Create an Exceptional Customer Service Culture

At this year's Call Center Week in Las Vegas, one topic generated a lot of buzz: the role of culture in rallying agents and transforming customer service.

A strong company culture has become more than a fringe benefit. Culture is now a deciding factor for employees when choosing where they want to work. And once they are employed, culture impacts how they work inside that company—influencing their actions and attitudes toward each other and, more importantly, toward customers.

Cultural challenge

It's an ongoing effort to create a unique workplace and culture that attracts and stimulates employees—especially those prone to move around. This is especially true in the contact center industry, which is known for its high levels of agent attrition. The challenge is that culture is not easily developed, nor can it be easily replicated.

Great companies are defined by great cultures. The best companies in the world attract and retain the best people. How do they do it? First, great companies realize upfront that culture is a living, growing, and evolving force that can make the difference between being good and being great. And second, they make sure their corporate culture mirrors the values, as well as the hearts and minds, of their employees. Corporate culture is a two-way street that requires both company commitment and employee dedication to work. Call center workers are predominantly Millennials, so ensuring your company's values align with their personal values will go a long way in creating engaged employees.

Here are a few tips we shared at Call Center Week for building a customer service culture of your own:

1. Become a people business. Millennials value meaningful collaboration. With that in mind, your company should hire people based on their ability to collaborate, listen to one another, respect one another, work together on difficult projects, and provide feedback in an open but constructive manner. Moving your business from being "process based" to "people based" will go a long way to demonstrate that you put your employees, as well as your customers, first.

2. Create a culture of learning. Investing in the personal and professional development of staff will also contribute to building an exceptional customer service culture. Millennials are on course to become the most educated generation in history. Many companies are positioning themselves as "career first" destinations. This means providing options for team members to grow in their careers via further education, including university degrees, while they continue to work—regardless of whether they stay with the company or not.

Investing in your team will not only make them smarter, more confident, and more skilled, but will also provide your company with a talented employee base to drive the business forward.

Another benefit comes from creating brand ambassadors. As people move around in their careers, they are likely to remain appreciative and speak highly of those companies that truly invested in them and their success as individuals. When you say "Career first, company second" to an employee, it resonates.

3. Create spaces for both downtime and creativity. While culture is more than having cool-looking offices and workspaces, it certainly doesn't hurt to consider the physical environment where your employees spend so much of their time. From fitness facilities and game rooms to sports fields, cafeterias, cinemas, themed rooms, and even libraries, more companies are realizing the benefits of creating unique work environments for their staff. Employees constantly compare workplaces, and feel fortunate to have innovative perks they wouldn't be able to find elsewhere.

When you provide spaces designed to foster creativity, encourage a fun working atmosphere, and inspire collaboration, employees will want to come to work. They will also feel they are part of a company instead of simply working for one.

4. Have purpose. Employees want to work for something they believe in. Making emotional connections is important, and not just between your service agents and your customers. Agents want to be emotionally invested in the places they work, and corporate social responsibility can play an important role. Employees (and customers), especially Millennials, often want to be a part of something meaningful. Giving back to the community allows employees to feel good about where they work, and this often translates into better engagement and agent tenure. In our world, engagement and tenure translate into better customer service.

Why culture matters

It's important to make the connection between culture and customer service. And to realize that culture has tangible benefits, including engagement, loyalty, tenure, reduced attrition, higher customer satisfaction, improved Net Promoter Scores, and more.

If you invest in your people, their education, welfare, and communities, your efforts will be rewarded. Actions and behavior drive culture more than words. Happy, engaged team members who bring passion and commitment to their roles deliver the absolute best customer experiences. Defining and reinforcing the values that matter most to your people is where you start. A customer service culture is where you end up.

Carolyn Crews is senior vice president at TELUS International, a global business process outsourcing company with almost 16,000 team members around the world.

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