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The Culture and Customer Service Connection

By Al Curnow, Senior Consultant

We all know that your culture has an enormous impact on employees and your ability to recruit and retain the best workers. But does it also impact your customers?

It\’s hard to copy culture­­

Consider the fact that we now live in a commoditized world.  It\’s difficult to create differentiation when almost any product or service can easily be copied.  Yet the one thing that can\’t easily be copied is how your people perform – how they interact with customers, with each other, and even with vendors and suppliers.  And that\’s mostly driven by your culture.  After all, your culture is really just a collection of the way things are done at your organization. This is an important element to consider when trying to provide memorable customer experiences.

Just a few weeks ago I had an experience that made this point crystal clear to me. While preparing for a client meeting, I decided to do some undercover investigative work. The client was Zips Car Wash out of Little Rock, Arkansas. Zips is known for their 3-minute express car wash. I\’ve been to a lot of car washes. Frankly, I had a hard time imagining how an experience at Zips could be any different from that of the hundreds of other car washes I\’ve visited, so I decided to see for myself.

A different experience

It struck me right away. This was different. For one, the property was spotless. There wasn\’t a scrap of paper or piece of trash to be found.  More importantly, upon pulling in to the wash, I was greeted by a friendly Zips team member.  The team member seemed genuinely happy to be there (and happy to see me).  He promptly waved to me, efficiently  guided me into the automated wash, gave me the thumbs up and sent me on my way.  My entire interaction with him only took a total of 15 seconds or so, but what an impact it had. Something as simple as a warm professional greeting made all the difference in my experience.

So, what does this have to do with culture? Everything. As it turns out, my experience was not random. Rather, it was deliberate.  As with all of our clients, the leadership team at Zips made a conscious decision to become intentional about their culture, rather than leaving it to chance.  They wanted to ensure that there was a consistent way things are done at each and every one of their car wash locations. This was no small task given their dozens of locations around the country. They knew that the manner in which their people came in and did their jobs and treated their customers would drive the customer experience for better or worse. They opted for better.  They opted for exceptional.

Making it happen

How did they do this?  We started first by helping the leadership at Zips to define what they wanted their culture to be, what they wanted their people to do and how they wanted them to do it.  We facilitated a session to create a set of Fundamentals. Fundamentals are behaviors, that when practiced regularly, would set them apart from the competition.   Then we helped them create ritualsto keep employees focused on practicing these Fundamentals day after day. The result of all this? There\’s greater consistency in the communication, execution and practice of these important behaviors across every single one of their car washes. Further, the management team has great tools at their disposal to coach and teach their team members on their Fundamentals.

The leadership at Zips recognized that by being intentional in defining, practicing and reinforcing the behaviors most fundamental to their success, they could consistently create a better customer experience that brought customers back. They realized that if you want to set yourself apart, you have to start with your culture.

If you\’d like to learn more about how to design and drive a culture that creates great customer experiences , just give us a call or shoot us an email, or consider joining us and other leaders for Culture Summit 2017.