Coffee Hangout with Micah on Oct 19 at 11:00 AM EST: Building a customer service culture 

  • 15 October 2021
  • 73 replies
  • 918 views

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Our next Coffee Chat session is happening on Tuesday, 19th of October at 11 AM EST.

@Micah Solomon will be our host and the topic of discussion: Building a customer service culture

Please block your calendars for about 45 minutes to answer five questions. To keep this session as engaging as possible, I’ve chosen a topic that all of us can relate to, and here are the
key-segments:

1. What do you think about the concept of hiring for culture fit? 

2. What are some of the key elements of creating a customer service-oriented culture? 
 

3. What are some of the pitfalls you see that we should avoid falling into as we strive to achieve this? 
 
4. How do you go about inspiring a team to offer personalized customer service/"wow" customer service to make your customer feel special?

5. Give us examples of your favorite organizations that have built a great CS culture


Before we close out, we’ll open the floor and everyone can questions about all things CX to Micah!  

73 replies

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A1: 
Q1: What do you think about the concept of hiring for culture fit? 

 

I think it’s both useful and dangerous.

 

It’s useful when it’s shifted slightly to be something more precise for what is needed to take great care of customers while being a valuable team member.  (I can talk about that more later.) When it’s more broad it can become dangerous:

  1. Getting “groupthink” where innovation/outside-the-box thoughts aren’t welcome (unless of course the culture is one of outside-the-box thoughts). 
  2. Lack of diversity.  Here’s a quote from author/diversity expert Michael Hyter that I’ve used in my books: 

    diversity expert Michael Hyter:

    The word ‘‘fit’’ in the absence of that support factor [fair consideration for jobs for people who happen to be different] can easily be misinterpreted as ‘‘being like me,’’ instead of what the position requires. Many organizations make the mistake of assuming that those tasked with selecting new hires are equipped to do so fairly because they are nice people or good workers. But failure to ensure the selection process is based on standard criteria with trained interviewers can result in unintentional bias in the spirit of looking for someone who’s a perceived ‘‘good fit.’’

 
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Hey everyone! Welcome to our coffee chat.

Today we have @Micah Solomon joining us to talk about  Building a customer service culture

Micah Solomon is a customer service consultant, keynote speaker, and a senior contributor to Forbes.com. He is termed the “New Guru of Customer Service Excellence” by The Financial Post.Hisi techniques and achievements have been featured everywhere from Fast Company and Seth Godin's worldwide bestseller Purple Cow to Wall Street Journal Radio and Inc. Magazine's "Customer Service Makeover" feature. Micah Solomon  also co-authored Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization which has been recognized as one of the groundbreaking customer service books of recent years. 

We’re super pumped to have Micah join us today to give his expertise. 

First question for today is here below. To answer a question, tag the answer with the corresponding number. For example, if you are answering this question Q1, start your answer with A1 and use the quote the option

Q1: What do you think about the concept of hiring for culture fit? 

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Q1: What do you think about the concept of hiring for culture fit?

A1. It makes sense, especially because you want new employees to be in tune with company values, but first it assumes that the hiring manager(s), and those involved in the hiring process, are aligned with the corporate culture. Second, that they’re onboard with perhaps recruiting someone who is a great personal fit but lacking in the required knowledge, skills, and experience to “hit the ground running.” In many ways, it’s similar to the age-old recruitment conundrum of hiring someone who can grow into the role versus someone who is experienced but has an engrained way of working that’s different to how you want/need them to work – with the former eventually providing a better result than the latter.

I, like many, have learned the hard way that there’s much more to be gained from hiring potential versus the finished article and without any empirical evidence I’ve a gut feel the same is true of cultural fit.

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Six important things to know before we get started on our coffee hangout with @Micah Solomon  :coffee:

  1. To answer a question, tag the answer with the corresponding number. For example, if you are answering the first question Q1, start your answer with A1 and use the Quote option 

  2. If you cannot make it at 11:00 am EST or even if you’re past time, you can still post your answer to a particular question.

  3. You can reply to each others threads/posts to keep the conversation going.

  4. Be polite and respectful of other people’s opinions.

  5. Most importantly, have a great time here!

  6. Lastly, the team will make sure to engage with all of you to make this interesting! 

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A1:  I totally agree on hiring for customer-centric traits rather than skills only.  I talk about this a lot.  Here are the five customer-centric personality traits (in very very broad strokes) that are useful to consider in hiring: 

(you’ll never forget the WETCO traits if you picture it like a big wet dog at Petco): Hire your team based on the following psychological traits, even before you start thinking about the specific skill set you are looking for.

Warmth – simple human kindness.

Empathy – the ability to sense what another person is feeling.

