Shep Hyken's Customer Service Blog

The One Thing We Must Do to Create a Customer Focused Culture

To kick off the start of 2017 I could share my “Top Seventeen Ways to Deliver Great Customer Service in 2017.” I’ve done something like that most years. Instead, I’d like to kick off with something a bit more manageable. Not seventeen ideas, but just one. Not only is the focus on one idea, but really it’s just one word. And, that word is… alignment. 

One of the most important ways to improve customer service is to make sure that everyone in an organization (company) is in alignment with the customer service and/or experience vision. While the concept is just one word, there are several steps to achieving alignment.

The first step is to define that vision in simple and memorable terms. So, if you’ve been following my work, go back a few weeks to the concept of creating your customer service mantra, which is my fancy word to describe a customer service vision statement. Before you can get everyone into alignment, you must give them something to align with. I like a vision statement or mantra that is short and to the point. So, if you don’t already have a vision for everyone to align to, you’re going to need one.

Assuming you have the customer service vision statement – or mantra, as I like to call it – the next step is to prove how everyone in the organization impacts that vision. And, I mean everyone!  Start with your basic customer journey map that shows all of the typical interactions – or touchpoints – that the customer has when doing business with you. And you may need more than one map.  A customer’s sales journey is different than a service or support journey. The interactions a customer has on your company’s website will be different than over the phone or in person.

There is a second part of the journey map exercise, to show underneath each touchpoint how different departments and roles within those departments impact those touchpoints. If done correctly, you will eventually be able to show how each and every department – in other words, everyone – impacts the customer’s experience.

I know I’m sounding redundant, but if you haven’t already done the crucial steps of creating a vision and journey map – and I’m surprised at the number of organizations who haven’t yet done so – you have extra work to do before you can think about getting your employees into alignment.

And, now it’s time to get everyone into alignment. By getting everyone to know and understand your customer service vision, and showing on a journey map how everyone, even as individuals, impact the customer’s experience, you can begin to train everyone to your vision. This is simple in concept, but not always easy to do. You must have an effective communication strategy. It can start with an announcement. It must be articulated as not just a vision, but also an expectation that everyone must keep in mind, regardless of their role and responsibility in the organization.

And just announcing and communicating it is not enough. Each and every employee must be properly trained. It must constantly be reinforced. It must be obvious and almost overt. For employees to be in alignment, they must know it, understand it, and be able to execute it.

Customer service isn’t just for the customer service department or the front line. It’s everyone’s job. So, if there is one thing that will make a difference in your customer service for 2017 (and every year thereafter), it is to get everyone in the organization in alignment with your customer service mantra.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact or www.hyken.com. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

(Copyright © MMXVII, Shep Hyken)

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  1. Excellent advice, Shep! I’ve just completed the manuscript for a book on customer-focused cultures (www.serviceculturebook.com, April 2017), and all the examples I studied follow the steps you suggested.

    The challenge is so few companies fully commit to this process, which is why so few organizations consistently deliver exceptional customer service.

  2. The company I work for (a community college bookstore) is very misaligned then – according to what you have said in this post, She. I don’t even know if we have a mission statement or not. I did inquire of the overall, three-campus bookstores manager if we did, but I received a roundabout answer that we (three campus bookstores) – and I paraphrase here – “…are basically here to serve the students and others of the college community” or some such. It {mission statement} is not really even posted anywhere, and I doubt seriously if anyone even knows what a mission statement is! As for alignment…most of the departments seem to operate as individual entities. They all have their methods of training, but the training is unique unto the department. There doesn’t seem to be any purely “basic” training for our overall bookstore culture. Add to the mix that there are so many other choices for students to attain course materials (amazon. com, Barnes and Noble, Office Depot, Wal-mart. etc.), that I am not really surprised that our business has lessened considerably (as well as enrollment) since I started working for the bookstore three years ago. This from a college bookstore that some years back received an award for “Innovative Ideas” from a national college bookstore association. My how times – and procedures change!

    • Yes, times are changing. That’s the one constant you can count on… change. If the campus bookstore isn’t careful, they will lose more business to local box stores as well as Amazon.com for textbooks. Thanks for your comment. You get it!

  3. Yes fantastic advice, as usual Shep. This is such an underutilized word in creating a customer experience. Beyond your people, your technology and processes should be aligned on this goal, not just around profits or sales. The customers are the ones who create those numbers, not your products.

    • Thanks Jeff – Good comment, spot on! By the way, I’ve been meaning to call you. Want to get some clarity on the No-Channel concept we talked about last year. I started an article and wanted to get a little more info. I’ll follow up in the next week or two to set a quick 10 minute call, if you’re up for it.

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