Article

How to craft a customer service philosophy that resonates

To consistently provide great service, companies need an actionable customer service philosophy. Here’s how to create one that stands out.

By Emily Miels, Contributing Writer

Published May 26, 2021
Last updated June 7, 2021

Providing exceptional customer service is paramount to building brand loyalty—it’s not enough to just have a great product or service. According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report, roughly 50 percent of customers would switch to a competitor after just one bad experience. On the flip side, 75 percent are willing to spend more money on a brand that provides a positive experience.

Clearly, businesses can set themselves apart by delivering stellar customer service. Though it's not easy to provide a high-quality support experience every single day, it's easier when you have a strong customer service philosophy. Consistently great customer service starts with an actionable plan based on goals and values that your team believes in and lives out on a daily basis.

What is a customer service philosophy?

A customer service philosophy is a set of guiding principles that a company uses to solve support issues and build customer relationships. It’s a beacon that directs every customer interaction.

Tips for writing your customer service philosophy

Your customer service philosophy should encompass your customers’ needs and your company values, vision, and goals in a clear and actionable way.

“A good customer support philosophy or strategy aligns all of those things and reinforces the brand in everything that you do,” says Kathy Dalpes, former vice president of global customer support at Zendesk.

Understanding these principles can help you gain clarity on what’s important when creating your own customer service philosophy.

Tie it back to your company values

Connect your customer service philosophy back to your company values by providing guidelines and opportunities for your team to embody those values alongside your customers.

For example, Zendesk values being “humblident.” (Yes, that’s humble and confident smashed together.) We encourage our team to have upfront conversations with customers and admit when things could have been better.

“Sharing those conversations with our customers is really amazing,” says Dalpes. “You’re truly colleagues helping each other try to build the best businesses, the best customer experiences, and the best employee experiences. It all goes together.”

We also value making a difference in the places where we live and work. We integrated that core value into our customer service via Tech For Good. Through this program, we provide customer support to nonprofits, which allows them to have a greater impact within the communities they serve.

Keep your customers in focus

Create a customer service philosophy that describes how to meet customers where they are, and provide a great experience for everyone across platforms.

“The most successful companies with successful customer support philosophies are experimenting, balancing, and protecting the customer experience while they’re trying to create the best customer experience.”

What does that experience look like in 2021? According to our Customer Experience Trends Report, 69 percent of customers want to resolve as many issues as possible on their own using self-service options.

“Self-help is wonderful because most of the world today doesn’t want to wait in a queue to have to speak to somebody,” Dalpes says.

But many businesses aren’t meeting these expectations. Our report also found that less than a third of companies offer customer self-service channels, such as live chat, social messaging, help center, or peer-to-peer communities. This showcases a huge gap, giving organizations an opportunity to up their customer service game.

When it comes to incorporating integrations, chatbots, and other technologies into their customer philosophy, companies should be “keeping their ear to the ground,” says Dalpes. That means using research, surveys, and customer feedback to find the right balance between self-service options and other customer communication channels.

“The most successful companies with successful customer support philosophies are experimenting, balancing, and protecting the customer experience while they’re trying to create the best customer experience,” Dalpes explains.

Provide actionable steps

Without clear next steps, it’s difficult to follow through on your customer service philosophy. Include strong verbs so your team can act upon the principles daily.

Consider Apple’s highly actionable customer service philosophy, which incorporates a short, easy-to-remember acronym.

  • “Approach customers with a personalized, warm welcome.
  • Probe 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.”

When crafting your customer service philosophy, consider what actions your team members need to take every day to ensure each customer leaves satisfied. Write them down.

While exceptional customer service may not always boil down to a quippy acronym, strong verbs do make it easy for your team to understand exactly how to provide consistently great service experiences.

Get everyone involved in the writing process

Encourage team input on your customer service philosophy during 1:1 meetings, reviews, suggestion boxes, surveys, team discussions, and more.

Feedback from those on the “front lines” can spark new ideas the leadership team may not think of because they don’t have that first-hand experience. Plus, service team members will be more likely to embrace the company’s philosophy if they participate in the creation process.

