Balakarthik Venkataramanan
October 21, 2016

ARTICLE: How customer centric is your customer service? Are you ready for a reality check?

There are hundreds of books and thousands of articles written on customer service culture and customer centricity. Leaders spend tens and thousands of hours debating what customer centricity means in contact centers and how to drive a culture of customer centricity in an organization’s customer service department . I think it’s pretty simple and straight forward and not as complicated as it actually sounds.

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So a couple things to get started…

  1. Do you have a customer centric culture in your contact centers & how will you know whether you do or you don’t?
  2. How can you drive a customer centric culture in your customer service teams?

Very simple, actually.

Take a day off your normal schedule this coming week and spend it with your customer service teams in attending some random meetings, shadowing,  having general conversations with your front line customer service folks (customer service agents, team leads etc.). At the end of the day, you can categorize everything you have heard / observed through the day across the two themes mentioned below.

Theme A – As hard as it is for you to accept, your organziationDOES NOT have a customer centric culture. Let’s face it! You just have a customer service factory that is focused on churning the incoming call/email/chat volumes. Sad but true!

Theme B – Spot on, you have built something really special here. Your customer service organziation is built on the foundation of helping your customers and bundled with customer centricity. Protect it!

I won’t be surprised, if 90% of the organizations fall under Theme A, unfortunate but high possibility. The remaining 10% under theme B don’t need any introductions and you probably know the names of those organizations memorized as benchmark for customer service.

But at the same time, building a customer centric culture in your customer service organziation is not rocket science. It’s about making a conscious effort to integrate the thought of helping customers and taking pride in it.

Below are 3 high level areas that can set a solid foundation to steering the entire customer service org to be laser focused on helping customers and in establishing a culture of customer centricity in your contact centers.

  1. Prioritize customer stories over metric reviews: It’s important to review your customer service team metrics on a regular basis in the weekly and monthly forums. But Integrate customer success stories as part of all your reviews and conversations including daily team huddles, team meetings and executive reviews. So, the start of every conversation sets the tone of helping customers and customer centricity rather than being centered around metrics and data. Metric review is also more meaning full that way, else it becomes more like an engineering conversation than a customer centric conversation. This will get your folks to start talking about stories when they have made the lives of customers easy and how they help customers. Thats the fundamental mindset requirement for establishing a customer centric culture.
  2. Customers are actual people and not just phone calls or emails:During my call center agent days 17 years back, I was providing customer service for credit cards working for a call center in India to customers in the US when I didn’t even own a credit card. How the heck am I going to relate to what a customer is going through. Bring a handful of your customers and have them talk about their views and feedback about their experience. Make this a regular exercise, say on a monthly basis. This is the next step in transforming your culture be centered around customers. This will enable your customer service teams to start relating to the actual people they meet as customers rather than treating each customer interaction as a phone call or email.
  3. Align customer service metrics to customer centricity: Stop rewarding for behaviors that can counter your efforts in building customer centricity. Example; shortening the length of phone calls or churning through emails at a rocket pace. Start rewarding for helping customers. Use conventional metrics as indicators and not the primary drivers of the business. Take every customer appreciation seriously and award the team for solving problems instead of closing calls / emails. Innovate metrics customized to your business around customer centricity away from conventional call center metrics.

Being a six sigma blackbelt for more than a decade, I recognize the need to have metrics and drive them on a day to day basis in organizations. But sometimes, in a customer service environment the teams can be super focused on the metrics that deviates from the actual purpose and vision of the customer service organziation. It’s the responsibility of the leadership to enable forums and structure that drives customer centricity and helping customers as the culture of the customer service teams rather than meeting metrics.

If you are a customer service leader and feel that your organization does not have a customer centric culture, look in the mirror. You will know where the problem is and where to start.

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