By Catherine Rey
A service culture is one where customers are the foundation of the business. When customers receive exceptional services, they remain with a company longer; they will also be more open to sharing your business with friends and family. For instance, 7 out of 10 customers in the US will spend more with a company if it delivers outstanding services. In another textual analysis study of more than 1300 restaurant locations, ‘service’ was the most mentioned word. This shows that customers care a great deal about the customer experience and the service they receive.
To customers, a great experience is the pinnacle value they can receive for what they spend with your business. There is no alternative: your business needs to create this exceptional experience for customers. For service culture to thrive in your business, you first need to identify and work on the five drivers of culture.
This article introduces the top five drivers of company service culture and how leadership can use them to accelerate cultural change.
1. Leadership and Communication
Leadership has the most important stronghold on a company’s culture. Typically, employees will act and embody leadership actions in an organization. So, how a company’s leadership communicates the brand purpose and vision influences how employees exemplify these values with each other and with customers.
If your organization seeks to paint a picture of service orientation, then the leadership will have to walk the talk. Employees place more value on a leader’s actions rather than the leader’s words.
For instance, employees serve customers better when the behind-the-scenes work environment is friendly. If leadership models a culture of appreciation, then employees are happier and more satisfied with their work. In turn, they provide better service and experiences. The opposite is also true and expected.
Happy employees go the extra mile to help clients. They show resilience in challenging situations and help the company grow. But for this to happen, leadership must communicate to employees and create a culture of appreciation. In addition, leadership should look for ways to ensure employee engagement and satisfaction because, ultimately, the employee experience affects the customer experience.
For instance, one study found that customers love and enjoy Starbucks because of how the company treats its employees. And why not? Starbucks has been at the forefront of the industry by providing great employee benefits, including tuition grants, health insurance and other perks. Customers do not overlook this employee treatment. Also, if the employee feels that the leadership is fair and working for their good, they are more engaged in their job and provide better services.
In fact, Starbucks’ senior vice president for global communications, Corey duBrowa, once told Adweek, “When employees are satisfied and engaged, the result is deeper customer connections and an elevated customer experience.”
What can your leadership do to promote the service culture within their business?
- Promote trust, transparency, and communication within the organization. Employees do not like to be kept in the dark. They prefer to be engaged in the decision-making process by having their input sought.
- Promote a frictionless and collaborative work environment. Removing mundane tasks, automating where possible, and creating a collaborative environment supporting employees’ strengths promotes a good service culture.
2. Organizational values
Organizations with a healthy culture are 1.5 times more likely to report average revenue growth of more than 15%. In addition, such companies retain employees for longer. They are also able to provide exceptional customer services because employees work in a healthy environment. Organizational values are the backbone of any company culture. Together with the social interactions within a company, these values determine how the culture evolves.
For example, if the organization has a company value of going the extra mile for every task, employees will provide the same ‘beyond average’ services to customers. However, for these values to transcend into excellent customer service, they must be meaningful and beneficial to employees. Like any other human being, employees will only take up values that benefit and bring growth to them.
Here are a couple of ways to use organizational values to develop a service culture:
- Make sure organizational values are thoroughly disseminated to employees of all levels. When employees know the company’s values, they are more likely to collaborate and focus on a shared organizational goal. As we have mentioned, employees can only adopt these values if they relate to them.
- Provide regular training to reinforce company values. While most of your values remain relatively the same, you will need to make slight changes as your business grows and the industry revolves. That’s why training is crucial. It helps you fortify the existing values and let employees know of the slight changes.
- Invest in camaraderie activities. A team connected by their values is more likely to offer better customer service since they collaborate on work activities.
- Build an organizational culture of belonging and inclusion.
- Weave humility and transparency into your values.
3. Human asset
The ‘people make a company’ is an often repeated phrase in business. This phrase speaks nothing but the truth, especially in the hospitality industry. If creating a service culture is your business’s goal, you will have to first invest heavily in your people.
Your company should select and engage employees in ways that reinforce and promote the company’s cultures and values. Unfortunately, many companies fall into the trap of not involving their employees when selecting who is to be included in the brand and culture reinforcement. For most companies, this leads to misalignment between what the company expects to achieve and employees’ performance.
Below are a couple of tips for aligning your human asset with the service culture:
- Provide career development opportunities. Providing upskilling and reskilling opportunities improves the employee experience and helps your business retain employees for longer.
- Hire for culture. The employee-organization culture fit is essential to developing a service culture. Hence, when employing your team, make sure the candidate embodies your organizational values.
- Train and develop employees to embody your culture and uncover new ways to serve customers. After hiring people who embody your culture, don’t stop there. Continuously train employees about your values until they become second nature.
- Reward employees who act in accordance with your culture. Rewarding employees is a massive boost to their morale. It also motivates other employees to peak their performance with meaning.
- Create an atmosphere where communication and transparency are valued. Such an atmosphere always takes employees’ feedback into consideration and makes their voice feel valued.
4. Company structure
The existing organizational structure must support and allow the formation of a service culture. Company structure defines who is in authority, how communication flows and how frequently it happens.
When we talk of the company structure, three aspects come into play: communication, transparency, and leadership involvement level. For communication, you want to have open channels of communication and feedback. This way, employees can freely give and receive essential feedback. On the other hand, transparency calls for leadership to communicate significant changes to employees. Finally, leadership involvement refers to the leaders being accessible to employees.
Such a structure promotes belongingness and shows that the leaders care. Most importantly, employees want to have a company structure where embodying the culture is common and embraced by everyone, whether a top-level executive or a waitress interacting with the customers.
5. Performance management practices
For service culture to take root, your company must seek continuous improvement. Performance management lies at the core of this improvement. However, you need to rely on improved performance management practices to drive performance. This can look like offering employees more rewards, better pay, recognition rewards and much more.
Research shows yearly appraisals only are no longer relevant as a tool for performance management. Today, employees need more regular feedback. Most businesses are opting to offer weekly and quarterly feedback as it is more dependable.
In addition, employees require frequent mentoring and coaching to unleash their full potential. Roles and duties should also be clear and revised occasionally to ensure employees can deliver as expected. You should also consider having a training program to continually refine employees’ skills. Finally, management should offer consistent and helpful feedback to employees to help build a service-oriented culture.
Below are performance management tips to help promote a service culture:
- Make feedback professional. As they say, when giving critical feedback, focus on the issue and not necessarily the person. This technique will prevent bitterness and a decline in employee morale.
- Give regular feedback. If possible, give feedback immediately after something happens.
- Let the feedback be two-way. Create channels where employees can receive and give feedback to their managers.
The power of unlocking a service culture lies in perfecting these five culture drivers. In short, leaders have to clearly define the culture and organizational values. They also need to get employee input when creating these values. In turn, employees will be more willing to adopt these values and deliver exceptional services to customers. Learn more about how EHL can help you unlock a great Customer Experience with our Service Excellence Toolkit.