Every organization has a culture -- a set of beliefs and behaviors that reflect the goals, purposes, and intentions, and ultimately what is viewed as acceptable behavior within the company -- and that culture not only affects how people act within the business but how your customers are treated by the employees.
What sets a typical company apart from one that has a strong customer service culture? The difference isn’t always obvious from the outside. It's not like there's a big neon sign saying "We treat our customers poorly!" but it is something that can be felt -- especially by your customers. However, a good customer service team generally follows certain observable common traits in a strong customer service culture.
A good example of a company that has implemented a customer service culture is Southwest Airlines. The company has put customers first in many aspects of its business. Offering low prices, no hassle changes and cancellations, no baggage fees, and having friendly staff shows the company's efforts in focusing their business around the customer. The company seems to truly value its customers and hires people at all levels with that in mind. Companies might value their customers and even include them in their mission statement, but actions speak volumes -- if they don't focus on customers in their daily operations, they are not creating a corporate culture that is customer-centric.
Much like building any company culture, you have to create an environment where the words, actions, and habits you repeat and reinforce enable a customer service culture to flourish and become a reality in your business.
To use a construction metaphor, you can't build a house on quicksand. The foundation has to be stable and solid. Likewise, the foundation of your company culture has to be strong and sustainable, and able to hold the weight of what it is that you're trying to build. The way you treat your employees and the internal culture that is nurtured will naturally have an impact on how your customers are treated.
Business owners and executives have the biggest impact on a company’s culture through their ability to shape the direction of policy and allocation of finances to the areas they deem important. Here are some ways an executive can encourage a strong customer service culture:
Corporate culture is ever-changing and should evolve in response to shifting priorities, milestones, staff, etc. so it requires ongoing effort and attention. While executives must continue to be thoughtful and deliberate about their internal culture, they should also never lose sight of their customers and how to best serve them. After all, they are what is keeping you in business in the long term, and are worth the effort.