feel empowered take charge and solve problems. Companies that build a culture where employees feel trusted and empowered to make decisions reap the benefits when team members take ownership of issues and work to resolve them in a positive manner. And when companies reward that behavior, they create a positive cycle that results in a better customer experience.
- Employees who worry about job security protect themselves first. Conversely, when employees feel insecure about their jobs or operate within a false or misleading company culture, they prioritize saving their own jobs over solving customer problems. While it’s important to set ground rules, companies that want to achieve customer service excellence have to trust employees and give them incentives to do the right thing.
The common thread in all of these scenarios is that employees ultimately behave in ways that are rewarded by the company. That’s why it’s so important for businesses to evaluate how processes are handled and what incentives – intentional and unintentional – employees have for behaving in certain ways.
If you’re a company leader who wants to create a collaborative, customer-focused workplace that consistently delivers a great customer experience, take a look at each scenario and think about how your team handles customer interactions. Make sure you give employees the tools they need to effectively work together and solve problems, and ensure that you can measure performance accurately to reward great service. When you have the right tools and philosophy in place, you can start living your brand promise.
Robert C. Johnson is the co-founder and CEO of TeamSupport.com, a cloud-based, B2B software application built to help customer-facing support teams serve clients better through stronger collaboration, superior teamwork, and faster issue resolution. Follow them at @TeamSupport.