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The Customer-first Culture and Good Customer Service

Are you providing good customer service?

Customer service has proliferated from the service sectors to almost all industries in the global market place. Businesses have been increasingly embracing it into their corporate missions. Some have even become legendary, but still there are others who struggle to deliver good service. As the old saying goes, knowing is one thing and doing is another. A business cannot delivery good customer service consistently if it does not have customer-first culture in its corporate DNA. So a possibly better question to ask is: Does your corporation have the customer-first culture?

LEGO’s recent customer service splendor

In January 2013, Seven-year-old Luka Apps had spent his Christmas money on a LEGO minifigure just to have it fallen out of his pocket in a shop and lost it. Luka wrote LEGO a letter explaining the situation, and promised never to take it to a shop again if LEGO could be so kind to send him a replacement. LEGO swiftly sent Luka a soothing and encouraging letter back together with his minifigure replacement. LEGO also included in the package an additional minifigure for him to play along with. The story was soon blown all over the world and has given LEGO tremendous positive publicity. LEGO became the high priest of customer care through this episode.

US Airways customer service blunder

Also in January 2013, the author was waiting to board a US Airways flight in the Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) to Houston. He’s assigned a zone 4 boarding sequence. It was a full flight, and the US Airways boarding personnel at the gate somehow determined after zone 3 passengers had passed the gate that everyone had to check in their carry-on. They did that by simply handing each passenger passing the gate a baggage claim tag and told each to snap it on. Granted that seasoned travelers immediately figured out what that meant, but doing that matter-of-factly was bad customer service. An apology for the inconvenience should have been the minimum. Think about those passengers who had people waiting at the Houston airport to pick them up. The author was not happy about it, and so were a lot of others who received the same treatment. What happened right after the door was closed was just sarcastic. The flight attendant announced the airline’s welcome, and mumbled the well scripted standard message that the passengers should not hesitate to ask if there’s anything that they could do to make the flight more enjoyable. This episode had not exploded into bad publicity out of proportion, but without the right customer-first culture, incidents that could generate a slew of bad publicity are bound to happen.

Customer-first culture has to be in the business’s DNA

Just saying that the business cares about customers does not make it so. A customer service organization without the customer-first culture will frequently provide customer lip service like what US Airways did, not customer service. To build customer-first culture into their DNA, businesses need to make delivering unsurpassed customer experience one of their corporate missions. If they do not have the proper customer-first culture in place, then they will need to establish a change management process to develop a program to nurture one. 

The change management process to creating customer-first culture 

This change management process should be top down starting with the executives. The executives who were the advocates need to persuade all other executives to buy in and embrace this customer-first initiative, and to determine executive sponsors who will organize and sponsor a program management organization (PMO) to develop a customer service excellence culture and implementation plan. Finally the PMO can develop their plan using the
ADKAR[1] (Adware, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, Reinforcement) methodology as a framework to work this desired culture into the corporation’s DNA. Only when the customer-first culture is ingrained will the business’s customer service department be able to provide great or legendary services consistently.
[1]: ADKAR is a popular change management methodology. There are plenty of books and articles about ADKAR available online and in bookstores everywhere.

Author: Chi-Pong Wong (All Rights Reserved by the author)

Source: Original Text (based upon first hand knowledge)
Image: © Andres Rodriguez –
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