How to Fix a Broken Service Culture


Is the service culture in your company broken?

This is indicated by issues such as a high number of unresolved customer complaints, falling revenues, low staff morale and high staff turnover.

In that case, STOP following conventional wisdom!

To fix it you need to go against the grain.

That is the advice given in new research featured in the Harvard Business Review.

The report’s authors, Jochen Wirtz and Ron Kaufman are Singapore-based consultants and researchers.

In it they advocate four principles to quickly turn around failing organisations.


Fixing your service culture – Fast:


1. Don’t focus on customer-facing employees

Front-line staff are already well acquainted with how good service should be delivered. Where they are unable to do this, it’s often due to unsupportive systems and back office processes.

After all, customer service is everyone’s business, so make sure that retraining covers all departments.

All teams from accounts to logistics will need to see how their roles can contribute to improving the overall customer experience.


2. Don’t target training on specific skills or scripts

The norm amongst many companies is to require employees to stick to predefined scripts when dealing with customers.

These set procedures are then enforced with the use of call monitoring and mystery shoppers.

While these prescribed rules make it easy to measure employee performance, it discourages them from being able to empathise with customers.

This gets in the way of being able to truly understand and respond to their needs appropriately.

According to the study, the way forward should be encouraging staff to buy into a more comprehensive definition of service.

This involves creating value for all, both inside and outside the company. Action should only be taken once an employee can truly appreciate the concerns of the customer.


3. Don’t pilot changes

It is normal practice is to trial proposed changes. These are only rolled out more widely once they have been deemed as successful.

The truth is that people are creatures of habit and generally resist change. We like to cling on to old mindsets and ways of doing things.

Where transformation happens too slowly it allows unhelpful attitudes and processes to linger. This is a serious danger to innovation.

To effect genuine positive momentum, it’s necessary to “jump in with both feet”.

This will help to change the service culture far more quickly. It demonstrates to staff and customers alike that there is a genuine commitment to improvement.


4. Don’t measure traditional service scores

Usually measures such as net promoter scores, and sales figures are used to indicate how well an organisation is doing.

These provide a detailed historical snapshot of the business’ health over a given period.

However, due to their nature of being “lagging indicators”, they too easily hamper efforts to usher in quick changes.

A more helpful focus is to pay attention to “revolution indicators”. These are ideas which add value to the customer experience, and the specific actions needed to implement them.

Instead of asking customers how well your company has served them in the past, ask what you can do better in the future?

Find out what challenges they are facing now, and work on providing solutions.


So that is a quick overview of how swimming against the tide when it comes to your service culture can dramatically improve results.

In what ways have you broken the mould when it comes to delivering good service?

We’d love to hear your success stories in the comments section.

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