Every team needs a shared mission. Just as important, every team needs guiding principles that ensure they’re fulfilling their shared mission in the best way possible.

A customer service philosophy is just that. It ensures that support professionals not only focus on the same goal, but that they understand the holistic approach to achieving that goal. When team members are in a pickle or an unprecedented situation, they can make a decision based on their customer service philosophy and values.

Not only does a strong philosophy empower team members, but it also sets the foundation for a customer-first strategy that’s proactive rather than reactive. No matter who a customer interacts with, they’ll experience the same delightful service that epitomizes your company values.

Here’s our guide to elevating your team with an inspiring customer service philosophy.

Developing a customer service philosophy for your team

Although good customer service philosophies have a few things in common, no two should be the same. For a philosophy to succeed, it needs to align with your team’s specific values, goals and long-term vision for its relationship with customers. These steps can help you tease out what’s important when developing your team’s philosophy.

1. Identify customer support team values

Just as organizations thrive when everyone aligns with clear company values, teams thrive when they’re working with the same team values. At Help Scout, we believe the most powerful customer service philosophy and values support human-centered customer support programs.

In the age of call centers, proactively investing in real-life relationships with customers gives you a competitive edge. When you’re thinking about your team’s values, be ambitious. Act as if you have the power to affect customers’ lives and drive revenue for your company — because you do!

Start by brainstorming a long list of values that represent how your team aspires to bring positive change to customers every day. From there, whittle down the list to five or fewer values. You want to make sure they’re easy to remember and recall.

As you complete this process, note if there are any team values that differ from the company values. Because customer support fulfills a specific, quantifiable role in every organization, they don’t have to be the same but, ideally, they’re not directly opposed, either.

2. Imagine how a support team can embody those values

Before you start developing a customer service philosophy with these values as a framework, take the time to consider how the values your team identified translate to real, day-to-day work. Amelia Friedman, the COO of Hatch Apps, argues that to unite a team with a shared philosophy, you need to go deeper than naming values. These guiding principles have to be actionable, too. Friedman suggests considering your values through the lens of each of these five questions:

  • What does this value mean to us?
  • What does it look like in action?
  • How might it be misinterpreted?
  • How will we evaluate adherence to it?
  • How will it change our relationships or our interactions?

Plan to have conversations as a team around these questions. The more you engage customer support pros throughout the process, the more likely they are to adopt a shared customer service philosophy and values. From there, you can start to transform these takeaways into a shared document that outlines your customer support philosophy.

3. Document your service philosophy

If identifying key values sets the framework for your customer-first strategy, your customer service philosophy fills it in with specific details. Instead of approaching the process in a silo, consider how it ladders up to a wonderful customer experience and helps you meet the quantifiable goals of your team.

This philosophy summarizes the team’s ethos in relation to customers, as well as how support team professionals and leaders implement it every day. Good support helps customers succeed within their jobs and their lives. By proactively helping customers to thrive (by their own definition), teams provide infinitely more value than when they’re focused on zooming through the queue.

Likewise, self-service is at the forefront of our definition of good support. As technology evolves and the expectations of customers evolve with it, people feel empowered by the opportunity to solve problems on their own where possible.

Here are some service philosophy bullet points to consider:

  • How has your team struggled in implementing a customer-first strategy? What shared philosophy could remedy those failures?
  • If you could snap your fingers and make a big change, how would it transform your team and customer experience?
  • How do you see your company’s customer experience strategy evolving?
  • Can you think of an all-star team member? What’s their philosophy in approaching customers?

Ask each support professional to mull over these questions on their own and send answers in a survey. From there, you can pull together answers and discuss them in a group, teasing out how the answers point to a guiding philosophy that can lead you forward together. When you do drive the discussion, make sure to keep the thoughts of team members shared privately in the survey (and any names they shared) confidential.

By communicating your approach clearly, you not only develop consistency on your team, but you also have a clear document to share beyond support. Communicating the larger customer-first model to executives, the product team, and engineers invites alignment that can empower everyone.

Ultimately, a customer service philosophy is significantly more powerful when a company bakes it into everything they do, from design to marketing. Customer support may be the primary team to implement a positive philosophy, but alignment means it has the potential to transform the entire revenue stream.

Integrating a customer service philosophy into your business

As powerful as a guiding philosophy can be, success depends on the ways you integrate the philosophy into your day-to-day interactions. By taking intentional steps, you set your team up for a smooth transition and a better way of working.

1. Identify the most important metrics

Building on the fourth question in Friedman’s list, assess which metrics align with your customer service philosophy and values. Often, companies prioritize metrics like speed without considering whether that aligns with their customer service philosophy. Although speed is measurable and important, leading with “time per ticket” excludes more fundamental aspects of the customer experience.

Are customers feeling grateful or satisfied with the experience? Is customer loyalty increasing? Hone in on metrics that gauge the success of your customer support philosophy in action. By building accountability around your philosophy, you encourage team members to follow through every day instead of gauging their performance with misaligned metrics.

2. Lead by example

It’s impossible for a customer support team that’s underserved, under-supported and overworked to be consistently kind, helpful and generous with customers. For a team to thoroughly implement a customer service philosophy, leaders need to consistently embody the same values they ask their teams to.

Here’s a good customer service philosophy example: If a support leader outlines “transparency” as an important value for their team, they also need to be transparent about what’s going on internally with the company at large. Nothing will throw off customer experience quite like a radical internal departure from company values at the management or leadership level. It always trickles down to the customers, even if the internal challenge is completely unrelated to a support issue.

3. Create guidelines around language

Words always matter. Whether you’re messaging a customer or leading a team, the language, tone, and even punctuation you use have the power to communicate or counter your philosophy. Develop guidelines around language that empower your team members to embody your customer service philosophy.

You’ll want to give explicit examples of subtle changes that make all the difference. At Help Scout, for example, we encourage support teams to refers to “conversations” with customers rather than “tickets.” Conversations reflect the person-to-person nature of the interaction, shifting the perspectives of people on both sides.

If one of your customer service values is “friendliness,” for example, word choice can communicate that value or negate it, depending on the context.

  • Friendly response: I’m so sorry to hear that your order arrived late. What a pain! Let’s go ahead and refund you for the shipping costs right now. Would you like to keep the shoes you purchased or would you like me to take care of the return? I really want to make this right.
  • Less-friendly response: I’m sorry your order was late. We can refund you for shipping. Would you like me to send you a return label free of charge, too? You can send the shoes back if you want.

All it takes is one less-than-friendly experience to shake off that sense of emotional connection between your company and the service people love.

Elizabeth Wellington

Elizabeth Wellington

Liz writes about business, creativity and making meaningful work. Say hello on Twitter or through her website.