Tag Archives: Culture

4 Steps to Creating A Culture of Customer Service in Organizations

Customer Service

With increasingly competitive and highly globalized businesses, your customers are faced with myriad choices when they buy a product or service. Assuming the product or service quality is the same amongst vendors, their loyalty and commitment to your brand can greatly be influenced by the quality of the service your personnel provide to them. Organizations with poor and inconsistent customer service quality are bound to create unsatisfied customers resulting to loss of business and tarnished image. Thus, in this article, we examine how an organization can develop a culture of service that can provide enduring impact to your customer loyalty.

Step 1: Develop a customer service mission statement. The mission statement translates the vision and core values of your organization with regard to how your customers are treated and valued by your management and personnel. Your customer service mission statement should be clear and should truly reflect your organizational commitment to make it happen. It should not be a mere lip service or some good sounding slogan devoid of implementation plans and resources.

The mission statement determines the intention and direction of culture of the organizational customer service culture. A misdirected mission statement would create confusing messages, inefficient systems and procedures and ill-equipped and non-empowered personnel to tackle the challenges and issues with customers. Get the mission statement right and you’ll get your customer service climate right. An example of a customer service mission statement is as follows:

Our organization aims to create a friendly, respectful, attentive, systematic and speedy response and resolution to our customer concerns [within a specified timeframe or metrics].

The above statement enumerates core values such as friendliness, respectfulness, attentiveness, being systematic and speed. The statement can include duration or metrics to meet at each customer service interaction. What is the customer service that you want your customers to experience in every interaction they have with your organization?

Step 2: Plan and implement a customer service climate within your organization. The climate is primarily driven by the core values of the mission statement. In order to develop the right climate, systems, procedures, tools and methodologies will have to be in place in complete harmony with each other resulting to the customer service promise you have made in words or capsulated in the service or purchase agreement. In delivering that promise, it will involve cross-function collaboration and cooperation in most instances. Without clear and understood systems, efficient tools, and defined roles and responsibilities within the customer service team and supporting teams from other departments, you can expect internal chaos and conflicts resulting to waiting and disgruntled customers, and of course, potential business loss.

Let us examine the first value in our sample mission statement. Friendliness. Whilst it comes naturally to some people, friendliness is hardly natural at all. Friendliness is achieved by teaching the customer service personnel to mindfully visualize the customers as an important part of the organization’s business. After all, without the customers, the business has no purpose whatsoever. The product or service must be of use to someone. Friendliness results from the use of proper words, greetings, questions, gestures, movements, eye contact, voice modulation intonation and pause that makes the interaction pleasant and with pleasure. Most of all, friendliness is a state of mind and a certainly an attitude – a decision. I can opt to be friendly or unfriendly today. A dissonance between words and actions will certainly create an unfriendly customer interaction. Hence, friendliness is achieved by following guidelines, steps, and tasks that bring out the right behavior and attitude towards a concern and towards a customer and through a mindful decision to do so.

Creating the right climate for customer service includes integrating to your organizational performance management philosophy an appropriate reward system encouraging a culture of customer service. There are many forms of incentives that can cultivate customer service commitment. This will require an understanding of the motivational factors of your personnel. Some would prefer recognition, time off, financial reward and combination of all three. Use them as you see fit.

Step 3: Equip your personnel with the right competencies. The mission statement and the customer service climate determine the right skills, knowledge and behavior/attitude your personnel must imbibe. According to your organizational talent development plan, identify and define the essential customer service competencies.  Let us examine the value Attentiveness from our sample mission statement. Attentiveness is the result of various communication skills at work. Such skills include active listening, proper questioning, summarizing, and explaining in a friendly and respectful manner.

Not to forget to mention is the delivery of systematic and speedy response or resolution to an issue. Being systematic comes from clear thinking and logical approach to issue at hand. Being speedy results from being systematic but this can also be highly influenced or controlled by business tools or systems in place such customer service management systems (CRMs), order tracking system (OTS), etc.   I have pointed out that business tools are essential in creating the right customer service climate in the preceding section.

Step 4: On-going monitoring of the entire customer service initiative. The mission statement should be regularly evaluated if indeed, it reflects the vision and core values of your organization; the climate needs to be constantly assessed by way of regular customer surveys, internal feedback system, external expert’s monitoring and auditing, and data collection and analysis to determine if the customer service metrics or key result areas (KRAs) or key performance indices (KPIs) are being met or exceeded.

A culture of customer service delivers tremendous benefits to your organization. Clarity in your mission statement provides the right direction to your personnel. Organized and systematic procedures, efficient tools and defined roles and responsibilities minimize conflicts and misunderstandings. A culture tends to reinforce itself by persistent push to understand what it is that makes an excellent customer interaction. Customers’ positive feedbacks energize the organization and contagiously draw more customers. Talent development plans based on business objectives and personnel development needs and goals utilize resources wisely resulting to highly motivated and ever ready customer service personnel. Customer service is not about the product or service. It is about how your organization views customers. They are people with needs and they come to you under their own circumstances. Their anger or impatience may not be really directed to you but rather to prior experience or personal issues. A positive culture of customer service allows your organization to see people as humans and not just individuals to fill your till.

