For all businesses today, maintaining a high level of service is of the utmost importance. Customer service is the way that businesses offer assistance to customers before, during and after the sale. A strong customer service philosophy provides a roadmap for your team to follow when interacting with your customers.
Customer service influences how customers perceive your brand, determines their likelihood of purchasing future products, and affects whether or not customers would recommend you to their friends.
Customer service is important because:
- For 86% of customers, good customer service turns them from one-time clients into long-term brand champions.
- 93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases with companies who offer excellent customer service.
- 58% of customers will switch companies because of poor customer service.
Clearly, customer service is important – but it’s a hard thing to get right. So how do we improve our customer service? By implementing our own customer service philosophy that our customer service reps can live by.
What is a customer service philosophy?
A customer service philosophy helps you get clear on what customer service means to you as a business. A good customer service philosophy is a shared set of goals for your customer support team. It provides guidance on how they should approach helping every customer.
Every team needs to have access to core principles that makes sure every agent knows how to meet the needs of the business’s customers, and the customer service philosophy provides that.
There are usually two parts to a customer service philosophy statement: vision and values.
- Vision is the statement that outlines the type of service that agents are expected to provide to customers.
- Values are the set of principles that tell your team how to live by your vision. Customer service values are principles you agree to stand by with your customer interactions.
Taken together, values and vision make up your customer service philosophy statement that you can use to motivate your team on their interactions with customers.
Why you should have a customer service philosophy
A customer service philosophy is not just an abstract exercise that you write out and then forget about. It’s a living document that embodies your business’s values and provides actionable instructions for employees dealing with customers.
The fact is, by the time that a customer has to reach out to a support rep, your company has already failed them. You have created a problem that the customer then has to solve, taking time out of their busy day to find the solution.
A customer service philosophy takes customer service from a mundane, routine interaction into an opportunity to provide delight and build customer loyalty.
That’s why your customer service philosophy should revolve around going the extra mile for customers. You need to actively shape how your business is going to approach customers and elevate the customer experience to the next level.
It takes your implicit values and assumptions about customer service and makes them explicit. Your reps can do a better job when everyone has a philosophy to work from and help them make decisions regarding customers.
A customer service philosophy takes customer service from a mundane, routine interaction into an opportunity to provide delight and build customer loyalty. If customer service reps have a philosophy to follow, they can be empowered to operate more independently and take more initiative when it comes to helping customers.
Finally, it standardizes your whole customer service operation. No matter which rep a customer happens to make contact with, they will receive the same experience and feel like they are dealing with a cohesive brand.
How to create your philosophy of customer service
Although every customer service philosophy should follow similar principles, in reality every philosophy is unique to every business. If you want your philosophy to achieve its objectives then it should embody your team’s values – and no one else’s.
Here are a few steps you can follow to help you develop your own customer service philosophy.
1. Focus on your customers
This step requires knowing who your customers actually are and what they want from your business. It’s no good creating a philosophy about what you think customers want only to find they have completely different expectations and needs.
The best way to find out what customers are thinking is to actually ask them. At this stage it can be helpful to survey customers, and conduct focus groups or interviews, to gather actionable feedback that will help you develop your customer service philosophy.
Balance what your customers want with the capabilities of your support team. You might be tempted to say “We will delight every customer” but perhaps your support team doesn’t have the bandwidth to devote so much time to every customer.
It’s important to be realistic when you are striving to meet the needs of your customers. Remember that customers might say they want you to reply to every email within five minutes, but that they might still be happy with a slower standard of service. Maybe what they really require is self-service but they don’t know that is an option. Use your investigative skills to work out what your customers are really saying.
2. Pin down your support team’s values
You need to get clear on exactly what is important to your team and translate it into tangible values that can be the foundation of your customer service philosophy. Your values can take inspiration from your company values as they should be in alignment.
Your support team’s values are the bread and butter of your customer service philosophy. It’s what’s going to guide your support reps through their interactions with customers and shows them what’s important to your company.
When you’re thinking of your support team’s values, remember to think big. You have the ability to influence your customers’ lives for the better and change how they perceive the company. You’re also capable of affecting the company’s bottom line, because your customer service philosophy will retain more customers and make them more likely to purchase again.
Make a list of your customer support team’s values. It’s okay to include anything and everything, because you’re then going to cut it down to just five values. Make sure your list is inspiring and includes how your team is going to proactively help your customers in every interaction.
3. Make your values actionable
It’s not enough just to list values and hope they make sense to employees. You need to explicitly state how reps can embody your values as they go about doing their day-to-day work.
