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Make Your Contact Center Culture Your Company Culture

What’s your contact center’s culture? Is the customer always right? Is the focus on the bottom line or on ensuring customer satisfaction? Are your customer care agents empowered to do what’s necessary to keep customers happy and returning? Or can agents do certain things, up to a limit, before “nothing more can be done?” What’s most important? What are the core corporate values, and how are they translated into customer service?

That was a lot of questions, but they are necessary to consider because “corporate culture” can be a tricky thing. Commonly defined as the way a brand thinks, behaves and works (really, the people behind the brand), it can be a daunting task to establish the corporate culture. It can be difficult for management to decide what values are most important to set the right tone and it can be a challenge to translate that to different departments. Company culture can be guided by a vision statement as simple as Google’s “Do no evil” or the Alzheimer’s Association’s “A world without Alzheimer’s.” It can also be as complicated as a brand’s leaders desire to make it. I’d recommend simplicity any day.

Some even question the importance and value of defining a “corporate culture.” What difference does it make if all employees know the values of the founders and how that shapes the brand? Well, it can make a big difference. Especially in the contact center! When agents know and understand what the brand, owners, managers and their fellow staffers are working toward, it’s easier to share that message with the customer.

The contact center can be the first, and sometimes only, interaction customers have with a real, live person “behind” the brand. The contact center is also usually the most customer-focused area of an organization, because it is constantly and consistently interacting with customers—but it may focus on different things than the overall corporate culture. It’s important to make sure your contact center is strategically aligned with the brand’s goals, messages and activities…and maybe even derive some of those goals, messages and activities from the customer focus of the contact center.

Here are nine tips to spread the customer-focused contact center culture to the rest of your organization:

1. Position the contact center at the core of customer experience management.

It’s where the customer journey starts and ends, so the contact center is supremely important. Make sure the messages shared by contact center agents are consistent with brand messages. Train all employees, especially those who interact with customers, to ensure a consistent customer experience. Integrate tools and technologies to help the contact center provide a smooth and personalized customer experience with every interaction. And make sure all departments know that the contact center is central to the brand’s success.

2. Align the contact center with the overall brand’s strategy and priorities for the customer experience.

This is a no-brainer. If a contact center isn’t working toward the same strategy and priorities to ensure outstanding customer experiences as the brand itself…there are larger issues to tackle. Simple communication can make this step easy to achieve.

3. Identify and share key performance indicators (KPIs) across the organization, including Sales, Marketing, Services, IT, Operations and Finance.

Open up the lines of communication. Encourage sharing, feedback and interaction. The only way different departments will understand each other is to communicate, even if they are not on the same page. Look at NPS as a KPI. Evaluate Traffic Sources and Completion Rate as KPIs. Pick a few of the most informative or important to your organization and factor them into a performance-based corporate bonus plan shared by all departments. Ideally, KPIs for each department will work in concert toward the overall corporate vision and culture.

4. Create a “Customer Experience Vision” and showcase it in a simple, intuitive fashion, demonstrating the contact center’s role in making the vision a reality.

A brand’s vision of the customer experience helps ensure consistent behavior and actions. Gather input from each department or functional area and use it to create a vision statement and actions resulting from that vision. Make sure the contact center is highly involved, since it will be the department most engaged with translating the vision into reality for customers.

5. Create shared dashboards that are visible, simple and fun.

Create friendly competition and encourage interaction. Help individuals and departments share and celebrate successes. Include metrics such as NPS, Sales Conversion Rate, Average Handle Time, First Call Resolution and Queue Wait Time, as well as Traffic Sources, Completion Rate, Product Performance and Net Profit Margin, among others. This all works toward reinforcing corporate culture and a focus on customer service.

6. Identify “small win” opportunities and work on the low-hanging fruit first. Celebrate early successes.

Create momentum by getting a few quick successes under the collective belt. Success begets success. This can also serve as proof that the brand supports all efforts toward the customer focus and culture, and increases the drive to achieve more. Let your customers’ voice shine through…quote them for unfiltered and candid positive feedback.

7. Communicate progress often.

Keep teams up to date on their progress and that of the brand overall. Dashboards are a good starting point, but regular updates are important as well. Keep it simple and to the point. Be positive and encouraging.

8. Reward the entire team for achieving milestones and KPIs.

This can be as simple as hosting a lunch to celebrate—or as elaborate as a day trip somewhere fun and special. It’s all about encouraging individuals and teams to keep up the good work and make more progress toward the overall goals.

9. Benchmark progress against the rest of the industry and adopt best practices to continuously improve.

Look at leaders in your industry, as well as top worldwide brands. Target calls customers “guests” to make them feel more welcome. Chick-fil-a employees say “It’s my pleasure” instead of “you’re welcome.” Nike encourages people to “Just Do It” and gives them the athletic tools to do so. Any brand known for its customer focus (think Apple, Amazon and others) is a good check point.

This all seems like a lot of work, it’s true. But when you think about the benefits of a corporate culture that encompasses the contact center and focuses on the customer, you’ll find big positives. They include happier and more productive workers, happier and more loyal customers and better business outcomes, such as higher revenue and profits, enhanced brand reputation, industry leadership and more. With all of those benefits as a result…what brand wouldn’t strive for a solid customer-focused corporate culture?