Your support team will live out your customer service philosophy every day, so they should have the opportunity to provide input.

Embodying your customer service philosophy

Writing your customer service philosophy is only half the battle. Once it’s developed, you need to put the values into practice in every customer interaction.

  • Get your company on board

    Implementing your customer service philosophy isn’t going to happen overnight. You’ll need to train your team on the philosophy and get the entire company excited about your customer service values.

    Instead of sharing one specific document, consider an ongoing campaign of written communication, town hall meetings, lunch and learns, and one-on-one meetings.

    “It’s really just making sure that you’re clear and that your whole organization understands and believes in the philosophy as a cornerstone of creating those amazing customer experiences,” says Dalpes.

    While your customer service team is at the forefront, every department plays a role in creating a great customer experience—from the HR team hiring support professionals, to the engineers building products customers want to use, to your sales team having the initial interactions with potential customers.

  • Lead by example

    Employees across the company will likely look to company leaders—including managers and more senior employees—to model the customer service philosophy. You can’t expect them to buy into it if you’re not.

    Set the example by keeping customer service top of mind. Regularly embody your philosophy directly with your customers and your team. For example, if listening is a key part of your customer service philosophy, be an active listener in meetings and interactions. Beyond that, leaders can support company-wide customer service training initiatives and mentor employees as they work through difficult customer situations.

    According to Dalpes, it’s up to leadership to gain unified support by modeling the customer service philosophy and championing great customer service throughout the company.

  • Revisit and review it often

    Consistently refer to your customer service philosophy to guide decisions as your company grows. Make changes when needed to meet the demands of your customers or business.

    “Natural things can come about that change the ethos of the company and the ethos of their customer support philosophy,” explains Dalpes. These factors might include new leadership, changes in technology, or even a worldwide pandemic.

    When an event causes a shift, take a fresh look at your philosophy and how you’re approaching customer service to determine whether you should make updates.

3 customer service philosophy examples

When crafting your philosophy, you can learn a lot from these top companies that are known for great customer service.

  1. The Ritz-Carlton

    The Ritz-Carlton justifies its high prices and maintains its reputation as a top luxury hotel by providing phenomenal customer service.

    The prominent hotel chain operates under its Gold Standards, which include three core steps of service: a warm greeting, using the guest’s name, and providing a fond farewell. Each Ritz-Carlton also strives to meet “even the unexpressed wishes and needs” of its guests.

    The company continually fosters customer satisfaction and loyalty by going above and beyond and creating an emotional connection with patrons.

  2. Disney

    Disney is committed to creating “magical moments” through great customer service at its theme parks, stores, and beyond.

    The company’s employees operate on seven customer standards based on the iconic seven dwarfs. Team members are even taught to use specific language, like “cast members” for employees and “guests” for visitors. Disney also offers the Disney Institute to teach others about its well-known customer service philosophies and practices.

    Disney’s excellent customer service model has resulted in millions of happy customers and made it one of the most recognizable brands around the world.

  3. Trader Joe’s

    Many customers love Trader Joe’s—not just because of its products, but also because of its famed customer service. The grocery chain strives to put shoppers first and stands out in a crowded market.

    The company’s customer service philosophy is centered on “adventure, humor, and a warm sense of community.” Trader Joe’s embodies this philosophy by providing a unique product selection, amusing signage, and friendly staff members.

    This focus on great customer service has served Trader Joe’s well. It consistently ranks among the top supermarkets in the American Customer Satisfaction Index reports. Survey respondents raved about the staff’s courtesy and helpfulness and the fast and friendly checkout experience.

There’s no “right” philosophy on customer service

When it comes to developing a customer service philosophy, there’s no one-size-fits-all plan. Focus on understanding your customers and your business to create something truly unique.

“I’ve never entered any customer support organization with a playbook,” Dalpes says. “I’ve always gone in with an open mind to recognize what the company wants to achieve, who our customers are, and what our ethos is as an employer—and create a tailored experience that blows our customers’ minds.”