I have been fortunate enough, in my career to date, to lead large teams across a variety of cultures, locations and languages. Most of these teams worked with high profile clients to rush deadlines with complex workflows and technology and their day would consist of keeping calm and creating an excellent customer experience while sticking to certified processes. All this in organisations which were undergoing rapid YoY growth. The challenge here was to keep my team motivated, our clients satisfied with the service and ensure that the customer experience culture we had once prided ourselves on as a smaller organisation was not diluted in the challenges that come with such rapid growth.
Our customer vision was to create customer value, loyalty and trust. We wanted to go beyond simply providing a service and create a positive and indelible imprint in our customer’s minds and I soon realised that it was no good for our sales teams to be the only ones demonstrating a service mindset if it was my team, the operators, who would ultimately execute and manage the customer. This vision therefore needed to be cascaded and engrained in the culture but it needed to start with the individual team members themselves and investment in their personal development needed to take precedence. Afterall, my people were my greatest assets, if I expected them to execute on my vision, I needed to invest in training them properly, measuring the success of the training and reminding them of what it was at every turn.
There are various components to the service mindset aside from the simple customer-employee interaction and creating a service orientated mindset needs to start at the grass roots. An effective approach does not need to be complex but it needs to incorporate some fundamental principles, some of which I will discuss here.
Changing mindset means showing people another point of view, sharing a different perspective, changing habits and behaviours. You need to show people what excellent customer experience is by teaching, demonstrating, encouraging and reinforcing with an ecosystem which is supportive of this consistently meanwhile reinforcing the importance of adopting this mindset for their own professional development/career progression.
Here are some of the core principles of the Service Mindset:
Create a culture of transparency – extremely important! I like to quote Matthew Syed’s book ‘Black Box thinking’ when discussing this as it summarises nicely what can be learned from failure and why the best organisations in the world, embrace it. Nobody wants to fail. But in highly complex organisations, success can only happen when we confront our mistakes, learn from our own version of a black box (a transparent culture) and create a climate where it is safe to fail. This is a fundamental part of a service mindset, when we operate in this manner, we view our customers (and their feedback) as part of our own personal journey to success!
Create the Ecosystem – training your employees is just part of the journey. Providing an ecosystem for the service mindset to take root is equally as important. This means ensuring your systems, processes and culture building activities are reinforced and compliment this mindset. We are currently working with one organisation on their customer experience strategy and their approach has been to look at their recruitment/interview processes and engrain it from the get go – talking to candidates about the principles of the service mindset and allowing it to flourish from the beginning.
Empathy – there’s a lot to be said about empathy and my personal view is that we don’t use it often enough in the corporate world. Empathy is an important component of the service mindset. Seeking to understand our clients and putting ourselves in their shoes can be an effective way of approaching a challenging project and eliminate feelings of personal frustration. It is impossible to demonstrate a service mindset without empathy towards clients and colleagues, the two are so intrinsically linked.
In a recent article, customers who had the best past experiences spend 140% more compared to those who had the poorest past experience (Kriss, HBR) and 83% of B2B buyers either agreed or strongly agreed that an excellent customer service experience would lead to them purchasing again from the same supplier (Accenture). When we understand our customer and have a healthy, trustworthy relationship with them we become partners, in essence we become part of their team. When we view a client as an extension of our team or a partner, we will naturally serve them better – this is what a Service Mindset is.
When there is a clearly defined service mindset that all employees believe in and follow consistently, there can be less confusion, fewer client complaints and less employee/customer attrition. It starts with (but is not limited to) a simple and effective culture of transparency and empathy coupled with an ecosystem which supports that.
Building a Service Mindset, does not happen by accident, it happens by design. It is an identity not a product and, with that in mind, I strongly believe in investing time in cultivating it.