The Secret to Elevating the Customer Experience Doesn’t Start With Customers. It Starts With Your Staff.
It’s impossible to underestimate the importance of having a strong, positive workplace culture. And why not? Your corporate culture can trickle down and end up affecting every part of your operations — including customer service.
No one enjoys working for companies with lousy cultures. Rather, they want to represent brands with thriving cultures that make them feel content, comfortable, and empowered. High degrees of employee engagement tend to be linked to strong and appealing cultures. Why? When workers connect to the corporate mission and enjoy their jobs, they’re more motivated, proactive, and productive. Plus, they’re probably going to stick around for the long haul rather than leaving too soon.
Here’s the bottom line: You want an amazing, vibrant business culture that attracts top talent. But you can’t allow your culture to make itself without a lot of input from you. The best corporate cultures are carefully and thoughtfully tended to. If you allow your culture to grow without parameters or guidance, you might not get the results you want.
After all, culture has as much to do with rules and regulations as it does with people coexisting with others in a supportive, diverse environment. This means you need to have a hand in the construct of your culture. That way, you can be sure that your culture ends up as a reflection of what matters most to you as a leader — and to your brand as a whole.
The Connection Between Culture and Customer Service
What does a positive and effective workplace culture look like? The answer is going to be unique to every company. However, most exceptional cultures are supportive of team members, welcoming and accommodating in general, and focused on everyone’s safety. They also serve to support and bolster the brand’s underlying mission and vision statements.
Think of some of the retail stores you like to visit. Which ones have a culture that seems strong and optimistic? What do the employees act like when you interact with them? How do they speak to and about one another? Pay attention; your observations will help inform how you want your own workplace culture to appear to outsiders.
These insights circle back to the need for a strong workplace culture that drives high-quality, memorable customer experiences. Customer-facing employees and teams need to be able to uphold the standards set forth by their company. It’s much easier for them to do their jobs when they know and embrace their culture. Hence, there’s a direct correlation between customer service and company culture.
A Customer Service Culture Scenario
Consider the case of a customer service worker whose corporate culture seeks to accept and understand people from different backgrounds.
The worker sees how inclusive team members are on a day-to-day basis, and he knows that being friendly and welcoming is valued by the company. Therefore, even if he isn’t directly told to treat customers from different backgrounds kindly, he automatically will. And those customers will appreciate the treatment and potentially continue their relationship with the company for years to come.
Examples like this happen every day in companies that spend time, energy, and resources building a positive workplace culture, and research shows that employees’ happiness seems to spill over into their ability to keep customers. In fact, buyer retention rates soar 18% when workers are engaged rather than disengaged. Consequently, if you want to lower your lifetime cost to acquire customers and build a stellar corporate reputation, you need to concentrate on building a strong internal culture.
When you begin to put more emphasis on improving your culture, you will start to see some major upsides between employees and customers:
- Customers will trust what they hear from your employees. Because your employees act with confidence, positivity, and professionalism, they seem like leaders and authorities. Customers will begin to value their opinions, which can be good for branding and sales. You can’t buy that type of loyalty; it comes from effective company culture management and development.
- Communication will improve between employees and customers. Poor communication and resulting disengagement can lead to bad online reviews, lost customers, and waning profit margins. It also costs U.S. businesses up to $550 billion collectively on an annual level. You can’t afford to lose revenue or productivity; no organization can. That’s why you need to develop a strong corporate culture that fosters an atmosphere where employees know how to speak with customers — as well as with each other.
- Employees will become proactive problem solvers. When you focus on improving employee engagement and authority, your team members will know how to make decisions on behalf of both your brand and your customers. They won’t hesitate to “make it right” when mistakes happen. Clients like the feeling that they’re being heard and cared for. In fact, some research suggests that even if you mess up, you can still win fans for life by how your employees fix the situation.
Prioritize Company Culture Management
Any discussion about corporate culture would be incomplete without a nod to what happened in 2020. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies experienced major disruptions. Those disruptions threatened to affect their cultures in negative ways. Still, many corporations with deeply embedded core values thrived — even as workers had to move to remote situations.