In summary, customer service becomes a way of life within your organization. Such way of life is influenced by organizational mission statement, customer service climate and your commitment to identify, develop and reinforce the right customer service competencies. Remember: satisfied customers means business continuity and growth!

Post by Ramil Cueto – Director & Principal Consultant C2C China

5 Stages to Intercultural Competence

5 Stages to Become Interculturally Competent

Becoming interculturally competent is a developmental process. No one is born interculturally competent and people don’t build this competence just because they live in a multicultural environment.

The Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS) was first defined by Dr. Milton Bennet in the 1980s. One of his colleagues Dr. Mitch Hammer then created a psychometric assessment, the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), to enable people to assess their own level of intercultural sensitivity. As for most psychometrics, there is no ideal profile. It all depends where you want to be.

So what does it take to become interculturally competent? Mindfulness. And a clear understanding of why you want/need to be interculturally competent. Everybody doesn’t need to be interculturally competent, and that’s fine.

We naturally start from an ethnocentric mindset – where we perceive and judge the world through our own cultural lens – and then move to a more ethnorelative as we get more exposure and create new strategies to deal with these differences.

In order to illustrate the different stages of the continuum, I will use examples that I have witnessed in India. Not that Indians are any less interculturally competent than others but this is where I have spent my entire career and this is most complete reference I can share.

1. Denial

Denial is usually characterised by a lack of awareness, or even by a lack of interest, in other cultures. “My culture is my reality and I don’t really care/believe that their could be another way to experience the world”. Even though we live in the ‘global village’, everyone doesn’t yet feel like they belong to it and, more importantly, don’t really need to care. The remote Indian farmer probably has more urgent things to think about than trying to understand different mental models when his life experience is geographically limited to his village and the local market town.

2.Polarization

Polarization is divided in two stages – Defense and Reversal – which are both characterised by an ‘us’ and ‘them’ vision of cultural differences.

When people start interacting with other cultures, they often can judge other mental models as less valuable than theirs. I have often heard in my years of experience of intercultural training in India that “Americans have no family values”. Americans, like everyone else, have strong family values but because they live these values differently than most Indians would, this kind of judgment is relatively common. In the same way, I have heard many Americans tell me that Indians are submissive because they accept arranged marriages. That is Defense.

Reversal is the opposite of Defense. This is when people perceiving their own culture as inferior to others. This was a common occurrence a few years ago in the Indian outsourcing industry. Ten years ago, I would regularly hear Indian managers say that “We Indians need to learn how to be professional like our American colleagues/partners/clients”. The mindset here was that Indians don’t know how to work ‘well’. ‘Well’ being the American definition of professionalism based on strong american values like individualism, task and result orientation.

3. Minimization

Minimization is when we level differences between different cultures. “We’re all human after all and things like respect and hard work mean the same thing for everybody, wherever they come from”. Minimization is a huge step from Polarization as it already shows the desire to move beyond judgement. Moreover, it is a very comfortable place to be for people working in a global environment and trying to create and/or implement global processes. However, it still negates the value of diversity and comes in the way of truly effective inclusion policies. A lot of expat HR managers I have met in India find it particularly hard to move on from Minimization. I remember coaching a Danish executive recently who was adamant about the fact that the values of his company, and the behaviours linked to them – as defined by headquarters – were universal need not be adapted to local cultures. I can still hear him telling me: “Respect is respect. Full stop.”

Minimization is probably one of the most important reasons why certain companies still resist intercultural training.

4. Acceptance

In Acceptance, people are aware of their own cultural identity and also accept that there are other valuable ways of perceiving the world. People see value in different mental models but don’t yet know how to adapt their behaviour when confronted with these differences. For example, a lot of Indian engineers I work with tell me that they see great value in a more direct communication style when interacting virtually with other colleagues but they don’t know how to do it without sounding rude. Acceptance is a very critical step of developmental process as without acceptance there can be no adaptation.

5. Adaptation

Adaptation is when I understand and see value in other mental models AND I can adapt my behaviour according the the situation I am in. A lot of the people I have worked with in India have no problem at all adapting their behaviour from a very conservative, indirect, relationship oriented culture at home to a very informal, direct, result oriented culture at work. With exposure and mindfulness this becomes unconscious for a lot of people. People who still have an ethnocentric mindset very often define Adaptation as cultural schizophrenia as they dont understand how others can genuinely adapt their behaviour without losing their identity.

As I mentioned earlier, there is no better stage on the continuum. It all depends where you need or want to be. However, for professionals working in global companies or NGOs, this is becoming one of the most important competencies to become a effective leader.

If this is something that is important to you, I strongly recommend using the IDI as a tool to assess where you stand on the DMIS and as a starting point for a coaching engagement that can enable you to become the leader you want to be.

Post by Guillaume Gevrey – Director & Principal Consultant