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Thursday, April 14, 2005

Building a Service Oriented Culture

According to one US research, high performing organizations are highly customer-centered. Yet research also shows that customer satisfaction levels have been declining steadily. Most attempts to improve customer service are too narrow and superficial. They fail to focus the organization's culture and core processes on serving customers. That's why 50-70% of these programs consistently fail. This happens because many companies hinge their customer service effort on training front liners on how to be friendly with customers and nothing else. That’s why we see many customers nowadays being greeted loudly but insincerely by deadpan front liners who knew how to do it but are not properly motivated to do so. Add to the aggravation the friendly front liner who tells the customer that the service/product she requested is unavailable. It is as if they do not know that training is only useful if all other conditions for establishing a service culture are met.

A Customer Service Program should be holistic, not piecemeal or just a hodgepodge of training programs teaching employees how to be polite to customers. An honest to goodness Customer Service Program ingrains into the company’s culture customer centeredness. A company that truly values customer exerts effort to thoroughly understand the needs of its customers and align all necessary actions towards the fulfillment of those needs.

As an organization strives for leadership in its field, the need to establish a culture of service-orientedness becomes inevitable. To succeed in it however, there is a need to take a structured approach to culture building. Such structured approach includes:
  • Establishing/Reviewing the company’s Customer Service Philosophy;
  • Aligning company policies and performance management system towards realizing the company’s customer service objectives;
  • Establishing processes and procedures designed to understand what the customers need, measure the company’s customer service performance and take action to fill the gaps; and
  • Developing the competencies needed to establish superior internal and external customer service

    Such a program must aim to equip managers and employees with information and tools needed to cultivate a desirable service culture in the organization. Separate courses for managers and front-liners should be designed owing to the fact that although they are all responsible for serving customers, they contribute in varying ways hence, they need to be equipped with tools that suit their roles.

    A program for managers should address the following objectives:
  • Explain the importance of cultivating a customer focused organizational culture
  • Identify ways to align policies, systems and processes with customer expectations
  • Go through each step in establishing customer-focused performance standards
  • Describe strategies for aligning people with service goals and objectives

While the program for front liners and other first line employees should achieve the following objectives :

  • Imbibe the philosophy of total customer satisfaction;
  • Understand and accept the challenge that the best way to increase sales and profitability is to satisfy the customers with its products and services
  • Identify opportunities for service excellence.
  • Shift one's mindset and attitude towards a full customer-oriented or focused individual;
  • Analyze the process capability and eliminate snags in the process cycle;
  • Obtain the skills in identifying customer's requirements and expectations and understand their motivational needs;
  • Learn effective methods of interfacing with customers and handling irate customers.

    If you need help putting together such a program, I’ll be more than happy to help!


  1. Hi Ed Ebreo,

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  2. I came across your blog by accident....then was intrigued! Chip


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