There’s a lot of talk about creating “customer first” cultures in organizations, and it’s something many organizations attempt. Much less attention has been paid to the factors that determine the success and failure of these attempts.
We recently published an article about creating customer first cultures within organizations. In it, we introduced four elements which together are the driving and defining forces of a company’s corporate culture.
This diagram highlights these four elements:
Leigh McMullen and Patrick Meehan (this content is available to Gartner clients)
One key takeaway from that article is that deliberate changes to a corporation’s culture can be difficult to realize, for several reasons. Here are a few:
- The concept of a “culture” is itself amorphous and difficult to pin down. Since it can’t be entered in spreadsheets or plotted on graphs, corporate cultural change is difficult to measure or track.
- Top-down decrees to change corporate culture typically fail, unless they coincide with bottom-up changes to the tools, processes and workflows used by frontline agents and staff.
- Changing one of the above attributes isn’t enough; The four attributes listed in the above diagram are interdependent and true cultural change will involve each of them.
Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? It can be. Fortunately, we specialize in providing clear and actionable advice. And when it comes to improving the four attributes that make up corporate culture, we have some advice that’s easy to implement:
In this article we’ll focus on how you can impact two of the above attributes through the use of software. We’ll discuss:
How Your Company Engages With Customers
For many businesses, software is the doorway through which customers engage. It has a huge impact on the customer’s experience, whether that customer chooses to engage through a self-service page, a virtual agent or some other channel.
Savvy businesses have for years recognized the importance of channel selection in determining the quality, cost and outcomes of customer service interactions. Similar opinions appear frequently in reviews:
“[LiveAgent] is easy to use and allows us to reply to customer queries immediately, which improves the level of customer service we provide. It makes managing tickets very easy. Our customers like the live chat feature we offer and many of our orders get placed after the customer used the live chat.”—Claire Callaghan, CSI Products
Many businesses will wait until they upgrade their entire service platform before making changes to channel availability. However, this isn’t always necessary and often causes delays and subpar customer service.
Many service platforms—Zendesk and Freshdesk are two examples—can be modified with a variety of third-party add-ons. The add-ons are fully integrated under the hood, providing a seamless experience for customers and the staff who support them.
These integrations mean that new features can be added without causing downtime or impeding customer support. Popular add-ons are virtual assistants, knowledgebase management tools and apps that help collect customer feedback.
Additionally, there are standalone tools such as Zopim that add live chat to a website while integrating with a service platform behind the scenes. Reviewers speak highly of the immediate improvements, including better and more flexible means of engagement, brought with tools like these.
“Zopim has all the features we need for providing excellent live chat support to our website visitors. We use triggers to proactively engage with visitors, which will often lead to new chats and more sales.”—Andrew T. of Spectrum, Janitorial Supply
Remember that changes to the front end—the customer-facing components of customer service software—affects the back end as well.
Happier customers create happier service staff, and better service staff create happier customers. This is the kind of positive feedback loop that carefully chosen software can create.
How Your Company Gets Work Done
Corporate culture is, according to management consultant Marvin Bower, “The way we do things around here.”
This definition doesn’t point to one specific process or workflow; it refers to all of them collectively and includes the thoughts and emotions that this collective body of processes instills in employees.
Does your company rely on spreadsheets to organize information, for example, tracking progress as service tickets are opened, worked on and finally resolved? If so, consider the amount of time those employees spend keeping the spreadsheets updated and accurate.
Ask yourself, wouldn’t those same employees be more valuable to the company if software could automatically accomplish those busy work tasks, freeing the employees to spend more attention attending to customers?
Absolutely. One thing that’s sure to annoy any customer is an agent who seems distracted. This is a very common complaint for customers speaking with call center agents. In some cases, agents have scripts to read from, in others they have tedious software to deal with.
In both cases, the agents are prevented from demonstrating a real customer first culture, as they’re too focused on the script or UI of the software in front of them.
Efficiency and usability are topics that come up frequently in reviews of service software. Emily Seaton, of Lighthouse Catholic Media has this to say about Freshdesk:
Software can completely change the way your company gets work done. Sometimes this is helpful: an improvement over how work was done in the past. Sometimes, it can be a disaster.
If a company’s workflow processes don’t need to be changed, forcing them to change with a new software implementation can lead to chaos and confusion behind the scenes and angry, impatient customers out front.
Luckily, software vendors are starting to offer more products with highly customizable feature-sets, interfaces and workflows. As Aubrie Amstutz of UCSB wrote in a review of Zendesk,
Whatever you hope to accomplish with your customer service software investment—whether you’re making minor improvements or implementing a complete cultural revolution—there’s software that can help you along.
No Bad Software, Just Bad Software Selection Decisions
If there’s one piece of advice that we give more than any other, it’s this: When selecting software for your organization, make sure the software fits with how your organization works.
Don’t select software that will force everyone to change their workflows, unless changing those workflows is a priority in and of itself.
It’s important to keep this in mind when planning a new software investment. It’s especially important to keep it in mind when reading reviews of service software.
Remember that negative reviews of software can often be the result of a poor software selection decision. They’re not always an accurate reflection of the software’s capabilities or a reliable indication of how the software would work for your particular situation.
Corporate cultures can be difficult to change. Cultural patterns are reinforced daily, by each and every employee within an organization.
With strategic software implementations, corporate cultures can be modified slowly or quickly, with incremental improvements or with sweeping overhauls.
Figure out what cultural changes are needed in your organization and use that as the backdrop against which you evaluate and compare customer service software.