Recently I was made to wait two weeks to get an important prescription filled. Two weeks! And I live in a first-world country and have decent health insurance. After a week of receiving pre-recorded apology updates from the pharmacy, I called both the doctor’s office and the pharmacy, and discovered the doctor’s office hadn’t received any of the faxed pre-authorization requests the pharmacy was sending every morning. Knowing that, I asked the pharmacist to directly call the doctor’s office and ensure they completed the authorization form for insurance. I finally got the medication and felt better within a day,
but now I am looking for another doctor because of this debacle!
Poor customer service is always a reflection of a negative culture. The root cause of my unfortunate experience was the poor organizational culture at my doctor’s office, reflected in their unresponsive administrative personnel and poor customer service processes. Here is the formula:
To say it succinctly, employees treat customers in a manner consistent with how they are treated. If management yells at employees, they are in turn likely to be surly with customers. If management does not give the employees the tools, empowerment or training to serve the customer well, the customer will suffer. And when the customer suffers, so does loyalty and satisfaction and that negatively impacts customer retention, which negatively affects profitability. It’s a vicious cycle.
The link between customer service and company culture
There are many studies proving the link between company culture, customer satisfaction and profitability, including:
Four things you can do to ensure a positive customer service experience
As a leader in your organization, what can you do to ensure that your culture enables good customer service? Here are some recommendations:
1. Leaders’ behaviors visibly uphold the organization’s core values and purpose.
Leaders must be visible in their efforts to model the core values of their organizations. Leaders, get out of your offices and talk to your employees. Know their names. Say good morning to them. Ask them about issues with customers. Ask for stories about great service.
If outstanding customer service is one of your core values, do you talk to customers yourself?Do you observe or visit with customer-facing employees as they do their jobs? Do you provide the training, tools and resources needed to provide great customer service?
2. Leaders care about their team members.
A colleague of mine tells a story of how she was treated while employed at EDS (which was acquired by Hewlett Packard in 2012). She developed a serious medical condition that required her to be hospitalized for nine months. Laying in a hospital bed, worried about how she was going to support her family and pay for her illness, she received a personal phone call from Ross Perot, the CEO of EDS, who told her that the company would continue her salary and cover all her medical expenses. Imagine her stress relief, knowing that the CEO of her large company had her back!
3. Leaders appreciate and recognize the achievements of their customer service professionals. When I was a consultant to customer support call centers, I always asked managers if they had a budget for recognition, appreciation and team building. If not, I would advocate for this with their executives. Too many times, customer service employees are at the bottom of the organizational hierarchy and receive no thanks for their vital contribution to the business. The best customer service organizations ensure they have the best recognition programs to appreciate team members who provide excellent service.
It is crazy that in so many companies, the customer-facing personnel are the lowest paid workers. There are reasonable business explanations for this, but for heaven’s sake, pay your customer service people at market and make the service environment a fun one. One call center manager creates a monthly event – a party, a game or competition – for his staff. He empowers a Jubilee Team to plan fun events around the season of the year – Halloween, baseball, Valentines Day, back-to-school, etc. Through this manager, the company shows its appreciation for the staff.
4. Leaders communicate the strategic importance of customer service and its contribution to the profitability of the company.
One of the most important tasks of leaders is communication, especially in the areas of strategy and culture. As a leader, are you:
Paul Spiegelman, CEO of Beryl Health before it was acquired by Stericycle, told me (personal conversation, 2015) that leaders cannot be shy. He said,
“If you want to be a leader, you have to get out of your office. I am a certified introvert
and don’t like to be the center of attention, but we know the impact we can make.” 2
Customer Service is impacted by culture
Now you know that when you receive poor customer service, it’s not the employee’s fault. Rather, the responsibility lies within the culture that the leaders have created in the organization. Take pity on the poor service provider, give them empathy and vow to take your business elsewhere!
From the desk of