How to Create an Inspiring Customer Service Philosophy
If you're looking to improve your customer experience, start by creating a customer service philosophy for your support team. Having a shared philosophy keeps everyone focused on the same goal and helps them understand the holistic approach to achieving that goal.
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.
What is a customer service philosophy?
A customer service philosophy is a shared mission for your support team, a set of guiding principles that ensure you're upholding your core values with every customer interaction.
Generally, a customer service philosophy is composed of two parts: vision and values.
By defining the vision and values for your support team, you can create a customer service philosophy that everyone can adhere to at all times to ensure you're always delivering a great customer experience.
Customer service vision
The first section of a customer service philosophy is a vision statement, which Jeff Toister defines as "a statement that clearly defines the type of customer service employees are expected to provide."
Atlassian offers a great example of a clear vision statement that's hard to forget: "Don’t #@!% the customer."
Customer service values
Your vision statement is followed by your team values: Additional context that explains how employees should uphold your vision.
Those values can be conceptual, such as Atlassian's, offering an explanation for why adhering to the vision is important:
"Customers are our lifeblood. Without happy customers, we’re doomed. So considering the customer perspective — collectively, not just a handful — comes first."
Or they can be more tactical like Apple's guidance for support reps in their retail stores:
Approach customers with a personalized, warm welcome. Politely to understand all the customer's needs. Present a solution for the customer to take home today. Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns. End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return.
3 example customer service philosophies
Before diving into the details for how you can create a customer service philosophy for your team, we thought it might be helpful to see a few more examples from other organizations.
1. Creative Colors International
Vision: "Always exceed our customers' expectations"
Values: "Do whatever it takes to satisfy all customers and clients. Do it right the first time. Do it as often as the customer requires it. And, if we can’t deliver for some reason, help the customer to find someone who can meet and exceed our customers’ expectations."
2. Washington-Centerville Public Library
Vision: "To be worthy of your continued support, we make you our top priority by offering unparalleled service. Our goal is to assist you in any way we can in your pursuit of information and enrichment."
"Information Assistance: We are here to help. You can expect us to work hard to find the resources and materials you need."
"Accountable Staff: We know that we aren’t perfect. You can expect us to acknowledge our mistakes and to work with you to remedy the situation quickly."
"Continual Improvement: We want to do better. You can expect us to be open to your ideas and suggestions."
"Accommodating Approach: We understand you may have special requests. You can expect us to consider your circumstances and to be flexible when we can."
3. Utah Valley Convention Center
Vision: Deliver a GREAT experience.
"Greet the customer"
"Relate with a friendly question"
"Explore the options"
"Address and respond to their needs"
"Thank the customer and make them feel appreciated"
How to create 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 your relationship with customers.
These steps can help you tease out what’s important when developing your team’s philosophy.
Identify your support team's values
Just as organizations thrive when everyone aligns with clear company values, teams thrive when they’re working with shared team values.
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.
For example, the team at The FruitGuys calls their customer service philosophy "The 5Rs," which makes their values — respectful, responsive, realistic, responsible, and remembered positively — easier to remember.
As you complete this process, note if there are any team values that differ from your company values. Because customer support fulfills a specific, quantifiable role in every organization, they don’t have to be the same, but they ideally won't be directly opposed.
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Summarize your values in a vision statement
After you've finished narrowing down your team's values to five or fewer, try to summarize what those values represent to you as a team in a vision statement.
If you're struggling to write a vision statement, Jeff Toister recommends sending a survey to everyone on your team that asks one question: "What do you want our customers to think of when they think of the service we provide?"
Use the answers to create a word cloud to see which words are used most often. Those words might be great centerpoints for your value statement.
Define how your team will embody those values
Once you've created the framework, expand it by defining how your vision and values 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. Guiding principles have to be actionable, too.
Your philosophy should summarize the team’s ethos in relation to customers, as well as how support professionals and leaders will implement it every day.
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?
You'll also want to assess which metrics align with your customer service philosophy.
Often, companies prioritize metrics like speed without considering whether that aligns with their values. Although speed is measurable and important, leading with first response time 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.
Document and share your philosophy
When you're finished with the three tasks above, you'll ideally have a clear document to share beyond just the support team. 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. Customer support may be the primary team to implement the philosophy, but alignment means it has the potential to transform your entire revenue stream.
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.
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.
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.
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To succeed, uphold your philosophy every day
As powerful as a guiding philosophy can be, success depends on the ways you integrate the philosophy into your day-to-day interactions.
So one final step is to think about how you'll approach situations where an individual or a team decision isn't adhering to your team's values. How will teammates report their concerns? What actions will you take when receiving customer complaints? What coaching will you provide as a leader if someone on your team is struggling with your values?
If the end result is just feel-good — but toothless — statements, there's really no point in defining a philosophy for your team. But if you commit as a team to living out that philosophy, even when it gets hard, it will elevate your customer service into a competitive advantage.