I would say most companies I come across have one or more core values focused on high levels of customer service. It’s one of those “must have” elements in how a company continues to exist. Yet we know that “high quality” customer service is subjective, both from the company’s perspective and the customer’s perspective. On the customer side, it’s driven predominantly by expectations. A customer’s expectations of the level of customer service he or she will receive differs based on the circumstances — Nordstrom vs. Value Village as an example.
In our business, our core values focus on being a partner to our customers and treating them the way we would want to be treated as a business. In setting this expectation, we need to be sure we can deliver on what we’ve promised. This seems obvious in connection with the legal services we provide. But what about the other interactions we have with a customer such as the engagement process and the invoicing and payment process. These processes need to also reflect the values and expectations we have put forth to our clients. If we have set an expectation that we will respond to all inquiries within a specific amount of time and then we fail to do so, our customer will be perplexed. Similarly, if we claim that we treat our clients the way we want to be treated and we behave in a condescending way when they are unable to pay an invoice, we are demonstrating an inconsistency in what we say and what we do.
These may be obvious areas where the customer interacts with the business and these processes can be built to be consistent and synergistic with the core values. However, I wondered about less obvious places in the business where we might not focus on always serving the client first. We looked at all the processes in the business to highlight what their interfaces are with our clients. Many of our processes do not have a direct interface with our clients – but they do affect our people. We know that our people interface with our clients all the time, so we need them to reflect our values in everything they do. I looked at our company’s core values and realized they are very outward, client focused. Our team discussed how our outwardly facing core values impacted our employees – Are they consistent? Do we live them? The answer was a resounding “yes” and so, we are working to shift the language in our core values to be more universal so that they don’t only apply to how we treat customers or what we think customers value but also link to how we live as a firm. I think this exercise will continue to drive a “wow” factor for our customers – and maybe more importantly, for our employees – as we work to provide a truly exceptional customer experience for our clients.