May 2006 Edition
Creating Customer Service Culture

Improving customer service is a subject that is a lot easier to talk about than to implement.  The key to success is to change the company culture and this has to be a deliberate process involving three steps:


1)  Establish a plan to exceed customer expectations

2)  Make the plan part of your company culture 

3)  Get your employees to implement the plan


 It’s not as difficult as it may seem.  Let’s take a look at how to establish a customer service improvement plan.  This is best done in small increments on a continuous basis.  We have only to exceed the customer’s expectations by a small amount.  If we are successful, we please the customer and the employee.  Take a look at the following examples of customer expectations and how to exceed them – just a little.


Adding two or three “small” improvements each month while hanging on to all of the previous ones will bring about a customer service renaissance.

To make the plan part of your company culture, take a lesson from a premier customer service retailer.  The company philosophy is, that it is easier to hire NICE than train to be NICE.  People of average intelligence can learn job skills easily.  Use the hiring process to screen for NICE people.  It was a company policy never to criticize an employee for doing too much for a customer.  We can all adopt that concept.  Getting employees to work the plan is a matter of communication.


There is a process called “task analysis” that professional trainers use to break down jobs into simple steps.  The task of Serving Customers can be broken down into sub-tasks such as greeting the customer, taking the order, serving the food etc.  Each sub-task is then broken down into steps.  The key is to state each step in behavioral terms that are measurable or observable as in the following example:


Sub-Task                                 Steps

1.1 Greet customers                 1.1.1. Smile at the customers.

                                                1.1.2. Look directly at the customers.

                                                1.1.3. Say “Good morning” or “Good afternoon”

                                                          or Good evening”.

                                                1.1.4. Tell the customers your first name.

                                                1.1.5. Ask if the customers wish to see a menu.

                                                1.1.6. Pass the menus to the customers face up.

                                                1.1.7. Tell the customers you’ll be back to take

                                                          their orders in a few minutes.


This level of detail is necessary so that the NICE people you hire cover all of the bases for your standard of service.  All of the steps are observable.  In the training process it is very easy to work on the performance of any deficient steps.  Upgrades in the standards of service are preceded by upgrades in the task analysis.  The time investment required to develop good job documentation will pay dividends over the life of your business!


Remember that it took a long time for your employees to develop the habits you are trying to change.  It is going to take a while to transform them.  A deliberate plan with small progressive steps and clear communication will work.


Customer Expectation                                   Customer Expectation Exceeded

Fresh bread                                                      Fresh WARM bread

Courteous greeting                                            Courteous greeting BY NAME

Plenty of napkins with BBQ ribs                        HOT TOWELS with BBQ ribs

A comfortable place to wait for a table              Complimentary wine or appetizer while waiting