A 5-Point Guide to Help You Create Your Own Customer Service Philosophy
Put on your loose-fitting tunics, folks—for today we are going to have a deep discourse on what Plato and Socrates had to say about customer service philosophy. Just kidding. Understanding customer service philosophy doesn’t require you to leaf through the ancient Greek texts or endlessly brood over the existence of your business. Well, you do need some introspection—just not to the extent of those overly-sentimental Stoics. Every business starts out to fulfill a mission or stands for some cause. When General Electric (GE) was founded 128 years ago, it wanted to usher in the next industrial era and to build, move, power, and cure the world. It’s the same mission GE stands for today. Disneyland—in its own words—wants to entertain, inform, and inspire people through the power of unparalleled storytelling. Toms Shoes wants to help humanity thrive by improving people’s lives and partnering with others who share their values. Regardless of how big or small your business is or which domain you belong to, you must have your brand’s mission and vision statement. Your brand’s mission and vision reflect in everything you do—from developing new products to hiring people who can uphold your brand’s culture to interacting with your customers. And customer service philosophy is a subset of this larger scheme that guides your business actions when serving your customers. In this post, we’ll go over: What is customer service philosophy? Why is having a customer service philosophy beneficial? How do you write a customer service philosophy statement? How to develop (and follow) a customer service philosophy? 3 customer service philosophy examples What is a customer service philosophy? Customer service philosophy isn’t some woo-woo concept that you should follow just because you saw some bigger brands doing it. A customer service philosophy is a set of guiding principles that defines your overall customer service strategy —specific action plans, support policies, commitment towards your products and services, and so on. Having a clearly-defined customer service philosophy gives you clarity on what kind of brand you want to be when it comes to serving your customers. It should eventually tie back to your brand’s mission and vision and extend the value your business promises to offer to the world. Why is having a customer service philosophy beneficial? A customer service philosophy is like an operating manual for your customer service department. It tells you what to do or how to respond when your service teams are faced with certain situations—like resolving customers’ issues or handling harsh criticisms from angry customers . Your customers’ needs are as varied as the number of customers you interact with. It’s impossible to have a rule book dedicated to deal with every unique circumstance in existence. What you can have is a well-defined customer service philosophy that aligns different functions of your business together for a single cause—i.e., to serve customers—and replaces the need for detailed redundancies. It’s like an almanac that your customer-facing teams, including new recruits, can refer to on their own as a quick guide to deal with unique situations involving the customers. It also serves as an internal moral compass for running your business—it tells you what principles to abide by, come what may. It gives you clarity on how you want customers to perceive your brand or what kind of dent you want to put in the world. How to develop a customer service philosophy First, you have to answer a few deep, probing questions such as: What are your core values? What’s the current state of customer service in your company? What outcomes do you want your customers to achieve? What can you do to help them achieve those outcomes? Coming up with detailed answers to the above questions is fundamental to creating a comprehensive customer service philosophy statement. The answers to these questions will provide you a robust foundation on which you can build your customer service philosophy. Drafting your customer service philosophy statement is the easy part—once you figure out what you want to put in it. You can make it as simple as the honor code at your high school or as sophisticated and esoteric as the Magna Carta. We suggest you lean towards the first one. Take inspiration from what Nordstrom does in its employee handbook: [ Source ] Just to be sure, a customer service philosophy isn’t the same as an employee handbook. But the former often informs the latter. A well-documented customer service philosophy empowers your frontline staff to do what’s right for your customers and your business. And there’s something very powerful about this level of simplicity. It’s short yet clear, it doesn’t have jargon, and it’s simple enough for anyone to understand. Your customer service philosophy can be a little longer than this but should still align closely with your brand identity. Here’s a loose template that you can use to create a customer service philosophy for your brand. 1. Start with your customers Customers come first in your customer service philosophy—both literally and figuratively. It means you have to put empathy at the heart of your customer service philosophy. Look at all the customer-focused assets—your brand’s ideal buyer persona , customer empathy map , customer journey analytics, etc.