I originally wrote today’s blog for Zendesk. It appeared on their site on November 29, 2021.

Customer service is a vital part of not only the customer experience but also the success of a business. It doesn’t matter through which channel customers ask for help, it needs to be executed well. Get it wrong and a lot of other pieces of the customer experience and the customer relationship with your brand will fall apart. In a study conducted by Microsoft, it was discovered that 96% of consumers around the globe believed customer service is an important factor when it comes to brand loyalty.

How do you ensure that your customer service team understands their role and leads the charge when it comes to driving customer satisfaction and loyalty? The answer: Help them adopt a customer service mindset.

So what is a customer service mindset?

A mindset is a mental attitude or inclination, according to Merriam-Webster. So, when service teams operate with a customer service mindset, it means that they are not only solving customer needs and issues but also thinking about what can make the overall customer experience better. They do their jobs with the attitude and the focus of doing what’s right and what’s best for the customer to ensure that the customer is well taken care of. Outcomes of a customer service mindset are satisfaction and success for the customer and long-term, loyal relationships that benefit the business.

What is required to develop/have it?

Developing a customer service mindset within your service organization doesn’t just happen on its own or because you command it. There are some foundational aspects that must be in place: culture, people, tools, and processes. Let’s start with culture.

1. Culture

The interesting thing about a customer service mindset is that it really must be – and is – rooted in a customer-centric culture. All the things that make your entire organization customer-centric are critical to developing and facilitating this mindset. Culture = core values + behaviors.

First, it’s critical to not only define the values but also the associated acceptable and unacceptable actions and behaviors. The values themselves must not be “vanity values,” e.g., integrity or safety, which are things everyone should already be doing; instead, the values must align with the (customer-centric) culture that you’re trying to build. Then, both values and behaviors must be socialized and operationalized.

2. People

When it comes to your employees, it is important to hire for attitude and train for skill. It sounds cliché, and maybe it is, but it’s a valid mantra. You can train people to do the work, but you can’t train them to be nice, kind, helpful, patient, and have good judgment. You can’t train them to be “people persons” and relationship builders. But if you hire kind, positive, respectful, friendly, and courteous people with a can-do attitude who love to help others, then you’re one step closer to that customer service mindset than had you hired someone with 20 years of experience with a bad attitude.

And, when we talk about operationalizing core values, one of the ways to do that is to hire based on your core values. Use them as a component of the interview process. Need an example of how to do that? Take a look at Zappos.

3. Tools

Ensure that your employees are equipped with the right tools to shift to this customer service mindset. Tools include training on the product and on customer service skills, ongoing education about customer personas, and technology that facilitates getting the right data to them at the right time to ensure the experience is personalized and seamless to the customer in front of them.

Employees ought to be empowered, too. Yes, empowerment is a tool. Give them that tool to do what they need to do to make the situation right for the customer. For example, The Ritz-Carlton is well known for its $2,000 Rule, which gives every employee the ability to spend up to $2,000 per guest per incident, should there be an issue. No management approval or input is required. Allow the same for your customer service team.

4. Processes

Processes (and policies) that employees use to do their jobs must be assessed to ensure that they aren’t broken or outdated and that they don’t work against an employee’s ability to deliver a great customer experience.

Data and insights about the customer and the customer experience must be built into the employees’ day-to-day actions, behaviors, and decision making. Supervisors must incorporate  customer feedback into regular meetings and interactions with staff in order to recognize employees for a job well done or to coach where improvement opportunities exist. And employees must incorporate customer feedback from surveys and other voice of the customer sources into the work they do to resolve issues and build customer relationships.

How do you nurture and grow the customer service mindset?

To drive lasting change to a customer service mindset, do four things.

1. Communicate the vision for this new mindset. Tell the change story. Let employees know what is changing, why it’s changing, how it will impact them and what they do (differently) on a daily basis, and how they will be involved. If no one knows what they’ll be doing differently or why, then they’ll ignore it and not want to be a part of it.

2. Involve employees in the shift to a customer service mindset rather than forcing change on them. If they’re involved, the approach and the solutions may be richer because they have other perspectives and experiences that the decision-making leader may not have. If they believe it was their own idea, it’ll stick; they’ll own it.

3. It’s important that executives lead by example and model the change that they wish to see from their employees; if they don’t live the change, why should employees?! If your department head or your CEO doesn’t demonstrate commitment to this new mindset by being the role model for how to deliver a great experience, it won’t happen. If she doesn’t live the core values, why should you? Actions always speak louder than words.

4. Recognize the right behaviors and reinforce with incentives, promotions, metrics, and more. Reinforcing the behaviors, actions, and changes that you want to see is more powerful than talking about them, especially when combined with modeling them.

Adopting this customer service mindset impacts the customer and the business. And it impacts your employees, too. Don’t forget to check in with employees to find out if there’s anything else they need to serve their customers they way they want and deserve to be served.

Once your mindset changes, everything on the outside will change along with it. ~ Steve Maraboli

Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. In 2019, she published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. In 2022, she published her second book, Built to Win: Designing a Customer-Centric Culture That Drives Value for Your Business (Advantage|ForbesBooks), which is now available to purchase on Amazon, Books A Million!, Target, Barnes & Noble, and thousands of other outlets around the world! Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your CX game.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.