What do Southwest Airlines, Zappos, Ritz-Carlton, Walt Disney World, and Nordstroms have in common? A customer service-focused culture. Their products vary wildly from an airline seat to a theme park to a department store to online shoe shopping, but each have recognized that their true product is the service they give to their customers. As Southwest Airlines President Colleen Barrett states it: “We are not an airline with great customer service. We are a great customer service organization that happens to be in the airline business.”

Every organization has a culture, the question though, “is it the culture you want it to be?” A culture begins with the people you hire. If you want a customer service-focused culture, then hire customer service- focused people. Most job skills can be taught, being nice to people is tougher to teach. Once you hire these customer service-focused people, onboard them quickly into the organization by letting them know how serious you are about your culture. Tell stories of employees who exemplified your values, service standards, and attitudes of delivering great service to customers and co-workers. Sprinkle pixie dust on these new hires so they feel welcome, inspired and motivated to carry on the culture.

Recognition reinforces a culture. Make sure there are rewards for employees who become role models for others in how to make customers want to come back. Remove obstacles that get in the way of delivering an exceptional customer experience and applaud employees who come up with imaginative ways to delight the customers. And finally, hold everyone accountable for upholding this culture. For those employees and especially management that doesn’t perform by the norms of the customer-focused culture, you must ask them to leave. You never know how many customers have been affected by a bad apple. Don’t allow toxic negative employees to whittle away at your foundation.

When you have a strong culture based on great customer service, you don’t have to worry whether your employees always know what step to put in front of the other. You can allow them to be imaginative, have fun, enjoy their job and deliver delightful experiences that creates loyal customers.

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