A few Customer Service Tip of the Week subscribers have recently emailed me with the same question.
"Our startup's customer service team has started to grow from one person to a department with multiple employees. How do we keep everyone customer-focused?"
My answer is always the same.
The first step is to create a customer service vision. This is a shared definition of outstanding customer service that points everyone in the same direction.
Here's why you need one, what it can do for your organization, and how to create one.
Why Your Startup Needs a Vision
A big challenge happens whenever a company founder starts hiring employees.
Founders know what they want. They have an idea of the culture they'd like their business to have. A driving passion to solve a particular problem keeps them up at night.
All of that is locked in the founder's head.
A customer service vision helps founders get those ideas out of their brains and share the core of the company they're creating. The vision should articulate exactly what you hope to do for your customers so everyone can clearly understand.
The vision also becomes a compass that points you in the right direction whenever you need to make a critical decision. Which leads us to what it can specifically do for your organization.
What a Vision Can Do
A customer service vision can help startups both strategically and tactically.
On a strategic level, decision-making gets easier. Customer-focused companies reduce internal friction by aligning key processes with a central vision. For example:
- Goals: what should you measure?
- Hiring: how do you decide someone is a good fit?
- Training: what training do employees need to be successful?
- Empowerment: what authority, tools, and resources do employees need to serve customers?
- Leadership: what messages should leaders consistently reinforce?
On a tactical level, the vision should guide employee decisions. It's impossible to anticipate every customer service scenario, especially in a startup. A customer service vision provides clarity when there isn't an established procedure.
How to Create a Customer Service Vision
You can use this step-by-step guide to walk you through the entire process. Here are the highlights:
First, make this a team effort. You want to involve your employees in writing the vision so it will be authentic and meaningful. Visions often fail to become widely adopted when leaders make up the vision on their own.
Second, a good customer service vision adheres to three criteria:
- It's simple and easily understood
- The vision is focused on customers
- It accurately reflects the company now and the company's future aspirations
Clio provides a great example. The company provides cloud-based legal practice management software. As a young startup, the company developed this vision:
Our goal is to help our customers succeed and realize the full value of our Product. This results in Evangelists and less Churn.
The third step is to make sure all employees know and understand the vision. Each person should be able to answer three questions:
- What is the customer service vision?
- What does it mean?
- How do I personally contribute?
Now comes the hard part.
Customer-focused startups don't allow a customer service vision to be a one-time project. Rather, the vision should guide the company's growth and operations for years to come.
You can learn more about how to chart your course from The Service Culture Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Employees Obsessed with Service. Single copies are available on amazon.com. You can get quantity discounts on bulk purchases from 800-CEO-READ.