More and more I find myself questioning the traditional expression “The customer is king” and it is a mantra that many organisations and managers tend to preach. Yes, without the customer there will be no revenue and no sustainable organisation, hence the emphasis on the importance of the customer. Although we do need to be customer centric, I believe that there is so much more to the aforementioned expression than the obvious. If the company’s culture does not align with management’s expectations of how the staff treat customers, no incentive nor bonus will be able to remedy poor customer service.
Working as a business consultant, where I advise my clients on Risk and Resilience Solutions, and the implementation thereof, I have a good understanding of what it takes to keep my customers happy. This ranges from assisting them with developing a solution, expectation management, meeting deadlines, and the list goes on and on. I am exposed to many different organisational cultures and management styles and the one thing that stands out to me is the direct link between the culture and customer service.
I believe that organisations will automatically meet – and exceed – the customer expectations if the organisational culture includes the following five attributes:
1. Communication: Clear and routine communication is the foundation of any good relationship – and why would this be different in the workplace? People in leadership positions need to communicate with staff with regards to strategy, changes in structure and environment, as well as “wins” (things we are doing right) and “losses” (things that did not go according to plan). Often people are simply too busy and focus on just getting the job done. Unfortunately, building relationships and having proper communication channels in place takes a back seat, which in turn creates numerous problems and issues that could have been prevented in the long run.
If staff members understand the importance of communication while the organisation has a culture of open and clear communication – they will also be able to apply this model to the relationships with customers.
2. Trust: Trust is the second cornerstone of building a good relationship. There is an expression that states that “trust should be earned”. Even though some people need to be managed – it is often the case that people who are micro-managed don’t feel trusted and in turn end up doing just the bare minimum. If people were to be trusted, given certain objectives to meet and the freedom to plan how they are going to meet those objectives, they tend to do more than is expected and start really performing.
In such a competitive landscape, customers want to do business with people and organisations that are willing to go the extra mile. If the employee doesn’t feel trusted and is only willing to do the bare minimum, they will definitely not go out of their way for a customer.
3. Learning and Competence: Staff that are well trained will feel appreciated and motivated because the organisation invested in them. This will also lead to them being more competent and confident when dealing with the customer.
4. Inclusivity: It is human nature for people to want to feel that they are part of something bigger. They want to feel that they have a voice and that it matters. The same goes for the customers. If the employees feel that they are being consulted and are part of the bigger picture, they will make the customer feel the same way.
5. Leadership: Last, but most importantly, is leadership. None of the aforementioned topics discussed will occur if you do not have sound and solid leadership. We need leaders that inspire, do business in an ethical way, drive change, encourage and acknowledge others. The staff that have a good example to follow and leadership that inspires them will be motivated and committed to providing the best service to the customer.
Leaders need to create a safe environment and be approachable for staff to share concerns and new ideas, thereby creating an environment where innovation and improvement is encouraged.
We also need to understand that the customer is not only an external party that purchases a product or service. People should consider and treat all internal stakeholders in the same way they would their customers.
By doing this you will have a culture of respect, honesty and loyalty – a true recipe for success.