In this step, you are taking your guiding principles and translating them into actions that employees can use to help customers. You’re aiming for a list of snappy sentences that show your employees how to put your values into practice.
Include strong verbs in your philosophy to encourage your employees to take action. Think about what actions your reps need to take to ensure that each and every customer leaves the interaction satisfied.
Strong verbs include:
You should construct sentences that will show customer support reps how to actively live your company’s values in their dealings with customers. Each sentence should include only one action so employees can clearly understand what is expected of them.
4. Use your values to write a vision statement
When you’ve come up with your five values for your customer support team, the next step is to turn those values into a vision statement. As we mentioned earlier, a vision statement is an explanation for the type of customer service that support reps are expected to provide.
According to Jeff Toister, a customer service vision statement has three features:
- The definition is simple and easy to understand
- It describes the type of service we want to deliver to our customers
- It is a reflection of who we are now and who we aspire to be in the future
The customer service vision is so important because it gives everyone the same point to aim for. Take great care to write a good vision statement and make sure it communicates the essence of your brand.
5. Make it a collaborative effort
Your customer service philosophy will be more effective if you write it in collaboration with the customer support team. Explain to your team what you are trying to do and you may find that they get really excited by the process.
Your team will feel more invested in the final product and more likely to use it if they have had input in its creation. Your philosophy becomes truly representative of your customer support team and a much more useful document.
Your frontline workers may have ideas that never would have occurred to the leadership team as they are the ones who are dealing with customers every day. They may have a better idea of what customer service philosophy will be more realistic and easily achievable.
You can put together a rough draft of your customer service philosophy and share it in 1:1 meetings with your team, asking for their feedback.
6. Share your philosophy with the company
Don’t keep your customer service philosophy all to yourself. You’ll need to take the time to share your philosophy with the rest of the company and get them inspired about great customer service.
You should embed your customer service philosophy in every department, from the top down to the bottom up. Leadership should be heavily involved in developing your philosophy as the embodiment of your company’s values. For many companies, their company values and customer philosophy go hand-in-hand.
Even though your customer support team is at the front lines of customer service, every department has a part to play in creating an unforgettable customer experience – from your marketing team who deliver engaging campaigns for your customers, to the product team who develop user-centric products, to the billing team who keep cash flowing through the business.
3 great customer service philosophy examples
Here are some of the best customer service philosophies around to inspire you. Remember, good customer service philosophies are easy to communicate and remember.
Disney is a well-loved family brand that is world-renowned for its customer centric focus in its theme parks. Experiences in the park are truly magical and unforgettable, reflecting the effort that Disney puts into its customer service.
Disney’s customer service philosophy is to “delight customers by putting employees first”.
They use the acronym C.A.R.E to expand on their ethos for delighting customers:
- C – Clarify. Put as much effort into understanding your employees as you do your customers.
- A – Align. Define a common purpose that captures what your organization stands for.
- R – Reinforce. Leaders should become role models for the behaviors they want employees to adopt.
- E – Empower. Clarity about expectations plus freedom to act equals an empowered front line.
The Ritz-Carlton is a luxury hotel chain that provides five-star experiences for its guests. They are famous for their unparalleled levels of customer service that keep guests coming back for more.
Their customer service philosophy is available for anyone to see on their company website, and they call it the Gold Standard:
The Ritz-Carlton is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission.
We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambience.
The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.
At The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C., “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” This motto exemplifies the anticipatory service provided by all staff members.
Three Steps Of Service
- A warm and sincere greeting.
- Use the guest’s name. Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest’s needs.
- Fond farewell. Give a warm good-bye and use the guest’s name.
Apple is a high-end technology brand that consistently delivers outstanding service to its customers. They are well-known for their unique approach to customer service.
Apple has a simple acronym as its customer service philosophy instructing its employees on how to deal with customers.
- A – Approach customers with a personalized, warm welcome.
- P – Probe politely to understand all the customer’s needs.
- P – Present a solution for the customer to take home today.
- L – Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns.
- E – End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return.
Creating a customer service philosophy means you’ll be following in the footsteps of leading brands like Apple, Disney and Ritz-Carlton, who all understand the power of defining your values and living by them. Keeping your customers happy means happy employees, too.
Taking the time to develop a customer service philosophy will drastically improve the level of customer service that your team is able to offer. Your customer service reps will all be on the same page and understand exactly what is expected of them in their interactions with customers. Ultimately, excellent customer service should be everyone’s goal.
When your customer service standard improves, you retain more customers and gain more brand evangelists who bring in new customers. Customer lifetime value rises and your revenue increases, meaning that your customer service department helps drive profit. There’s no time like the present to get started on your customer service philosophy.