Customer service leaders often ask me whether they should create a customer service vision for their team—one that's separate from an organization-wide vision.
A customer service vision is a shared definition of outstanding customer service that gets everyone on the same page. My research into customer-focused companies reveals a vision is critical to building a service culture.
So should your team have its own? The answer is it depends.
In an ideal world, there's only one customer service vision that unites the entire organization. It's what companies with elite service cultures do. More on that in a moment.
But first, here are some reasons why it might make sense to create a vision specifically for your team.
Reason #1: Lack of Leadership Support
I learned the hard way that a service culture can only exist at the level its supported by leadership.
A CEO once hired me to help develop a customer service vision for his organization. Unfortunately, his enthusiasm quickly faded once the project started and he checked out of the process. This frustrated his leadership team, who took it as a sign the initiative was another flavor-of-the-month program and wasn't really important.
A service culture needs a leader to champion the cause.
So if the CEO isn't onboard, a vice president might still develop a service culture within her division. Or if the vice president can't be bothered, a department manager might create a customer service vision for his team.
The challenge you'll face here is working with other teams. It will often feel like an uphill battle to get other groups to share your service philosophy.
Reason #2: Lack of Influence
Let's say you're a department manager. You'd love to see a customer service vision for the entire organization, but you don't believe you can influence your senior leadership team.
This might be an opportunity to create your own center of excellence.
I once worked with a client who did this. She started a new job leading a department with a reputation for poor service. We worked with her team to create a customer service vision and build a customer-focused culture.
The department slowly transformed its reputation into a team that was recognized throughout the organization as a model of outstanding service. Other teams started emulating the same process and creating their own vision statements.
Many of these other teams improved as well. But it was never a complete success because the vice president that oversaw all these teams wasn't fully committed. The teams did their own jobs well, but didn’t work well with each other.
Why Elite Organizations Have One Vision
Creating an outstanding customer experience requires the entire organization to be on the same page.
You need to provide a high-quality product or service that customers want. Advertise it truthfully. Deliver it on time. Hire great people to support it. Treat your vendors with respect and pay them on time, so they’ll support you. And do the right thing when something goes wrong.
Having separate visions ultimately discourages this. It creates silos, where every team has its own set of priorities. "Us against them" can be a healthy way to view a competitor, but it shouldn't be how your view your coworkers.
One objection I consistently hear is, "The vision doesn't make sense for my team."
There are generally two possibilities in this situation. One is the organization has something it calls a vision, but it doesn't truly meet the criteria of a strong one:
Simple and easy to understand
Reflects both the current organization and the desired future
If that's the case, you're back to reasons one or two above for creating your own vision.
But there's another explanation. Your team might simply need training to understand what the vision means and how it applies to them. To fix this, I recommend helping employees discover the answers to three questions:
What is the customer service vision?
What does it mean?
How do I personally contribute?
Employees who can give consistent answers to those three questions tend to have a far stronger service mindset than those who can't.