Monthly Archives: March 2019

A-Z of service culture

a-z service cultureHere is a summary of my mini video series on the A-Z of Creating a Service Culture.
Find the full series here:


A for attitude

To help you create and maintain your service culture only recruit people with the right attitude who fit in with your service culture and you are confident can deliver excellent customer service skills. You can train people in technical skills, but you won’t be able to change their attitude so include this in your selection criteria.


B for Behaviours

Your service culture will be influenced by your actions and behaviours – towards customers and towards your team. Behaviour breeds behaviours so be a role model in tune with your service culture or the service culture you want to create. You must demonstrate first class customer service skills for your internal customers as well as your external customers if you want your team to demonstrate first class customer service skills too.


C for Consistency

To achieve a positive service culture, you must have consistency. Consistency of your expectations, your standards, systems. Everyone must be able to meet your standards, not just your exceptional team members. Systems should mean it’s easy for people to deliver your standards on a day to day basis making it easy for your team to contribute to your service culture.


D for Development

Invest in your team’s development so they feel part of your service culture. This isn’t just developing hem for a promotion, but about tapping into their strengths and stretching them to keep them engaged so they are more likely to deliver a wow customer experience and fit in with your service culture.


E for Emotion

More than 50% of a customer’s perception of your service will be down to the emotions you create i.e. how you leave them feeling. When building your service culture it’s important to identify the emotions you’d like to create for your customers at each touch point on the customer journey for the ideal customer experience. Recognise that you may want different emotions for different customers. Once you know the emotions you want to create it’s a lot easier to identify what needs to be happening at each touch point on the customer journey t achieve these.


F for Feedback

When building a service culture it is important to gain feedback from your customers as well as giving supportive feedback to your team members. Customer feedback will tell you what is important to them and how well you are meeting customer expectations – all important when shaping your service culture. Even if you don’t agree with their feedback ask what has led to their perception. When giving feedback to team members let them know what is good and where they can improve. Use the AID model to give supportive feedback.


G for Glue

One way to help your business stand out from the competition is by adding some GLUE. GLUE stands for Giving Little Unexpected Extras. To help build this into your service culture, start by adding some GLUE for your team members. When they experience this first hand, they’ll be far more likely confident to add GLUE for your customers. But to make it part of your service culture you must empower them to do this. Give them examples and a free hand to do this.


H for Happy

As Simon Sinek says “Happy employees ensure happy customers. And happy customers ensure happy shareholders—in that order”.

Your employees create your culture. So if you want a positive service culture it starts with positive employees. Not only do happy employees result in happier customers they are also more productive, less likely to leave and more likely to be ambassadors for your business. Here are 4 ideas to create a happy and engaged team


I for Interested

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Theodore Roosevelt

Showing you care is an important factor in creating a service culture. This doesn’t just apply to customers, but also to your team members. The easiest way to work out what’s important to your team members and show an interest is to ask them. Ask what they enjoy, what’s important t them about their job. But, it’s not just about work, what are their interests outside work. What do they value? Understanding these factors and taking account of them all helps create a happy team as discussed in the last video.

Take an interest in your customers too. Find out their priorities and what they value, so we can easily identify how to add extra value with things they will appreciate.


J for Journey

Map the whole of your customer journey from the very first touch point to the very last. Bear in mind the last touch point on the customer journey may be some time after they have bought from you. Consider how well you maintain the relationship with your customer after they have bought.

Once you have mapped you customer journey, define the emotions you want your customers to experience at each touch point. This becomes a useful training tool for your team.


K for Knowledge

Lack of product knowledge leads to frustration for both customers and team members who have to spend time seeking information.

Giving your team thorough product knowledge is key if you want them to be able to describe and promote your products or services, or do any ‘upselling’.


L for Listen

Your service culture will be impacted by how well you listen.

Listening to customers is of course important and will have an impact on their perception of your service; show that you are listening by responding accordingly – how many times as a customer do you feel your comments have fallen on deaf ears?!

It’s not just your customers though, but also your team. Failing to listen to them can be demotivating; which inevitably has a knock on impact on the service they give your customers.


M for Measure and metrics

If all your metrics focus on profit, productivity and sales that may be counter to your good intentions of creating a service culture. Put metrics in place that will help you measure your service. Whether these are based on repeat business, customer satisfaction, Net Promoter Score, recommendations, customer reviews, or any other metrics it’s important they are aligned to your service values and are compatible with metrics in other areas such as sales.

In the video I cover considerations to ensure your metrics do actually enhance service, not hinder it.


N for No no’s

Saying no to a customer can come across as if you don’t want to help. That doesn’t mean to say that you never say no, but there are ways of saying no in a positive way, and your team need to know how to do this.

In the video I cover 3 stages.

Always tell people what you can’t do first, before telling them what you can do instead.


