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#1   Posted: 23 Jan 2012 12:31

The start of good customer service does not walk in the door with the customer — it should exist inside the organization before the customer even enters the picture. It should be the foundation of the company culture and form the basis for interaction among all employees. Attaining such a culture in the organization starts at the top and sets the stage for more formal customer service training. It is an environment in which leadership and management set the tone and it permeates throughout the company.

How can leaders set the tone? It's simple — they must live it themselves and set an example. Think of it as a twist on the Golden Rule ... the Employee Golden Rule. That is, treat employees the way you want the customer to be treated. Or, treat them even better and you will not only accentuate the point but gain their loyalty and inspire them to pass it on in the form of good customer service.

Once you have introduced your employees to the culture of service, build upon that with more formal types of training. Customer service training will be so much more effective once you have inspired employees to want to do the right thing and created a place they look forward to coming to work.

Here are five ways to build a company culture with a focus on customer service:

1. Begin with hiring. Have you heard the old saying, "hire for the attitude and train the skill"? That holds true in building a customer service culture, but take it even further. Consider the personality of the potential employee and how it will fit in the long term with the culture you are trying to build.

2. Add training. Keep your focus on the culture and get it ingrained in the employee as soon as possible. If you have hired someone with the right personality and attitude, add to that an understanding of the company's vision, mission and goals.

3. Consistency is key. Distill the vision, mission and goals into a one-sentence "mantra" so employees have a common understanding and are all aligned with the company's aims. It keeps everyone on the same page and helps them feel more a part of the culture if they can articulate the vision.

4. Trust their instincts. You have hired the right people, trained them in the basic rules of good customer service, now give them the power to experiment and try new ideas. As long as they are not doing anything that would put the company in financial or legal jeopardy, give them the chance to find their style in building customer relationships.

5. Keep moving forward. Building and growing a business is a learning experience for everyone involved. As the organization moves forward there will be some stumbles along the way, but use these as lessons for the good of all. Share employees' successes and failures with everyone and celebrate them as you collectively learn and grow.

Happy employees make for happy customers. Create a culture in which employees feel appreciated and valued and are enthusiastic to come to work, and the customer will feel it. If you can do that, you have created an amazing culture from which customer service will naturally grow.

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