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8 ways to adopt and grow a customer service mindset

How do you ensure that your customer service team understands their role and leads the charge when it comes to driving customer satisfaction and loyalty? The answer: Help them adopt a customer service mindset.

By Annette Franz, CCXP; founder + CEO, CX Journey Inc., @annettefranz

Last updated December 1, 2021

Customer service is a vital part of not only the customer experience but also the success of a business. It doesn’t matter through which channel customers ask for help—it needs to be executed well. Get it wrong, and a lot of other pieces of the customer experience and the customer relationship with your brand will fall apart. Ninety-six percent of consumers around the globe believe customer service is an important factor when it comes to brand loyalty, according to a Microsoft study.

How do you ensure that your customer service team understands their role and leads the charge when it comes to driving customer satisfaction and loyalty? The answer: Help them adopt a customer service mindset.

So, what is a customer service mindset?

A mindset is a mental attitude or inclination, according to Merriam-Webster. So, when service teams operate with a customer service mindset, it means they are not only solving customer needs and issues but also thinking about what can make the overall customer experience better. They do their jobs with the attitude and the focus of doing what’s right and what’s best for the customer to ensure the customer is well taken care of. Outcomes of a customer service mindset are satisfaction and success for the customer and long-term, loyal relationships that benefit the business.

4 ways to develop a customer service mindset

  • Culture
  • People
  • Tools
  • Processes

Developing a customer service mindset within your service organization doesn’t just happen on its own or because you command it. There are some foundational aspects that must be in place: culture, people, tools, and processes. Let’s start with culture.

  1. Culture

    The interesting thing about a customer service mindset is that it really must be–and is–rooted in a customer-centric culture. All the things that make your entire organization customer-centric are critical to developing and facilitating this mindset. Culture = core values + behaviors.

    First, it’s critical to not only define the values but also the associated acceptable and unacceptable actions and behaviors. The values themselves must not be “vanity values” (e.g., integrity or safety), which are things everyone should already be doing; instead, the values must align with the (customer-centric) culture that you’re trying to build. Then, both values and behaviors must be socialized and operationalized.

  2. People

    When it comes to your employees, it is important to hire for attitude and train for skill. It sounds cliché, and maybe it is, but it’s a valid mantra. You can train people to do the work, but you can’t train them to be nice, kind, helpful, patient, and have good judgment. You can’t train them to be “people persons” and relationship builders. But if you hire kind, positive, respectful, friendly, and courteous people with a can-do attitude who love to help others, then you’re one step closer to that customer service mindset than if you had hired someone with 20 years of experience with a bad attitude.

    And, when we talk about operationalizing core values, one of the ways to do that is to hire based on your core values. Use them as a component of the interview process. Need an example of how to do that? Take a look at Zappos.

  3. Tools

    Ensure that your employees are equipped with the right tools to shift to this customer service mindset. Tools include training on the product and on customer service skills, ongoing education about customer personas, and technology that facilitates getting the right data to them at the right time to ensure the experience is personalized and seamless.

    Employees ought to be empowered, too. Yes, empowerment is a tool—give them that tool to do what they need to do to make the situation right for the customer. For example, The Ritz-Carlton is well known for its $2,000 Rule, which gives every employee the ability to spend up to $2,000 per guest per incident, should there be an issue. No management approval or input is required. Allow the same for your customer service team.

  4. Processes

    Processes (and policies) that employees use to do their jobs must be assessed to ensure that they aren’t broken or outdated and that they don’t work against an employee’s ability to deliver a great customer experience.

    Data and insights about the customer and the customer experience must be built into the employees’ day-to-day actions, behaviors, and decision-making. Supervisors must incorporate customer feedback into regular meetings and interactions with staff in order to recognize employees for a job well done or to coach where improvement opportunities exist. And employees must incorporate customer feedback from surveys and other voice-of-the-customer sources into the work they do to resolve issues and build customer relationships.

How do you nurture and grow the customer service mindset?

To drive lasting change to a customer service mindset, do four things.

  • 1. Communicate the vision for this new mindset. Tell the change story. Let employees know what is changing, why it’s changing, how it will impact them and what they do (differently) on a daily basis, and how they will be involved. If no one knows what they’ll be doing differently or why, they’ll ignore it and not want to be a part of it.
  • 2. Involve employees in the shift to a customer service mindset rather than forcing change on them. If they’re involved, the approach and the solutions may be richer because they have other perspectives and experiences that the decision-making leader may not have. If they believe it was their own idea, it’ll stick; they’ll own it.
  • 3. It’s important that executives lead by example and model the change that they wish to see from their employees; if they don’t live the change, why should employees? If your department head or your CEO doesn’t demonstrate commitment to this new mindset by being the role model for how to deliver a great experience, it won’t happen. If they don’t live the core values, why should you?
  • 4. Recognize the right behaviors and reinforce them with incentives, promotions, metrics, and more. Reinforcing the behaviors, actions, and changes that you want to see is more powerful than talking about them, especially when combined with modeling them.

Adopting this customer service mindset impacts the customer and the business. And it impacts your employees, too. Don’t forget to check in with employees to find out if there’s anything else they need to serve their customers the way they want and deserve to be served.

With almost 30 years in the customer experience profession, Annette Franz is the founder and CEO of CX Journey Inc. On the vendor side, she has run consulting services organizations for major VOC vendors, and on the client-side, she’s worked on customer experience strategy for Mattel, Fidelity Investments, and Compellon.

Annette is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, keynote speaker, and author of Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business). Her second book, Built to Win: Designing a Customer-Centric Culture that Drives Value for Your Business, will be published by Advantage|ForbesBooks in Q1 2022. She is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) and an official member of the Forbes Coaches Council.

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