July 21, 2024

“We are a customer-first organization.”

“Customers are the single most important part of our business.”

“We put our customers first.”

“Customer service is what differentiates us from our competitors.”

Whether it’s a small business or large enterprise, you’ve almost certainly worked at a company where you’ve overheard a manager spout one of these adages. It makes sense; customers are a company’s lifeblood, so of course, a company should make customers its leading priority.

Unfortunately, like a lot of adages, these affirmations often end up being hollow rhetoric, no matter how many times a company emphasizes them. It’s easy to say your company cares about its customers and places them first, but it’s much harder to enact the culture and make the organizational changes needed to turn that mantra into a practiced reality.

So how does a company make itself into a customer-first organization?

It’s not an easy task, and it can take some drastic changes, but it is doable. As an enterprise company that specializes in customer service software, my company’s sole focus is our customers. I’ve learned that businesses need to care about not only their customers, but their customers’ customers, as well.

As such I’ve learned some valuable lessons about what it takes to make customer service a priority across every department, manager and employee in the company.

Having a chief customer officer isn’t enough.

Many companies try to address their customer service shortcomings by appointing a vice president of customer service or a chief customer officer and elevating them to senior management.

That’s not enough, though. The reality is that a siloed customer service team can only be so effective. It’s much better to have client advocates dispersed throughout every team in your organization.

For example, at most companies, the product team is in charge of maintaining the company’s app, while the website might fall under the purview of the marketing team. Customer experience is a separate team altogether. Customers interact with the company on the company’s app and website, but there’s usually no one on those teams whose primary responsibility it is to consider the customer experience.

By appointing at least one member of each team with the responsibilities of managing customer experience, you ensure that there’s a customer advocate at all of your customer touch points (including after the sale).

Evaluate all employees on a customer service-related metric.

If there’s one thing employees do respond to, in my experience, it’s incentives. Typically, marketing teams are evaluated upon their ability to create brand equity and drive sales. The success of the product team is based on how quickly they ship updates and fix bugs. Salespeople are assessed by whether they hit their quarterly and annual numbers.

Traditionally, only the customer service team is judged by how effectively your company addresses a customer’s issues, and that prevents customer experience from becoming a companywide point of emphasis.

That can quickly be remedied by evaluating all of your employees based on how they contribute to the customer experience. If customers keep having a problem interacting with the app, for instance, that’s on the product team. Marketing should be evaluated on how well your marketing communicates your company’s unique value proposition.

When each team has a specific, customer service-related metric, they’ll be sure to take the customer’s perspective into deeper consideration when working.

Adapt to the medium your customers want to use.

About 10 years ago, companies realized that customer service needed to be a priority for every company (not just airlines) and established their own call centers.

But a call center is just ticking a box; it’s not an effective way to address customer experience. Customers seek customer service help through a variety of mediums today — apps, mostly, but also through a company’s website or, in times of urgency, on the phone with an agent.

Most companies aren’t equipped to handle these various modes of service, though. The key to a positive customer experience is meeting customers where they are, and that means having a customer experience solution at all of your customer touch points.

When building out your customer experience touch points, it’s important to have a comprehensive platform that works across all devices and mediums. Many companies try to build their solutions piecemeal. Often those solutions don’t work well together, and that leads to frustrated customers.

Have your employees do a shift with the customer service team.

One of the quickest ways to develop empathy for your customers is to hear from them directly. In that vein, every one of your employees should do a shift on the customer service team as part of their onboarding.

Hearing from customers firsthand about their pain points and their anxieties, as well as the customer touch points where your company excels. Learning from the source will help them consider the client’s perspective and reflect it in their work. And that’s all customers ultimately want: to feel like they’re being heard.

Prioritizing customer service across departments, teams and employees doesn’t happen overnight. It requires buy-in from the top down and an implementation strategy that allows time for questions, transitions and execution. But if done correctly, businesses can deliver one-of-a-kind customer experiences, increase brand loyalty and grow their business.


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