To Boost Customer Service, Wow Your Primary Customers—Your Employees

Customer service isn’t getting better. It’s getting worse.

2013 ASU study found that the number of people reporting customer problems went up from 32 percent in 1976 to 45 percent in 2011 to 50 percent in 2013. 56 million U.S. households experienced at least one service problem in 2013. The number of U.S. households that experienced customer rage went from 60 percent in 2011 to 68 percent in 2013.

The ASU study also found that approximately $76 billion in revenue was at risk for the businesses involved.

Issues like these put customer care under tremendous pressure in organizations across the globe. The key to consistent, caring, and kind customer relationships isn’t cool new CRM software or free child care or on-site massage therapy, though those can’t hurt.

The key? Your people.

If you treat your employees well, they’ll treat your customers well. I can prove it.

If your people are treated with trust, respect, and dignity in every interaction at work, by leaders and peers, three things happen: Engagement goes up (by 40 percent), service goes up (by 40 percent), and results and profits go up (by 35 percent).

The challenge? A 2016 EY global survey found that only 49 percent of employees have a “great deal of trust” in their bosses and peers.

If your people feel valued, they apply discretionary energy towards company tasks, peers, and customers. They work creatively and cooperatively to solve problems and wow customers.

Yet Tiny HR’s 2014 Engagement and Culture Report found that only 21 percent of employees feel strongly valued at work. That means 79 percent of employees do not feel strongly valued!

This same study found that 64 percent of employees feel their company does not have a healthy organizational culture.

Despite these challenges, some organizations invest a great deal of time and energy in creating a healthy work culture. Companies like Ritz-Carlton, WD-40, and Starbucks enjoy high engagement, top service ratings, and consistently deliver on results and profits, year in and year out.

Engaged, talented team members love their customers. They work together to solve problems, build positive relationships, and sustain customer loyalty. How can you consistently attract and retain talented, engaged staff? By creating a purposeful, positive, productive culture.

And, most senior leaders have never been asked to manage their work culture. They don’t know how. What senior leaders are measured, monitored, and rewarded on is getting results. Now, don’t get me wrong—results are really good things in business! However, results aren’t the only important thing.

In fact, managing results is exactly half the leader’s job. The other half? Managing values.

Leaders can improve the quality of their work culture—and boost engagement, service, and results—by making values as important as results. Leaders must bring the same clarity and measurement to values as they do to results.

Leaders don’t assume that everyone in their organization knows their performance standards and delivers them without any monitoring, right? Performance clarity and accountability requires formalized goals and targets, with dashboards and metrics watched closely, every day.

Leaders must also not assume that everyone in your organization knows how you want them to treat other people at work, either. Values, clarity, and accountability requires formalized values and behaviors, with interaction quality monitored closely, every day.

To ensure citizenship and teamwork are as important as performance, leaders must make values measurable. How? With an organizational constitution that is lived and demonstrated by everyone in their company daily.

An organizational constitution is a formal statement of their company’s present-day service purpose (the company’s ‘reason for being’ besides making money), values and behaviors, strategies, and goals. This statement defines what contributions are needed and what citizenship is needed from every player, in every interaction.

Most organizations have strategies and goals defined; these represent their company’s performance standards and expectations. Very few have values defined in observable, tangible, measurable terms—which is the only way leaders can make values measurable in their organizations.

Crafting and communicating their organizational constitution is the easy part. The more complex part is aligning all plans, decisions, and actions to the company’s servant purpose, values, and behaviors.

When employees are treated with trust, respect, and dignity in every interaction, they’ll treat customers like gold. They’ll proactively solve problems. They’ll demonstrate pride in their work. And they’ll deliver better performance and better service, consistently.

Don’t wait. Formalize your organizational constitution then align behavior to it. Every day.

S. Chris Edmonds is a speaker, author, and executive consultant who is the founder of The Purposeful Culture Group. He's one of Inc. magazine’s 100 Great Leadership Speakers and was a featured presenter at SXSW 2015. Edmonds is the author of the Amazon best seller The Culture Engine and five other books. Chris' blog, podcasts, and videos are at Driving Results Through Culture. He tweets on organizational culture, servant leadership, and workplace inspiration at @scedmonds.

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