By Paul Spiegelman, an Overdrive contributor
In my role as chief culture officer, I can talk about our organizational philosophy until I’m blue in the face. And while my evangelizing probably has some positive impact, it’s nothing compared to the brand equity generated by our truck drivers.
Yes, you read that correctly: Our customers are in love with our drivers.
Why wouldn’t they be? They’re friendly people who are passionate about their work. Their pride in our company culture is contagious, and it defines every interaction they have with customers.
Too often, discussions about culture focus exclusively on what happens behind the scenes. But, as Tony Hsieh says, Your culture is your brand. Companies such as Zappos, Whole Foods Market, and Southwest Airlines are successful because they translate a unique corporate culture into a great experience for customers.
How to Channel Your Culture Into Customer Experience
Company culture is everything. It determines the way your company makes decisions, pursues growth, and interacts with the world.
Although office pingpong tables may seem like a hallmark of a strong culture, a fun working environment means nothing if your customers aren’t involved. Your customers only care about what they can experience for themselves.
Here’s how to apply your culture to the customer experience:
Define your culture. Start by asking yourself a fundamental question: Who are you? Dig deep, and get real. By articulating your mission and beliefs, you’ll create a cultural platform that will shape the customer experience.
Train your team. Once you’ve defined your culture, make sure every employee knows how to talk about it — especially employees in outward-facing positions such as sales. Your salespeople should understand the connection between customer service and making the sale and how to show customers how your culture impacts them.
Involve your customers. Use every point of interaction as an opportunity to demonstrate to your customers how important they are. This could mean celebrating customer birthdays, using their feedback to define the shopping experience, or simply making them feel at home whenever they interact with your company.
Build a brand around your culture. All of your marketing and PR efforts should reflect your core culture. Whether you’re publishing thought leadership articles or writing ad copy, make sure the distinct elements of your culture shine through.
The Benefits of Culture-Driven Customer Service
By crafting the best customer experience possible, your culture will become the competitive advantage that sets you apart from everyone else. The potential benefits of culture-driven customer service include:
•Increased customer satisfaction. Good customer service not only boosts brand loyalty and customer retention, but it also means that more people will share positive testimonials about your brand — turning your customers into brand advocates.
•More sales at a higher price. Companies that prioritize customer experience generate profits that are 60 percent higher than companies that don’t.
•Increased brand equity. The goal of any marketing or PR campaign is to get people to love your company. Achieving this goal through great service strengthens your brand and sets you apart.
An investment in culture can yield tremendous dividends for your company, but you have to translate those positive culture vibes into great customer service. When you do, you won’t have to broadcast how great your company is; your customers will do it for you.
Paul Spiegelman is the chief culture officer at Stericycle and founder and former CEO of BerylHealth. He also co-founded the Small Giants Community with Inc. editor-at-large Bo Burlingham. He is an entrepreneur in residence for Office Depot’s SmallBizClub.