Shep Hyken's Customer Service Blog

Core Values Key to Customer Service

Key to Customer Service

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about “core values.” One of my clients asked me to write an article about hiring and firing for core values. In the process, I realized this is a concept worthy of a short article, just to get you thinking about you and your company’s core values.

As it applies to customer service, core values may be the reason a customer decides to do business with you. They may also be the reason that your employees enjoy working at your company and are motivated and committed to doing their best work.

What are the words that your customers use to describe you? Are they the same words you would use to describe yourself?  If so, you’re in alignment. And in some cases, these words can be, if they aren’t already, some of the core values of your organization. These are the values that you want to be known for by both your employees and your customers.

In short, core values are what the company stands for.  They can be expressed in sentences or just simple words. Some words that come to mind include friendly, honest, passionate, helpful, fun and many, many more. While these are simple words that we most likely would use to describe ourselves and our companies, are they engrained in the culture of our company? Are our employees acutely aware of them? Do we refer to them on a regular basis?

These words need to be more than adjectives that simply describe our people or our company. They must be the committed values of your company, and everyone who works for the company. And, they can’t be just a theme of the month. They must be as permanent as your vision or mission statement.

Tony Hsieh is the bestselling author of Delivering Happiness.  He’s also the founder and leader of one of my all-time favorite companies,, the online retailer that sells shoes. is known for their customer service, but they are also one of the best role models on how to run a customer centric organization. In his book, Hsieh talks about the core values that he hires for. The values include a passion for service, total transparency, a willingness to embrace and drive change, a positive team and family spirit, fun and a little weirdness, and a few others. These core values impact the experience the customer receives and they help to define the personality and attitude that tries to hire. doesn’t care about your race, religion, color, hair, tattoos, piercings or height. They only care that your personality and values match theirs. If they do, you’re on the team. If not, you’re not.

So, your call to action is to create your own clearly defined core values – if you don’t already have them.  These are the values that you will hire and fire for. This can’t be done in one meeting. It will take time. And, include people from different parts of your company, which helps with the “buy in.”

If you already have clearly defined core values, do your employees really know what they are? If not, start to communicate them on a regular basis. Write about them in your company newsletter or have an event to celebrate these values. Get people thinking – even talking – about them. Most important, get people living them!

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, professional  speaker and New York Times     bestselling business author. For information contact (314) 692-2200 or For information on The  Customer  Focus™ customer service training programs go to Follow on Twitter: @Hyken
(Copyright ©MMXII, Shep Hyken)


  1. Excellent topic! Too often CEO’s and their executive team spend time identifying their mission, vision and values and then “plant” them with their employees and assume that they will take root. But what happens with neglect is what happens in my garden, instead of core values thriving and defining the culture of the organization, weeds take over.
    When strategy and culture are at odds, the best of strategies will fail. On the other hand, companies that own, define, share, institutionalize and honor their core values are great places to work and as a result, attract loyal customers. Zappos is just one example. In my book The Value of Core Values:Five Keys to Success through Values-Centered Leadership, I highlight other companies who are successful (financially and otherwise) because they live their core values.

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