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It's the most essential element in customer service.
That's how I describe a customer service vision. It's a shared definition of outstanding service that gets everyone on the same page. The vision is a compass that always points employees in the right direction.
Customer service visions sometimes go by other names. Here are a few examples:
Customer service mission statement
Customer service slogan
Customer service mantra
Customer service philosophy
Prepare to Write the Vision
You'll want to do a little prep work before you actually sit down and write the vision.
First, take a moment to explore what constitutes a customer service vision statement if you aren't familiar with one already. Here's a short primer that can help.
Next, determine your scope. Are you writing a customer service vision for an entire organization or just one team?
The third step is to identify any existing work that might influence the new vision. This way, you are building on your existing culture. I like to gather any examples of current mission statements, customer service slogans, service standards, etc.
For example, if you're writing a customer service vision for your team, you might want to get ahold of your company's mission statement to help guide you.
Finally, you want to get your employees' input. Unless you work on a very small team, it's unwieldy to involve everyone in writing the actual vision statement. I've found the optimal group size for that is 7 - 10 people (more on that in a moment).
So, I get around this with a single survey question:
What do you want our customers to think of when they think of the service we provide?
It's an open response question, so participants can type in whatever they please. Many survey programs (Survey Monkey, Google Surveys, etc.) make this very easy to do. Using a survey allows everyone to weigh in with minimal effort.
I then put all of the responses into a word cloud, which is a graphical representation of the words that people use most often. (You can use free software like Wordle to help.)
Here's an example from the Center For Sustainable Energy's Clean Vehicle Rebate Project. This team supports people who buy a car in California that qualifies for a rebate from the state. Take a look at their word cloud and see what phrases jump out at you.
Writing the Vision
Once you gather data, the next step is the write the vision. The first step is gathering the right group of people to help you.
I've learned through trial and error that the optimal group size is 7 to 10 people. This is similar to the two pizza rule, which suggests that you should limit groups to the number of people that can be fed with two pizzas.
The group's composition is important. Here's who I like to invite:
At least one frontline employee. They keep it real.
At least one senior leader. They provide authority.
At least one mid-level manager or supervisor. They're the link between execs and the front lines.
It may also be helpful to use a professional facilitator. There's an art and science to keeping a group like this moving efficiently. You have to create a safe space for people to share their ideas, while challenging the entire group to think outside the box. (Use this guide to determine if an outside facilitator is right for you.)
In the meeting itself, the goal is the write a simple customer service vision statement that meets these three criteria:
It's simple and easily understood.
It describes the type of service we want to achieve for our customers.
It reflects both who we are now and who we aspire to be in the future.
Let's go back to the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project team. They help their customers through the clean vehicle rebate process. As a group, they understood that customers expected things to be easy when they applied for a rebate.
Here's what they came up with:
Make it easy to join the clean vehicle movement.
I also like to spend a part of this meeting discussing specific behaviors and examples that align with the vision. These will come in handy later when you explain it to people.
For example, after writing this customer service vision statement, the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project team redesigned their website and some of their processes to make it even easier for customers to apply for a rebate.
Sharing the Vision
You still have a few things to do once you write your vision.
First, you want to share it with a few key stakeholders to get their buy in. You aren't looking for any additional word smithing here, just a gut check that the vision makes sense and hasn't left anything out.
Here's where you want to get a mix of leaders and individual contributors to weigh-in since each group will have a different perspective. You know you've got a good statement if it immediately resonates.
Occasionally, this second group will spot something the initial group didn't. It might be a key word that's missing or needs to be replaced. This doesn't happen often, but it's good to be open to the possibility.
Next, it's time to communicate the customer service vision to the rest of the organization or team. My suggestion is to make sure that everybody can answer three questions:
What is the vision?
What does it mean?
How do I contribute?
It's helpful to have concrete examples to help people learn about the vision and remember it.
You are welcome to download my customer service vision worksheet to use as a guide.
The vision is just the starting point to developing a customer-focused culture. You can get a full plan from my book, The Service Culture Handbook. It’s a step-by-step guide to getting your employees obsessed with customer service.
Finally, see how creating a customer service vision is just the first step in your journey to a customer-focused culture by watching this short training video.