—and pull out important data points. Answer questions like: Who are your customers? What kind of service experience do they expect from your brand? What excites them? What are their online habits? Once you have concrete answers to these questions, blend the data in your customer service philosophy document. That’s how you can keep your customer service philosophy grounded and highly relevant to your customers. For example, today’s customers live and breathe in the digital world—it’s where they expect your brand to be when they need help. But also realize that 88% of customers hate repeating themselves to customer service reps on different channels. So take an omni-digital approach to your customer service philosophy and meet your customers half-way in their channels of preference. Use a powerful online engagement platform to manage interactions coming from all digital channels like phone, email, or social media. It’s what will help you improve the customer experience, increase your agent’s productivity, and boost your revenue potential. 2. Offer timely and meaningful solutions Time is of the essence when serving customers. Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart and Sam’s Club retail superstores, introduced the concept of the “Sundown Rule” to Walmart’s customer service. It underlines three basic principles that Sam believed in: respect for the individual, customer service, and striving for excellence. Walmart’s customer service tries to live up to Sam’s vision by trying to answer all customer requests by sundown on the same day they receive them. And it’s a rule that applies for customer service in any business domain. Make your customer service timely, efficient, and accessible. Be fast, but also offer accurate solutions. Speed is useless if you end up taking people to a completely wrong destination. You must be in the habit of engaging with customers only when they call or when you have to follow-up on payment collections. We suggest you blend that style of reactive customer service with a self-driven way to engage with customers. Develop a proactive customer service philosophy. Give your contact center the right tool to start conversations with customers proactively. Help your customers succeed in achieving their goals even before they come to you for help. 3. Honor your customers’ feedback Listen intently. It can be your superpower to understand customer psychology and their deep-seated expectations. Conduct customer surveys and ask your customers for their feedback. Make it a core part of your philosophy to talk directly and frequently with your customers. It’s how you will discover customers’ perceptions about your brand, their frustrations, their needs and wants, and their expectation from your customer service. Gather customer feedback as much and as frequently as you can. Your customers’ opinions are priceless data that you can’t find anywhere else unless you interact with them. Pro-tip : Good survey questions also help you gauge your customers’ satisfaction and happiness in relation to your brand—a reason why RingCentral Surveys is a popular feature in RingCentral Contact Center ™. Surveys are also your way of telling your customers that you care. If you don’t ask for their feedback and complaints—they will go to your competition and complain about you to them. 4. Keep improving Keep a close tab on your team’s performance. Understand the gaps in your service offering and strive to improve the customer experience at every possible opportunity. Keep your eyes on the metrics that matter to you—customer satisfaction, Net Promoter Score, and customer effort score. Use a tool like RingCentral Engage Digital ™ to track your activities across all channels and get the big picture of your performance. Identify who among your customers are your vocal supports, who are detractors, and how to leverage customer relations to maximize your business outcomes. Use the right tools to measure, monitor, and optimize your top metrics. Improve customer experience with the help of data and analytics. 5. Follow through with your customer service philosophy No philosophy is complete if you fail to put the wisdom into practice. The above template helps you draft a comprehensive philosophy document, but your work is far from over. Once you complete collating all the ideas in the document, you have to simplify it in a way that makes it crisp, clear, and easy for everyone to understand. Aim to boil down your customer service philosophy statement into one page, or better—only a couple of paragraphs. No one will read and remember it (or, give your extra grades) if you make it the length of your college thesis paper. Avoid unnecessary jargons or the temptation to make tall claims. Be honest and practical in your capabilities to offer good customer service, just like the ooShirts’ example we saw above. As a small business owner, you probably have staffing issues in your customer service. And that’s fine—narrow team bandwidth doesn’t equal bad customer service. You can always leverage automated technology to make the most of your available customer service resources. Just don’t lie about or overpromise your customer service capabilities. When you are ready, publish your customer service philosophy statement in a place where everyone can access it—your website. Let it serve as a reminder (to you, your employees, and your customers) of the core values that you stand for. If you want to take it a step further, make it a colorful mural and put it up on the walls of your customer service department, like this: [ Source ] Caption: theSkimm (email newsletter company) in New York has their company culture and shared values printed on their office walls. 5 customer service philosophy examples from real-life companies A customer service philosophy is not a branding or marketing content asset, but most brands put it out in the public domain anyways—perhaps to make themselves accountable for their service pledge. Thankfully, that also gives us enough examples to take inspiration from while creating our own customer service philosophy. Here are five examples of well-articulated customer service philosophy from real-life companies. 1. Apple Everybody hails Apple for their world-famous customer service. And the company takes great pride in it, which is why they make its commitment to customer service known to the public. Apple has codified its customer service philosophy in a way that’s easy to remember for all of its employees, i.e., A.P.P.L.E. Here’s what A.P.P.L.E. stands for: A: Approach customers with a personalized warm welcome
