We have observed the better performing clients on our ServiceConnect program seem to have a different organizational culture. Often, you can’t put your finger on it but there is a palpable difference. For example, when you walk in the door and meet an employee there is a palpable difference in the way they approach you. Among those clients with better customer service, the employees may be a bit friendlier and go out of their way to welcome you. More fundamental to a healthy organizational culture (and a bigger thing) is an openness to new ideas and a willingness to give a try to new things.
There is an interesting article about culture in The Atlantic, which is entitled “Why Companies Fail.” This article focuses on General Motors and why, in the opinion of the writer, the company has done many of the right things (reduced costs, eliminated unprofitable lines, and rationalized their dealer network, among others). In his view, they have failed to change the company’s culture to the degree needed for the company to be successful in the long run. That real desire to change is still not there. No matter what your opinion of GM, the article is worth reading.
I believe that fundamental to creating the kind of culture that supports great customer service is having one where there is a positive payoff for trying something new and different. Ever time an employee is faced with making a decision to satisfy a customer request for which there is no clear process or procedure, they make a calculation. It goes something like this. “What is my payoff for being right and what is my payoff for being wrong?” If the “payoff” for being wrong is more likely to be greater than the “payoff” for being right then the employee is going to either (1) do nothing, (2) bounce the decision up the chain, and/or (3) punt and hope the customer forgets the request in the first place. Any of these results create a service experience that is not what customers want.
I know that for many business leaders, “culture” is one of those hard things to measure and define. Being hard to measure and define is no reason to ignore it if you really want to improve customer service and improve your customer loyalty.