Teamwork – the bias against “I can do it all myself” and toward “Let’s work make this happen together.”

Conscientiousness – detail orientation; ability to use a follow-up system.

Optimism – the ability to bounce back and not internalize challenges working with customers.

 

The use of “culture fit” by rah rah companies (you know who they are) sometimes devolves into something very different from this.  It ends up focusing on who is able to come to company sponsored happy hours, etc. 

 

 

 
 
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A1 - I feel that culture fit is important but not the most important thing.  I also feel like it is something that can develop… but if someone that you interview goes completely against the culture - or you feel would not be a good fit because of the culture that should probably weigh in on hireability (not a word)

 

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Second question for today is here below. To answer a question, tag the answer with the corresponding number. For example, if you are answering this question Q2, start your answer with A2 and use the quote the option

Q2. What are some of the key elements of creating a customer service-oriented culture?

I’d love to hear @Micah Solomon and @manns have to say about this, but here are my two cents:

  • The culture has to permeate across the org- and for this, all of goals, mission, vision, training programs, management philosophy have to be on the same page. The customer service oriented culture would have to reflect in every single thing the Company does.
  • The intangible but often overlooked element of employee welfare is another significant factor. Happier employees ensure happy customers.
  • Incentivising curiosity would also go a long way in ensuring a successful customer service orientation.
     
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A5:  I think I want to start by acknowledging that there are great B2B organizations that have built great CS cultures but that most of us will never know about because they’re outside of our own niche industry-wise. 

That’s why my list is going to be B2C companies that everyone at least potentially knows about. 

Nordstrom (department stores) 

Apple 

Starbucks

Amazon (But this is a WEIRD one because they lag so far behind in EMPLOYEE treatment)

MANY of the hospitality organizations: Marriott, Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company (now part of Marriott but still distinct), Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Makeready, and more 

Delta Airlines (I know this is a controversial pick) 

Southwest Airlines

Virgin Brands (many of them)

And let’s not forget:  FRESHWORKS!

 


Q5: Give us examples of your favorite organizations that have built a great CS culture

 
 
 
 
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A2:


Q2. What are some of the key elements of creating a customer service-oriented culture?

 

The way I envision (and strive to create) customer service-oriented culture includes support for all stakeholders.  In the graphic below that I’ve created to visualize this, the goal is to fill all four question-mark boxes positively.  

It’s not easy. 

  1. You need to successfully serve both your customers and the people who serve your customers (employees, vendors, subcontractors)
  2. You need to do this successfully both when it’s sunny out and you’re well staffed and when there’s a hurricane on the horizon and you’re down one person. 

 

 
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A2 As far as the key elements to create a customer service-focused culture, I would say they include 

• Employee selection

• Training, training, and more training

• Modeling by leadership (they need to “walk the walk”) 

• Ample benefits, staffing, and emotional support for employees

• Clarity of focus (using my matrix and other tools to get this part started) 

• Ultimately, what the goal is (and when you know you’ve achieved success) is when you create Positive Peer Pressure: where it’s clear that “the way things are done around here” is pro-customer. 

 
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Thanks so much, @akshara.sruthi and @rhea.desouza and @annapoorna.venketaraman  / @annapoorna.v and @SanaSiddiqui for organizing this, and thanks to everyone who participated!! 

 
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Third question for today is here below. To answer a question, tag the answer with the corresponding number. For example, if you are answering this question Q3, start your answer with A3 and use the quote the option

Q3: What are some of the pitfalls you see that we should avoid falling into as we strive to achieve this? 

I believe these two are the biggest -

  1. Weak communication channels 
  2. Lack of information and customer insights across teams and employees

Great point on communication. It just reminded me of something I wrote earlier today - that a message isn’t communicated unless it’s received and understood. How often do we miss the latter of these?

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Hey everyone! Welcome to our coffee chat.

Today we have @Micah Solomon joining us to talk about  Building a customer service culture

Micah Solomon is a customer service consultant, keynote speaker, and a senior contributor to Forbes.com. He is termed the “New Guru of Customer Service Excellence” by The Financial Post.Hisi techniques and achievements have been featured everywhere from Fast Company and Seth Godin's worldwide bestseller Purple Cow to Wall Street Journal Radio and Inc. Magazine's "Customer Service Makeover" feature. Micah Solomon  also co-authored Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization which has been recognized as one of the groundbreaking customer service books of recent years. 

We’re super pumped to have Micah join us today to give his expertise. 

First question for today is here below. To answer a question, tag the answer with the corresponding number. For example, if you are answering this question Q1, start your answer with A1 and use the quote the option

Q1: What do you think about the concept of hiring for culture fit? 

