The Top Mistake That Can Derail Your Service Culture

First, the good news.

Customer service leaders are increasingly identifying the importance of having a customer service vision. This is a shared definition of outstanding service that codifies a company or team's service culture.

Now the bad news.

Many customer service leaders are telling me their vision is not resonating with employees. Their people don't love it and they're certainly not embracing the culture.

A recent study from the consulting firm Deloitte revealed a similar trend. The survey found 82 percent of executives believed culture could be a source of competitive advantage. Yet just 12 percent felt they were driving the right culture.

The big question is why? 

It turns out it's all in the execution. Those big executive announcements just don't seem to stick. Here's what goes wrong and what you can do about it.

Don't Make This Mistake When Creating Your Vision

A prospective client recently asked me to help the organization's executive team write a customer service vision. It would have paid a nice fee and possibly could have led to additional business.

I politely declined.

The biggest mistake you can make is to only include executives when writing a customer service vision. This automatically excludes the perspectives of key arbiters of authenticity such as frontline employees and line managers.

Frontline employees will tell you how it really is. Line managers are directly responsible for coaching employees on executing the vision, so they need to feel passionate about it as well.

A customer service vision written exclusively by executives almost always sets off employees' bullshit meter. These visions are often full of fluffy sayings that are disconnected from day-to-day reality.

No wonder employees don't love it.

I tried to explain all of this to my client. She eventually admitted the executive meeting was already set. They had planted their stake in the ground.


Creating an Authentic Vision

The best way to create a customer service vision your employees will love is to include them in the process. You can use my step-by-step guide to help you.

For now, here's an overview:

Step One: Invite Input. Give all employees a chance to weigh in. This means all, whether you have 10 or 10,000. I often use a survey. Some companies have used a combination of focus groups, surveys, and even virtual town halls. You can get a detailed description of this process in The Service Culture Handbook.

Step Two: Write It. Convene a group of 7-10 people draft the vision. The group should have representatives from all major stakeholders, including executives, line managers, and the frontlines. In my experience, each stakeholder invariably brings a perspective the other groups would have missed.

Step Three: Share It. Socialize the vision with key stakeholders who did not participate in the vision writing meeting. The goal is to get their input, buy-in, and blessing before rolling it out to the entire organization.

For instance, I recently helped a client write its customer service vision. We then presented it to both the President and the CEO. Both were ecstatic about it, which told us we had done well.

Occasionally, a stakeholder group will push back. This happens very rarely and when it does, in my experience it has always been a matter of adjusting one or two words to make the vision just right.

The ultimate goal is you want to share the customer service vision with any employee and have that person instantly believe it. People are much more likely to embrace something they believe.