By: Steve McKinney On: February 03, 2014 In: Contact Center Comments: 0

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Culture eats Strategy for breakfast”?  What does this really mean, and is it something you should worry about?

I heard this phrase during a recent visit to a large contact center in southern California.  The first thought that came to mind is a book I read years ago called Nuts!. This book is about Southwest Airlines and how the company became what it is today.  What I learned in this book was that in order for the strategy and vision of the owner Herb Kelleher to be executed, the culture had to be created first. Now more than 40 years after Southwest was founded, it appears that customer care has become a high priority for most companies.  So the question becomes, is customer care a strategy or a culture or both?  I would argue both. Culture is something organic. It takes time. Strategy is something developed and executed.

When building a culture who is more important, the customer care staff or the customer?

If a skilled customer care staff is asked to provide top tier service when she is not being given mutual respect, it is a recipe for disaster. With that said, I believe both groups are equally important. Giving your customer care staff a professionally healthy, productive and empowering work environment is critical to individual and organizational success. How does lacking the right culture affect your business processes? Through my years of experience in customer care, I’ve noticed if culture is lacking in an organization often times the implementation of the tools (CRM systems) fails. In turn it costs the organization hundreds and thousands of dollars in loss sales and attrition. So the question is, how do you avoid a bad culture?

10 Steps to Boosting or Creating the Right Culture in 2014:

  1. Hire the right people (warm bodies won’t cut it anymore)
  2. Pay should be competitive
  3. Train, train, train, then train again
  4. Managers are not more important than anyone else, they just have more responsibilities
  5. Lead by example (as a Director of Customer Service I would jump on the phones if volume was high)
  6. Invest in the right technology and mold it to your strategies
  7. Take care of your staff and they will take care of your customers
  8. Make it fun, or suffer the consequences (attrition)
  9. Quietly criticize, publicly praise
  10. Make it your own, don’t copy Zappos, but understand the culture, then grow your own

 Isn’t right now a good time to check the pulse of your culture?

“If the employees come first, then they’re happy…. A motivated employee treats the customer well. The customer is happy so they keep coming back, which pleases the shareholders. It’s not one of the enduring green mysteries of all time, it is just the way it works.” – Herb Kelleher