A1: 

We can agree on one thing: Culture matters!

Culture fit on the other hand? Not so much.

We all know how much important it is to hire. But in the day and age of asking people to bring their whole self to work, and working without any biases, it seems to a challenge to accommodate everything. 
 
I’m quoting from a blog that my friend at work penned. 

“Just hire someone on the strength of their skills and monitor for culture strength later. People are curious beings that change every day and the person you interviewed won’t be the person who joins or the person you promote six months from now. Internal and external forces can change people so it’s best to not bank on the impressions you draw from a general conversation. Instead of investing time in looking for a culture fit (your impressions may or may not be accurate), you could just monitor for culture strength and take action if they’re detrimental to other people’s morale”

But if you insist on searching for something aspirational during a short job interview…I suppose you could look for a value fit. 

Source: https://www.freshworks.com/hrms/culture-fit-outdated-blog/ 

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A1: 
Q1: What do you think about the concept of hiring for culture fit? 

 

I think it’s both useful and dangerous.

 

It’s useful when it’s shifted slightly to be something more precise for what is needed to take great care of customers while being a valuable team member.  (I can talk about that more later.) When it’s more broad it can become dangerous:

  1. Getting “groupthink” where innovation/outside-the-box thoughts aren’t welcome (unless of course the culture is one of outside-the-box thoughts). 
  2. Lack of diversity.  Here’s a quote from author/diversity expert Michael Hyter that I’ve used in my books: 

    diversity expert Michael Hyter:

    The word ‘‘fit’’ in the absence of that support factor [fair consideration for jobs for people who happen to be different] can easily be misinterpreted as ‘‘being like me,’’ instead of what the position requires. Many organizations make the mistake of assuming that those tasked with selecting new hires are equipped to do so fairly because they are nice people or good workers. But failure to ensure the selection process is based on standard criteria with trained interviewers can result in unintentional bias in the spirit of looking for someone who’s a perceived ‘‘good fit.’’

 

Agreed. While it is important to hire for a culture fit as i believe it also sets expectations and might improve productivity, I see where you are coming from in regard to it being dangerous in certain circumstances. Both statements being extremely important to remember in the hiring process. 

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Second question for today is here below. To answer a question, tag the answer with the corresponding number. For example, if you are answering this question Q2, start your answer with A2 and use the quote the option

Q2. What are some of the key elements of creating a customer service-oriented culture?

A2. For me, a key element of creating a customer service-oriented culture is that every employee (and not just CS staff) understanding:

  • The importance of customers
  • What the business does
  • Their own role in the business and its operations and outcomes

All of this knowledge is important before the way in which they are motivated (and their performance is assessed) as individuals and team members. Such that metrics in particular drive the right behaviours (and then outcomes). For example, a quickly closed customer case might allow an agent to hit a target but cost the organization far more than the agent has personally gained.

4. How do you go about inspiring a team to offer personalized customer service/"wow" customer service to make your customer feel special? 

 

I am curious to hear how others are inspiring teams to offer personalized customer service and making your customer feel like they are valued within your organization. Within my cross functional teams, I think I have found success in creating a personal relationship with the customers I work with but I can’t do that for every one of our customers! 

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Fourth question for today is here below. To answer a question, tag the answer with the corresponding number. For example, if you are answering this question Q4, start your answer with A4 and use the quote the option.

 

Q4: How do you go about inspiring a team to offer personalized customer service/"wow" customer service to make your customer feel special?

A4. (part 2) Another side of this is leadership, that in the same way we can say that happy employees make for happy customers, we can help to inspire better customer service (and customers feeling special) by the way in which our service employees are treated. The analytical part of me also wants to bring in the associated metrics, that they need to be suited to what we want or need to achieve here (rather than simply something that another company uses).

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A5:  [reposting because I edited this so much]: I think I want to start by acknowledging that there are great B2B organizations that have built great CS cultures but that most of us will never know about because they’re outside of our own niche industry-wise. 

That’s why my list is going to be B2C companies that everyone at least potentially knows about. 

Nordstrom (department stores) 

Apple 

Starbucks

Amazon (But this is a WEIRD one because they lag so far behind in EMPLOYEE treatment)

MANY of the hospitality organizations: Marriott, Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company (now part of Marriott but still distinct), Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Makeready, and more 

Delta Airlines (I know this is a controversial pick) 

Southwest Airlines

Virgin Brands (many of them)

And let’s not forget:  FRESHWORKS!

