Creating a Culture for Growth: Customer Service as Your Competitive Advantage

Best Service Stamp Shows Top Customer Assistance

You may have read a post from a few weeks ago which highlighted four key factors in creating a workplace culture which would support growth through turbulent economic times. Here, we will consider the power of Customer Service Excellence in driving profitable growth.

I was recently working with a client working in manufacturing on aspects of their strategy which related to quality of work, meeting deadlines and, to use, Quality Management language, how to manage Non-Conformance.

It reminded me of when I started my career in Management in 1995 and the task I faced. To improve contribution to company turnover from an internal sales team.

Where did we start? At the beginning… by strengthening the levels of customer service from the internal sales team.

The Challenge

The number of non-conformance’s which started at the order taking stage from the sales office was significantly high and not improving.

Correcting errors quickly, on the face of it, seemed to demonstrate great customer service.

We experienced the obvious impact on the office and the business of correcting those non-conformance. It was important to identify the root causes and put a plan together to address these and improve quality of work.

The Customer Service Common Denominator

What do we know about people who work in customer service or sales related jobs? They want to do a great job for their customers. Very often their customer is the most important person in their working life.

It’s also true that, in general, businesses and their management team invariably care as deeply about the customer and the service it provides as much as the member of staff.

Taking these fundamental principles, that we all have the same common goals, leading a team of people to improve their error rates was going to be simple. Right?

Reversing a Blame Culture 

We know the term and many of us have experienced this type of workplace culture. Point the finger at someone else and deflect. How do we improve quality when we have a blame culture:

  • Share the Vision: make sure your people know the end goal
  • Transparency & Togetherness: We are all in this together
  • Humility: Practice what you preach
  • Communication & Language… Reduce error rates or Improve Quality?
  • Valuable People or People who are Valued?: personalise your approach, appreciate effort and achievement

The Process

Together the team went about discussing the vision for the future which involved our customers and improving quality.

We set boundaries and codes of conduct for how we communicated any non-conformance and over time became more comfortable with talking openly about our own personal learning opportunities.

We used any non-conformance to share best practice, learn from each other and develop and improve systems and processes which in turn impacted upon other departments.

We engaged with other departments and the customer for every non-conformance to help us and above all we learned together. No one was singled out and the focus was always on customer.

Finally we acknowledged effort and achievement, not with monetary reward but thanks, praise and appreciated. The team felt valued and confident.

The End Result?

A group of individuals became a team who recognised each others strengths, supported each other and excelled in the way they managed quality.

Each person in the team became innovators in their own right, they had a voice, one which was empowered to drive changes which would improve on customer service.

  1. 80% improvement in quality
  2. Consistent & sustained achievement of sales targets
  3. Engaged people who became advocates
  4. Stronger working relationships between departments

Is their a Moral to the Story?

I believe so. That the principles used here, 20 years ago are as valid today as they were then.

That focus on quality of work and ultimately stronger levels of customer service separate you from the competition and will provide a platform for growth.

Imagine your business where your people and teams are contributing towards driving improvements in customer service levels?

Our next post will be a more recent example of how Lancashire business has developed a workplace culture where everyone, from Engineering to Administration to Finance and Marketing staff feel part of the sales engine of the business and contribute towards growth.