Customer Relations

by Roisin Murray & Wallace Murray

Encourage a customer-focused culture

Culture is a mix of systems, structures and people: your culture is the end result of all of these – expressed in behaviour.

Systems

Systems include things like IT, pay structures, in house procedures and logistics. Consider the effect that your systems have on your culture, and then what effect, good or bad, that has on customer relations.

Think of a organisation that pays individual performance rewards, yet calls for team working as part of its customer relations strategy. You may find that cooperation is weak and back-stabbing is rife. Staff may be responding to what they perceive to be the true values of the organisation, rather than the espoused ones.

You may not feel able to influence organisation-wide systems. Even so, your influence may be greater than you think. If there are areas for improvement, can you make changes or do you need to influence someone else? At the very least, you can draw attention to the issue and seek to influence change. For ideas on how to do that, you might like to look at the topics on Influencing and Political Intelligence.

Structures

Organisational structures tend to be determined at the top, so you may have to live with what you’ve got, at least in general. On the other hand, you may find opportunities to influence that wider structure. You should certainly be able to affect the structure within your own area of responsibility.

Aim for a flexible, flat structure, one in which members of your team are empowered to take responsibility for joint results and act flexibly to achieve them.

People

Ultimately, it is your people who will work with the systems, within the structures, in order to deliver the customer service that will develop your customer relations. You want people to see excellent customer relations as a good thing in its own right, and act accordingly. One way to do this is to use the company systems and structures to encourage people to feel valued. Why? If people feel valued they are far more likely to value the customers, and want to give them a good experience.

Typically, companies with great customer relations are usually great places to work. This is simply because a organisation that does not value its people is not a breeding ground for good customer relations.

  • What is your own organisation like?
  • Do the internal systems suggest that staff are valued?
  • Do the systems encourage and reward initiative?
  • Are staff praised for their response to customers (either external or internal)?

Ask colleagues what message they get from the internal management systems. If you have access to staff surveys, check out the responses – how valued do people feel right now?

See the topics on Culture and Change for more ideas on culture diagnosis and how to change it.