O for Ownership

Failing to take ownership is frustrating both for customers and colleagues. This might be anything from taking responsibility for complaints, even when it’s not your department, passing on messages to colleagues, or even just picking up litter in the car park.

No customer ever wants to hear “I can’t help you, you need to speak to xxx” or “They’re not hear today; can you call back tomorrow?”

Or the manager, you don’t want to hear people complaining “that’s not my job!” or “That’s not my fault!“

It’s not just your customer facing teams who need to take ownership; your customers won’t differentiate between someone who has a direct responsibility to customers and those who are support staff or even third party providers. Either way, these people represent your business in the customers eyes, so it’s important everyone takes ownership.

In the video I cover 3 things you can do to get people to take ownership.


P for Perceptions

Recognise that your customers will often see things from a different perspective, therefore will have a different perception. This doesn’t mean they are wrong! They simply see things differently.

It’s therefore important to review the whole of your customer journey from a customer’s perspective, which often highlights things that can be improved or refined in some way, and gain more understanding for the customer.

It’s even more important when you’re dealing with problems or complaints. This is especially true when you don’t necessarily agree with them. Whether we agree with them or not , the first thing is to identify what has led to their perception.


Q for Quality questions

The ability to ask quality questions is a vital skill for anyone dealing with customers as well a key leadership skill, so plays a key role in creating a positive service culture.

Your team need to develop the skill of quality questions to understand your customers’ needs and expectations, so include this in your customer service training. This is particularly important when dealing with problems or complaints to really understand the issue so that they are solving the right problem! It’s important customers recognise that they’ve been understood, and the better the questions the easier this will be.

Good quality questions also help managers to get the best from their teams, to understand individuals within the team, and demonstrating you care about them. They are also a good way to involve your team to get buy in, to find out their ideas, and to aid their development by getting them to think things through for themselves, all of which helps with employee engagement and staff retention.


R for Recognition

Of course it’s important to recognise your valued customers and reward their loyalty. But building a positive service culture starts with your team and ensuring they feel valued and recognised. The more your team members feel proud of the job they do, the more this rubs off and gets picked up by customers so has a knock on effect on your customer service.

In the video I cover 7 ways to recognise your team which in turn will make them feel valued and aid employee engagement and staff retention.

“If you treat your employees like they make a difference, they will” Jim Goodnight, CEO, SAS


S for Smile

A simple smile is so easy, but can have a dramatic impact on your customer’s experience and how they feel. A smile is infectious, if you smile at someone 90% of the time they will smile back and it’s difficult to feel grumpy when you smile.

Create an environment where everyone feels they have something to smile about. A warm smile and a cheery good morning to your team is a good start and helps to engage your team. They are far more likely to follow suit with customers…


T for Trust

Do you do anything in your business which sends an unconscious signal to your customers that you don’t trust them?

What about with your team? If they feel that you don’t trust them, they might feel under valued, and can be a source of employee disengagement. Empower your team to do the job they are employed to do, and to do what’s best for your customer under the circumstances. Give them flexibility to find their own way of doing things, as long as the end result is achieved. Create an environment where it’s okay for people to make a mistake, as long as they learn from it; people will be far more likely to own up to errors if they are confident they won’t be reprimanded or punished.

Earn the trust of your team. Demonstrate personal integrity.

Be open with your team and how your own vulnerabilities, and admit your own shortcomings; the more open you are with them the more open they will be with you.


U for Unselfish

In building a positive service culture you people on your team who are prepared to go out of their way to help others, will go the extra mile for customer, even if that means staying late, or will help a colleague, even if it means getting behind with their own work.

Take account of this need for unselfish people when you are recruiting. Look for evidence and examples of them going out of their way to help others in their previous role. Do they get involved in any charity work, volunteer for organisations, or do any type of unpaid work such as coaching a kid’s football team. How do they feel about giving up their time, passing on their skills, or sharing their know-how for the benefit of others?


V for Values

Your customer service values are your way of saying “this is what’s important to us about the way we treat our customers”. They represent a way to share beliefs that relate to your purpose.

It really doesn’t matter if you refer to them as values, vision, mission, ethos or philosophy, just so long as you have something which acts as a guide for everyone within your business to relate to. You don’t need to a engineer, your values. In the video I outline 3 factors to consider to ensure your customer service values mean something to you, your team and your customers.

If you’re looking to create a positive service culture, start with defining what good looks like, I defining your customer service values. And if you already have, customer service values check how well they are understood and met on a day by day basis.


W for Watch your words

Your choice of words can influence people’s perceptions of you and your business, so they are bound to influence your culture.

For more on words and how they can shape your culture go to:

Be mindful of your vocabulary, terminology and the words you use, and the emotions they create.

In most cases over 50% of people’s buying decisions are based on emotions rather than logic, so if were not creating the right emotions, this can impact not only our customers perception of value, but also hit your bottom line (just as it did with Gerald Ratner a few years ago!)