Periods of change will always challenge your culture in some way. You can count on that. Nevertheless, suppose you stick with your core culture principles and use them as a guiding North Star. In that case, you can still maintain a high degree of positive culture and excellent customer relations.
Ready to start revving up your corporate culture so you can increase your customer relations and overall effectiveness? Start by implementing a few steps that have worked time and again for creating, maintaining, and reinforcing a customer service-oriented culture:
- Make sure your employees feel heard.
Work life can get very busy. But even when you’re in the midst of the most hectic day, make time to listen to employees when they need your ear. For instance, if people in your returns department have process-improvement suggestions, take their ideas seriously. Set up a time to meet with them to discuss their concerns and creative solutions. You might even want to assign one or more of your employees tasks to build a sense of ownership surrounding any outcome.
The way you respond when workers need you will teach your employees how to respond when customers need them. Hear what they have to say and let them know you appreciate — and want — their genuine input. Over time, you’ll see a meaningful shift in both your brand’s culture and in the overall success of your customer experience ratings.
- Gather perspectives from across departments.
Companies with solid working cultures don’t accept siloed thinking. Instead, they know that collaboration is the key to getting ahead in business. When you ask for perspectives from people across departmental and “corporate ladder” lines, you build a more holistic culture. You also start to understand workflows better.
Don’t be surprised if you end up being surprised! Finding out what your team members value and hearing their concerns (and thoughts on how to solve those concerns) can be a real eye-opener. Encourage everyone to work together in a culturally supported way so that you can drive efficiencies, improve internal communications, and make life better for everyone — including your customer base.
- Accept and give constructive criticism.
Continuous improvement is necessary in any organization. It’s also a two-way street. At Integrity, we sometimes need to give hard-to-hear feedback to team members. When that happens, we talk with them in private. But we start the conversation by asking if they’re open to hearing the feedback or a behavioral observation. This gives them the ability to let us know if they’re not in a good space at the moment to have a productive conversation.
Most of the time, our employees are receptive to constructive suggestions. Why? They’ve learned that we share feedback in a nonjudgmental, objective way. We’re not punitive; we use criticism as a development opportunity. And when it’s a leader’s turn to be on the receiving end of feedback, the leader demonstrates a willingness to improve as well.
- Stay one step ahead of foreseeable, preventable problems.
You have a great idea that you want to implement. Before launching your new initiative, think about how it will affect your culture. Will it have a downstream impact? Could it potentially “break and go wrong?” Getting in a chess player’s shoes (by always thinking four moves ahead) will help you anticipate gaps so you can prevent them.
How does this work in a real-world situation? Consider this scenario: You want to implement a new shipping schedule. The shipping schedule will impact employees who might need to alter their shifts. It will also affect customers who might need to reset their delivery expectations. Knowing these issues ahead of time gives you the chance to figure out how to make the shipping schedule changes work with minimal hiccups.
- Ensure you have an open-door policy on questions.
Don’t think of questions from a negative viewpoint, and never dismiss them. Think of them as a gateway to a transparent, engaged culture where people are free to speak their minds. If you tamp down on question-asking, you’ll only encourage speculation and rumor mills.
Spread your “open to questions” mentality not just to your internal discussions, but also to customer conversations. When customers ask questions, respond to them in a timely manner to build their confidence and trust. And be sure to elicit feedback from customers by asking them about their experiences so you can make improvements and wow them even more. You might even want to formalize your questions by setting up NPS feedback or online reviews.
Your customers might never step foot inside your corporate offices, but they’ll be able to sense exactly how your culture operates. Make sure they get the impression that they’re working with a brand that places a high value on positive energy, cooperation, and continuous improvement.
Want to learn more ways to elevate your culture? Connect with Integrity Staffing today. We’re happy to help your corporate culture become as dynamic and healthy as possible for both your employees’ and customers’ sake.