Many organizations talk about creating a customer-focused culture, but few companies actually set up and sustain an authentic customer-focused culture. Culture is about more than new customer service training, employee empowerment, buttons and mugs, and advertising. A real and sustained customer culture begins with clarity of purpose, customer-friendly policies, and the right people. Organizations often miss 3 critical aspects of customer culture. Let’s take a look at the 3 critical areas of a customer-focused culture and learn how to adopt and master each of them.
1. Be very clear about the behaviors employees are expected to deliver.
Often employees don’t take care of customers because they fear they’ll do too much or they just don’t know that the company wants them to do whatever it takes to please a client. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is crystal clear in its message to employees. Every Ritz-Carlton employee is empowered to spend up to $2,000 per guest, per day to resolve issues and ensure guest satisfaction.
One of my clients clarifies expectations of employees this way: “Do what’s right for the customer, and you will have done what’s right for the organization.” My client further tells employees that they will never be reprimanded for taking care of a customer.
Be crystal clear on what you expect of employees, and it will be much easier for them to reach your customer-focused targets.
2. Develop customer-friendly policies.
Were your policies written to create the best possible experience for your customer or were they written to settle disputes and protect profits? Most corporate plans look something like this:
“ABC Company will offer you an exchange or refund provided that you return the item within 28 days of purchase and you produce your original ABC register receipt at the time you return the item.”
Creating and sustaining a real customer service culture isn’t possible without having customer policies that help customers have the best possible experience. Every year a popular home shopping network extends its standard 30-day return policy during the holidays so that the clients can buy gifts with confidence. At this company, all purchases from November 1st through December 23rd can be returned for any reason until January 31. Customers can purchase gifts for friends and family confidently knowing that those gifts can be returned well after the holiday season.
Take a look at your policies and ensure they support the best possible experience for your customers.
3. If employees aren’t entirely customer focused, replace them.
The world’s largest online shoe retailer, legendary for customer service excellence, pays employees to quit. All new hires go through an intensive 5-week customer service training. After two weeks in the immersive customer service and culture training, employees are given “The offer.” “If you quit today, we will pay you for the amount of time you’ve worked, plus we will offer you a $2,000 bonus.”
The company has found that the people willing to take the offer don’t have the sense of commitment to excellence they are looking for. The company only wants people that fit in with their customer-centric culture.
A customer culture will only happen when all employees have bought into the culture and support it fiercely. Strategically move or remove the wrong people so you can actually focus on delivering the best possible customer experience.
Be crystal clear in your expectations of employee behavior. Ensure your policies actually do give customers the best possible experience. And by all means, have only the right people in charge of servicing your clients. When you do these things, you’ll be on your way to creating a real customer-focused culture.
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