X for Exceed expectations

In creating a positive service culture is not enough to aim for merely meeting customers’ expectations, we need to exceed customer’s expectations.

To meet and exceed customer’s expectations we need to:

  1. 1.understand their expectations, and recognise these don’t stand still; customers’ expectations are always changing and increasing
  2. Be continually making incremental improvements
  3. 3.involve your team in looking for opportunities to improve the customer experience: opportunities to add unexpected extras, pre-empt customers’ needs, solve their problems, save time and effort, adding a personal touch
  4. 4.empower your team to do whatever is best in any given situation to meet and exceed the customer’s expectations


Y for Yes

A positive service culture includes having people with a positive mindset and who will always be trying to find a solution for the customer, so aiming for a yes, rather than a no.

However, Yes, but can sound confrontational and doesn’t get you any further forward, whereas yes, and keeps the conversation positive, and shows you are listening.

Making the switch from ”Yes, but…” to “yes, and… “can take a bit of practice, so at the end of this blog post is an exercise you can do with your team:

 Z for Zeal

The dictionary definition of the is a great enthusiasm, eagerness or desire for a cause or movement. In this instance the cause or movement is for your customers have brilliant service and a fantastic experience. It’s not enough for you to have the enthusiasm, eagerness or desire, it’s also important to create that in your team, so everyone is striving for your customers to have a fantastic experience. When you are enthusiastic (and have zeal) this will rub off on to your team.



Ways with Words and how they impact customer experience and service culture

words impact service culture

Do you remember the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”?

Won’t they?

Ask any experienced marketing copywriter and they’ll be able to tell you just how powerful words can be in creating both positive and negative emotions, and prompting people to take notice, put up barriers or take action.

In today’s video in my mini video series on the A-Z of creating a service culture (we are up to the letter W now) I talk about the importance of your choice of words, and how some can create a positive or negative emotion; not from a marketing perspective, but how they might impact how your customers and/or the team members feel and how this gets reflected in your customers’ experience and service culture.


Building Rapport

People generally like (and feel more comfortable with) people like themselves. Using similar words, terminology and expressions helps build rapport with customers and team members alike. So, listen out for the terminology others use and try to use their terms rather than yours.

(This extends to showing common interests, common goals and common values.  So, assuming you share these let them know, as these can help to bond you together.  A relationship with a customer or team member will be a lot easier if you share something you have in common.)


Adding Value

Do you remember how Gerald Ratner described the jewellery he sold in his (up till then successful) jewellery stores?

The words you use to describe your products and services will have a big impact on how people perceive them, and the value they place on them.

Describing something as ‘just…’ or ‘only…’ can work to play down the price, but when you’re describing a product or service you have the impact of diminishing its value. Instead, use powerful words which will create emotional appeal (bearing in mind that most buying decisions are based more on emotions than logic). Such as: gorgeous, luxurious, delicious, creamy, warming.

Teach your team to use such descriptions for your products and services. That doesn’t mean to say they need a script, but get them to identify what – for them – best describes that product or service, a description they are comfortable with when explaining to a customer.


Dealing with disagreements

Whether it’s handling complaints, dealing with poor performance, or simply having to say no to a customer or a team member, your choice of words can have a big impact. Some are like red rags to a bull. Here are a few examples we so often hear…

Yes, but… As soon as anyone hears the word ‘but’ they know they are about to be contradicted. See:

It’s our policy – no one cares about your policies, they just want to get what they want (or the next best thing).

You can’t, you have to, you must – people don’t like being told what to do; offer suggestions, recommendations, if you do X you’ll get Y (Y being a solution or something of benefit to them).

That’s not my job, that’s not our department, that’s not my responsibility.  Focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t do – even if this is simply helping to put them through to the appropriate person or department.


Blinded by science

It’s easy to fall into the trap of using industry jargon, but if your customer or team member is not familiar with this jargon, it can make them feel embarrassed, uncomfortable or patronised.

Don’t dumb down if you don’t need to, but just beware of using terms others either simply don’t understand or could be misinterpreted.


Common courtesies

Ensure your greetings are sincere; there’s a huge difference between a scripted, bland and robotic “how are you today, sir? ” without even bothering to look up or listen to the answer, and being greeted with a sunny smile and a cheerful “Good morning, Mr Smith! We haven’t seen you for a while; welcome back!”

Using someone’s name when you greet them makes them feel more valued. However, never shorten their name unless they ask you to. So, Mr Smith doesn’t become Fred, Andrew doesn’t become Andy or Deborah doesn’t become Debbie unless that’s what they request.

Never under estimate the value of a heartfelt “thank you” be that to a customer, team member, supplier or colleague.


If you only do one thing

Over the next 24 hours take stock of the words and language you use and listen the words your team use.

Ask: do these create a positive emotion or leave people with a negative impression, and how well does the outcome reflect the service culture you want to create.