In the past, values were a bunch of words brainstormed using a thesaurus at a management retreat before being mounted on an acrylic board in the employees’ lunchroom, discussed on the first day of training and referred to as part of the organisation’s brand. Today, values define the heart of an organisation’s service philosophy to their customers and are used by senior leaders as the basis of all decisions, including selecting new employees. It is the values of the organisation that also attract prospective employees to self-select-in to an organisation, rather than being selected by an organisation. This is because people are choosing careers where their values are consistent with the values of the organisation.
For an organisation led and fuelled by customer service there are five essential core values which describe the actions of leaders and frontline employees who are ambitious to create positive change and transform their customer service offering. These can be easily remembered by the ‘A-E-I-O-U’ acronym:
Being accountable is infused into an organisational culture from both the leadership and customer end. Leaders should expect their teams to be accountable for their actions and the role they play in contributing to the customer experience, just as customers expect organisations to be accountable to their needs. This is operationalised by empowering all employees to think about things from the perspective of the customer and then act on those thoughts as if the business was their own. Buying in to a common purpose or intangible goal for coming to work is also another way to show accountability to the bigger picture and directly making positive impacts to customers, both internal and external.
Regardless of occupation or industry, employees are ‘on show’ to their customers and other stakeholders. Think about the feeling you get when you see a great show with lots of energy, compared to a show you could describe as lifeless. Approaching customer service with energy, both physically and mentally, enables employees to engage with customers and develop a deeper connection, which will leave the customer with a positive memory. Having an energetic approach to all tasks creates a better working environment and is infectious between colleagues, which makes customer service that much more enjoyable. No matter how serious or complicated a task may be, energy will create more confidence between customers and employees.
No two customers or customers’ problems are the same, which is why we rely on people to give customer service. The best thing about people is that they will question and challenge things without the necessary software update! By being innovative, employees who are faced with problems are able to act on their own, coming up with solutions that will suit the customer. Creativity is no longer a skill held only by the marketing department. It is often frontline employees who come up with the best customer solutions beyond the confines of a boardroom table. Extend innovation across the whole organisation and the result is being progressive and creating solutions before problems arise. This doesn’t mean investing millions of dollars in information technology, rather demonstrating an awareness of service detractors and being forward-thinking in solutions.
Spitefulness, stubbornness and vindictiveness are three traits that work against optimism. People and organisations that always focus on what didn’t work last time or the way things have always been done will never move forward. When employees are challenged in conflict situations with customers, those who are optimistic will be able to focus on positive results. Sure, optimism leaves a chance that things may not work the way they were intended, but an optimistic approach demonstrates the genuine warmth in a person that the customer can therefore trust. After all, trust is the new currency. Looking at it from the customer’s point of view, those customers who approach an organisation with optimism are easier to serve than customers who are not optimistic. By ensuring a consistent service approach throughout the whole organisation and over a sustained period of time, more customers will be optimistic, which, in turn, fuels optimism amongst employees.
Customers like to feel special and be treated as if they are unique individuals. For this to happen, those giving customer service need to be unique in their approach. This is essential on a number of levels. For example, consistent values align all employees in an organisation, and we are all unique, right? However, embracing uniqueness is different and decreases the chance of employees becoming robotic. Customers will choose an organisation to do business with based on their unique point of difference, and for many organisations, this unique point of difference is their employees. Senior leaders will notice unique employees, and create opportunities for them to progress and advance within the organisation.
Chris Smoje is a customer service speaker, trainer, facilitator and founder of the DIME™ Customer Service approach. Chris works with organisations and their people to develop a common interest and excitement about delivering exceptional customer service results: www.dimecustomerservice.com