Something that might sound familiar if you’ve frequented my blog is how strongly I believe that organizational culture affects the likelihood of delivering exceptional customer service. In addition to their high correlation, I frequently discuss the roles of leadership, trust, empowerment, and my very favorite – empathy. The reason empathy is my favorite is that I see it as the universal indicator of great customer service; those who have it or can learn it will execute customer service strategy with it and will succeed.
One very telling sign of a troubled customer service culture is when employees regularly say bad things about customers once an interaction is complete. If when the customer leaves or the phone call is finished, employees say things like, “what a jerk,” or “how is that our fault?” or “she’s the one who signed the contract,” you have a classic case of this cultural dilemma within your organization and it is likely void of the empathy I speak of. Being able to handle a crisis or fix a situation is one thing; but if handled disingenuously, because deep down they believe the customer is a jerk, no amount of disguise will help.
It’s dangerous to permit an environment where employees can unapologetically lack empathy or place blame on customers. It’s also not rational or logical to think that frustrations can be eliminated because customer service isn’t necessarily easy. My thoughts here are designed to be an awareness piece for managers who might think it’s just “venting” and may not be conscious of the potential toxicity of allowing it to go on. Here are a couple of ways to combat it:
1 – Shape it through leadership and management. This type of cultural belief has to be a constant guide where employees feel that doing right by customers is “who” the organization is. I know that this is often said – but is it said with the intent to convey empathy and understanding?
2 – Never miss an opportunity to coach. Don’t focus solely on formal trainings to teach behaviors; they are best learned through guidance, coaching, and mentorship. Overhearing a situation you want shaped into something better is the best opportunity you have. Being able to pause a situation and help your employee understand that it doesn’t make someone a “jerk” because they didn’t know the rules or requirements – but that it’s an opportunity to teach, can be very eye-opening to your front line employees who may otherwise develop hard to break habits of customer-bashing.
These are not paradigm shifting thoughts. We all want/expect to see genuine service, empathy, understanding, and respect as our employees work with our customers; my point is that you may not have enough emphasis or the right execution strategy to shape the culture you want. This is a reminder to take a look and help your people not only show but feel empathy so that they deliver the exceptional customer service you expect.