 


Q5: Give us examples of your favorite organizations that have built a great CS culture

 
 
 
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Alright folks, this was amazing as always! Thank you so much for joining us @Micah Solomon

To all our participants @Arvind Ramamurti, @SanaSiddiqui, @foxcubmama, @rashmi.nag, @manns, @alyssia.correa, @Sonali18, @Nandita, @Kyra Hennessey, and @sebastian_brett - Thank you so much for all your insights, we now have a wealth of knowledge in our very own community about how to building a customer service culture. 
      
If you have any specific questions about this topic, feel free to tag @Micah Solomon here and ask your question! For now, have a good day/night ahead ☕ 

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A.1 I believe the concept of hiring for culture fit is extremely important because you want the person to align with the company values and have a similar thought processes when it comes to understanding customers, working well together with teams and looking out for one another. 

While this is important, it shouldn’t mean that we overlook or dismiss different work-cultures and fits, this could lead to everyone being very similar and reducing diversity. 

Hey everyone! Welcome to our coffee chat.

Today we have @Micah Solomon joining us to talk about  Building a customer service culture

Micah Solomon is a customer service consultant, keynote speaker, and a senior contributor to Forbes.com. He is termed the “New Guru of Customer Service Excellence” by The Financial Post.Hisi techniques and achievements have been featured everywhere from Fast Company and Seth Godin's worldwide bestseller Purple Cow to Wall Street Journal Radio and Inc. Magazine's "Customer Service Makeover" feature. Micah Solomon  also co-authored Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization which has been recognized as one of the groundbreaking customer service books of recent years. 

We’re super pumped to have Micah join us today to give his expertise. 

First question for today is here below. To answer a question, tag the answer with the corresponding number. For example, if you are answering this question Q1, start your answer with A1 and use the quote the option

Q1: What do you think about the concept of hiring for culture fit? 

 

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Badge +1

A1:  I totally agree on hiring for customer-centric traits rather than skills only.  I talk about this a lot.  Here are the five customer-centric personality traits (in very very broad strokes) that are useful to consider in hiring: 

(you’ll never forget this if you picture it like a big wet dog at Petco): Hire your team based on the following psychological traits, even before you start thinking about the specific skill set you are looking for.

Warmth – simple human kindness.

Empathy – the ability to sense what another person is feeling.

Teamwork – the bias against “I can do it all myself” and toward “Let’s work make this happen together.”

Conscientiousness – detail orientation; ability to use a follow-up system.

Optimism – the ability to bounce back and not internalize challenges working with customers.

 

The use of “culture fit” by rah rah companies (you know who they are) sometimes devolves into something very different from this.  It ends up focusing on who is able to come to company sponsored happy hours, etc. 

 

 

 

 

I love the framework you’ve mentioned above - it can really help to understand the values of a person rather than ONLY the company value and fit.

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A3: Oh, there are so many pitfalls. That’s why one of the key things is to have a bedrock purpose you can refer back to.  For example (and it’s a great example), Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts have a very simple statement about serving guests, employees, and other stakeholders per the Golden Rule.  And the ideal (not always followed, but often!) is that any employee behavior or strategic decision that goes against this isn’t okay. 

If you have a purpose statement/vision that leadership truly buys into, then employees know what to do and know when they’re falling short. (Or at least they know the latter after proper training, which is key as well.) 

 

Another key is employee empowerment.  None of this works if employees lack leeway to serve customers in creative ways as required based on the employees’ best judgment. 

 

“Popular” pitfalls:  

• relaxing your personality-based hiring criteria

• cutting corners on staffing

• eliminating or cutting back on training

• leaders who don’t walk the walk...

 

Third question for today is here below. To answer a question, tag the answer with the corresponding number. For example, if you are answering this question Q3, start your answer with A3 and use the quote the option

Q3: What are some of the pitfalls you see that we should avoid falling into as we strive to achieve this? 

I

 

 
 
 
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Third question for today is here below. To answer a question, tag the answer with the corresponding number. For example, if you are answering this question Q3, start your answer with A3 and use the quote the option

Q3: What are some of the pitfalls you see that we should avoid falling into as we strive to achieve this? 

A3. An obvious one that’s “not so obvious” is the assumption that the right things will just happen :)

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A2. 

To create a customer service-oriented culture, we need to act upon it consistently and also be willing to grow and adapt to the times.

Some key elements according to me would be:
1. Understanding and investing in your resources (including human resources)
2. Practicing empathy and transparency
3. Engaging customers proactively
4. Crafting your vision and aligning your team to the vision
5. Leading by example

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Third question for today is here below. To answer a question, tag the answer with the corresponding number. For example, if you are answering this question Q3, start your answer with A3 and use the quote the option

Q3: What are some of the pitfalls you see that we should avoid falling into as we strive to achieve this? 

A3. An obvious one that’s “not so obvious” is the assumption that the right things will just happen :)

This is so true! Can never just take things for granted

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