Changing a Company Culture
In Ask Help Scout, long-time customer service professional Mat “Patto” Patterson answers readers' most challenging customer support delivery, leadership, and career questions.
I really want to build a healthy, customer-centric service culture in my team, but I find myself in a business that is “all about the numbers” and led in a traditional command-and-control style. Our leadership here is somewhat aware of the limits of that style, but they generally seem willing to settle for the status quo and not push for any real change.
Is it possible for the culture to shift in such a company? How might that happen, and what could I do to help it along?
Hoping for a change, Nic
You’ve set yourself a tough challenge here, but it’s a worthwhile one. Ultimately the people at the top set the tone for their businesses, and cultural change will need to come from them. However, even the biggest change starts out with small actions. There is no reason you could not play a role in triggering such a change.
To help me answer this question, I reached out to some colleagues with experience in persuading leaders to change course. I shared your question with Nick Francis, our CEO here at Help Scout; Shawna Fisher, Help Scout CFO; and Suneet Bhatt, former CRO at Help Scout and founder of My Authentic Story.
Between the three of them, some common themes emerged.
First, try to get into the mindset of your leaders to understand their goals. Most business leaders are competitive, and they want to succeed. Anything you can present to them that ties that human-centered, customer-focused attitude to measurable business improvements is likely to be well received. Can you build a business case for a specific change you’d like to see? Ideally, you’ll present a case backed up with reliable data, gathered either externally or from an experiment you can run internally. Simple engagement or NPS surveys might be enough to get you the data your story needs in order to fit into the decision-making process in your company.
Second, find some like-minded folks to band together with — a lone voice is easier to ignore than the same story being consistently told by people across the company. Finally, they recommend you develop your understanding of how leaders make decisions. Suneet recommended David McRaney’s book “How Minds Change” as a great place to start. I’m reading it now and finding it valuable too.
I’d also suggest the books “Switch” by the Heath brothers and “Resonate” by Nancy Duarte as highly practical guides to improving your ability to persuade (and not coerce) people.
Best of luck making a change, Nic, and don’t forget that you aren’t obligated to stay. Sometimes a culture is just not going to shift, and it is totally fine to head somewhere that is a better fit.