Team building seems to be a hot topic right now.
I've heard from quite a few Customer Service Tip of the Week subscribers lately who are trying to create team cohesion and motivate a group of employees. They contact me to ask if I know of any good exercises or resources.
There's another group of subscribers who have also contacted me. They've heard me talking non-stop about the importance of having a customer service vision, and they're finally ready to create one. The big question is, where should they start?
My answer to both groups is the same. The ultimate customer service team building exercise is writing a customer service vision.
Why Separate Initiatives Are Doomed to Fail
Many years ago, I was asked to facilitate a half-day customer service workshop to help build team cohesion. There were several leaders who were supposed to participate, but they all found various reasons not to be there.
It still seemed like the class had gone well, until two employees approached me afterwards. Both were visibly upset and one was in tears.
They told me they appreciated the class, but didn't believe it would change anything. It was their managers that were the problem. The organization's leaders didn't provide clear direction and often made decisions that were in direct conflict with each other.
It was a tough conversation because I tried to be supportive, but I couldn't offer any real solutions. The people who could, the organization's leaders, had chosen not to be there.
The experience reminded me that a cohesive team is a group of people working together towards the same goal. A half-day workshop, a ropes course, or a motivational speaker might instill a temporary shot of camaraderie, but it won't fix a fundamental lack of shared vision.
And a vision can't just be something that's proclaimed by the executive team.
I've talked to many customer service leaders recently who want to create a vision, but for some reason do not want to involve their employees. The problem with this approach is it's not a shared vision. Employees aren't really given a chance to buy-in.
This may be the top mistake service leaders make.
How Vision Writing Builds Teamwork
Think about high performing teams that you admire.
Perhaps its a team you have been on, or one you work with. It might be a well-known company with a strong service culture. It could even be your favorite sports team.
The common thread through all of those teams is they have a shared goal that everyone is working towards. A customer service vision is a shared definition of outstanding customer service that gets everyone on the same page, so it's a team-builder by design.
I've outlined the process I use to help companies and teams create their own unique customer service vision in this step-by-step guide. Here are some highlights that illustrate how it makes for a perfect team building activity.
Step 1: Gather Input. The first step is to gather everyone's input on what the vision should be. This allows everyone on the team to have a voice. In my experience, there are always some clear themes that emerge, which shows the team has more in common than people realize.
Step 2: Write the Vision. I've learned through trial and error that 7-10 people is the optimum group size for writing a customer service vision. Your team may be much larger than this, which is okay. What's important is those 7-10 people are a representative sample of the various roles and levels within the group. The group assembles and writes the vision statement based on the input gathered in step one, so everyone is represented even if they aren’t physically in the room.
Step 3: Socialize the Vision. Once a draft vision statement is written, you want to share it with key influencers who weren't there. The idea is to get their buy-in, or if necessary, make a few minor tweaks. (I've never had to change more than a word or two.) From there, you share the vision with the entire team and begin using it as a basis for ongoing employee engagement.
The end result, if you follow the process, is you have a shared vision that becomes the starting point for all future teamwork. Make sure everything you do is pointed towards that vision, and you'll be continuously reinforcing the team concept.
Are You Stuck?
Here are a few resources to help if you're still stuck after reading this post: