Creating & Sustaining A True Customer Service Oriented Culture
It sounds a little cliché now, but traditional thought still holds if you want your company to be successful you must always put the customer first. But in my years in Leading and growing Sales Teams I have found this time and time again not to be the case.
In fact, it is your Employees, not your customers, that make or break how successful your company will be by maintaining and growing your customer base through excellent Customer Service, also referred to as “Inside Sales” and / or “Account Management”. These are different positions from those of a “Sales Hunter” and should not combined as they have very different expectations and ‘asks’.
It’s deceptively simple: to treat your customers well, you must first treat your employees well. In a recent interview from October 2014 with Inc. Magazine, Richard Branson makes an excellent remark on this essential truth: (http://www.inc.com/oscar-raymundo/richard-branson-companies-should-put-employees-first.html)
“ Surprisingly, Branson recently revealed that Virgin does not put the customer first. In fact, Virgin employees are the company's top priority. That may sound counter to decades-old business wisdom, but it has worked so well for Virgin that Branson says he's surprised more companies haven't adopted anemployee-centric management strategy."
It should go without saying, if the person who works at your company is 100 percent proud of the brand and you give them the tools to do a good job and they are treated well, they're going to be happy," ”
Once you adopt this mindset towards your employees, you are half way to creating an ‘employee-centric management strategy’ that Branson is talking about.
From Idea To Implementation
But how do you now turn that strategy into a true Customer Service Oriented Culture? How does one define exactly what ‘treating your employees well’ means?
From my experience, there are three critical components in creating and sustaining a Customer Service Oriented Culture with your employees;
1. The Establishment of a Sales and Customer Service Vision for your company to determine and define what kind of Culture you need to foster. This is critical part of the process and must be inclusive of your Employees’ opinions for them to buy-in to supporting the Vision.
You can try to impose your own Vision on your Employees, but if they do not feel that it is being backed up by Leaderships’ commitment to developing and upholding new policies, procedures, etc. to achieve it, the Vision will wither and die becoming mere rhetoric you can hang at the front reception…just a piece of paper.
If you want to achieve Employee buy-in, and you must for the success of the Vision, you need to first find out what is important to them.
Is it a better life / work balance? Remote working? Is it more opportunities to earn Performance-based bonuses? Is it more vacation options, opportunities to work part-time or access to longer maternity leave?
There are NO cookie-cutter solutions here, as all companies are different. You must listen to your employees first to determine what is important to them. And don't ever stop.
While your Vision may not waver, the strategy for getting there is always dynamic, never static, and needs to be reviewed regularly via open door feedback and clear paths of communication.
You need to walk the talk by demonstrating your own commitment to the Vision as well.
2. A Commitment to Training is an Absolutely Critical Part of this Process in order to ensure the long-term success of the Vision.
Personally, I like to take a two-pronged approach here:
• The first prong is Assessments of the Employees to determine their skills, their knowledge, and their own personal goals. i.e. What do they like to do? What are they good at? What don’t they like to do? Where would they like to be in 5 years? Are they a right ‘fit’ for the position?
This way they will be challenged and able to use their skills to their best ability. If this is not the case, then they will only be stressed, frustrated and /or bored, which does not bode well for excellent Customer Service.
Work with a credible HR company that can help you in your Assessment Process if you do not have this already as part of your Hiring function. Assessments should also be performed on an ongoing basis for Employee Development and Succession Planning.
• The second prong is the Training Schedule that needs to be developed for each role based upon the requirements of the position.
Whatever your industry, ongoing and continuous training ensures that your employees are provided access to the knowledge they need to perform their jobs well, and demonstrates that you are, in fact, making an investment in them and their future.
3. Ensuring your Employees are provided the Tools necessary to perform their jobs, and that they are kept Current.
Ongoing training on how to use digital devices, reporting platforms and mobile apps for example is required as technology is constantly evolving. Tools should be a way of enabling your Employees to perform their tasks more efficiently, not hindering them, which in turn will contribute to their sense of job satisfaction and enjoyment.
For promoting both Customer and Employee retention, creating a Customer Service Oriented Culture by adopting an Employee-Centric strategy is, in my opinion, the more logical and ‘modern’ approach by far versus the conventional wisdom of just‘putting the customer first’.
Mr. Branson sums up this approach at Virgin most appropriately.
"If the person who works at your company is not appreciated, they are not going to do things with a smile…By not treating employees well, companies risk losing customers over bad service.”
To this end, Branson says he has made sure that Virgin prioritizes employees first, customers second, and shareholders third.
About the Author:
Denise M. Barry is an Entrepreneurial Sales Leader who is passionate about New Business Development.
From practicing Consultative Sales for over 26 years, Denise is convinced it is a Methodology that successfully spans multiple industries as the ‘steps’ are the same regardless of what the product or solution is. She has been very fortunate to have had opportunities to mentor and coach many new Sales Leaders in Consultative Sales over her Career.
Denise specializes in Outsourced Sales for her Global clients, enabling them to:
- Launch new Products and Gather Analytical Data
- Open up new Marketplaces and Verticals - 'dip their toe in first'
- Increase Sales and ‘Top-up’ Pipelines
I welcome companies who are interested in augmenting their Global strategy by including the opportunities that abound in the Greater Toronto Area, Canada to contact me.
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