Many times when a potential client calls, they ask if they can hire me to do some customer service workshops for their customer-facing staff so they can create a better culture of service in their organization. I tell them “sure, I can do that, but are you really serious about creating a culture of service excellence? Because if you are, then we need to start at the top.” At this point, there is usually a few moments of silence while the caller ponders this information.

Tactical customer service training is absolutely necessary and helpful to teach front line staff how to courteously answer a phone, follow up with a customer, take ownership of issues, and know how to do positive problem resolution, but if you want a culture, it takes a strategic customer service approach.

Everyone watches the leadership of the organization. As Tom Peters, the author of In Search of Excellence once said, “your people are watching you and they are watching you all the time.” Not only are they watching your behaviors and attitudes towards external customers, but they are observing how you treat them, because the employees are the internal customers.  These are two key ingredients of a strategic approach:  having senior leadership visibly communicating their involvement and support and recognizing the importance of internal customer service.

A strategic customer service approach also involves having a plan of how to weave customer service into every element of the organization.  It should have a dedicated team of people to lead the implementation of the plan and ensure there is continued buy-in and follow through of the plan. This plan is referred to in my book Unleashing Excellence – The Complete Guide to Ultimate Customer Service as the Leadership Actions.

In addition to having the senior leadership involved and this dedicated Team to create this culture, it is also important to have “champions.” These are employees who may or may not have a management title, but are considered to be influential people within the organization. And you know who they are. They are the ones that others listen to when changes start to occur. They are the natural born leaders that others look up to and see whether they should get on board with the direction or not. These champions can make or break this culture change; therefore, it is important to get them involved very quickly upfront once you decide you are serious and want to develop this service excellence culture.

Customer service is not just a department in organizations that are known for their renowned customer service; it is a way of life, that is created by EVERYONE in the organization.

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