P: Probe politely to understand customers 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 Very charming, right? Apple came up with this delicious backronym (an acronym made to sound like an already existing word) to make sure each one of its store employees remembers these points. And now that you know it, you won’t be able to get it out of your head because of how simple it is to remember. 2. ooShirts.com Here’s another example of a customer service philosophy statement from a much smaller T-shirt brand, ooShirts. [ Source ] Despite being a small team, ooShirts places utmost importance on its customer service philosophy statement in delivering outstanding service. It’s respectable for a small brand like ooShirts to pledge its customer service philosophy and values in public. Notice how they also have links to offer online customer service right underneath the philosophy statement and specific instructions for customers to call or contact them to set the right expectations. 3. Utah Valley Convention Center Here’s another example from a business that is much smaller in size but resembles Apple’s style of customer service philosophy. Utah Valley Convention Center’s name says it all—they are a convention center located in the heart of downtown Provo, Utah. Theirs is a business that exists in every town in America. But not all convention centers take the extra effort to come up with a great customer service philosophy statement like Utah Valley Convention Center. And when we say they have a great customer service philosophy statement, we really mean GREAT. Take a look: [ Source ] This philosophy also links back to their brand mission, which is “to enhance and maintain an economic impact to Utah County by booking and hosting events in a professionally managed, eco-friendly LEED Silver facility. By building relationships with industry professionals and meeting planners, we will strive to create lasting impressions and exceed expectations.” 4. Amedisys If you are a brand in the human service industry, your whole business is centered around the philosophy of serving people. And if it’s a brand like Amedisys—a hospice service for terminally ill patients—your business becomes a social responsibility. And Amedisys fulfills that responsibility with great care and support. Here’s the mission that they stand for: [ Source ] Referrals are the biggest channels through which Amedisys gets new patients in one of their facilities. To streamline the inflow of referrals, Amedisys uses RingCentral Office . RingCentral facilitates tight collaboration between Amedisys’s centralized call center and their 53 local offices spread across 19 states. For instance, when a family member calls Amedisys for making a referral, the choice they make on the interactive voice response (IVR) system routes their call automatically to the company’s centralized contact center, which intakes the patient referral. RingCentral Office also routes all other kinds of calls—e.g., a relative calling to check in on an admitted patient—directly from the IVR to the specific hospice location. This smooth juggling of calls might sound like business as usual to you. But for Amedisys, it means freeing up the hospice nurses’ time so that they can provide the right kind of care that the patients deserve. This has allowed Amedisys to stick to its brand philosophy and improve its customer service through an analytics-driven engagement model. 5. The Fruit Guys The Fruit Guys are a fresh fruit delivery service headquartered in San Francisco, CA. And theirs is perhaps the best customer service philosophy because it speaks personally to you. They also have a juicy story behind how the company CEO was forced to come up with a customer service philosophy after interacting with one of his delivery drivers who had behaved badly with a customer. They sum up their customer service philosophy with 5Rs ©—a set of five questions that are deeply aligned with the ethics at The FruitGuys and drive their pursuit of greater meaning through decisions they make every day at work. Be Respectful Be Responsive Be Realistic Be Responsible Be Remembered Positively You can read more about the 5Rs © here . What is your customer service philosophy? The business norms for customer service are always changing. You have to keep up with the evolving trends in customer expectations and the ways to serve them better. But while it’s great to keep abreast of such tactical issues, you will do great if you keep your focus on larger, strategic norms such as following a principle-based approach in customer service. Creating a customer service philosophy statement is one such activity that allows you to stick to your principles. It’s a way for you to let your customers know what to expect if they decide to do business with you. It’s all about making your customers feel special, valued, loved, valued, and heard. And your customers will return the favor as long as your actions reflect your customer service philosophy—because philosophy never goes out of style.