[Guest Post] Process or Culture: Which Matters Most in Improving Customer Service?

Guest Post by Lynn Daniel, president of The Daniel Group

Many times as we work with clients they tend to focus more on improving processes as a way to better customer service than addressing the cultural/employee issues that also play a role in delivering a positively memorable customer service experience.  There are many reasons for this.  Often, the process or processes that are not working as desired need fixing and hinder the ability of employees to deliver great service.  Culture change is a huge undertaking that most managers would often rather avoid but you can’t!  Let me share a story to illustrate why this is true.

We work with many clients throughout North America.  They sell and service a range of things from power generation equipment to forklifts to construction equipment.  Among our clients, when things need to be improved often their first thought is to create a process improvement team (usually with the aid of a Six Sigma leader).  Now, don’t misinterpret what I am saying.  Process improvement has its place but it can only go so far.  To illustrate my point, one client that is always a top performer is about the least process-oriented organization with which I have ever worked.  However, their culture, which has been “built” over many years, has a customer focus wired into it.  If there is a customer issue, they know what to do.  While their solutions may not be elegant from the perspective of some and one may wince at the informality with which certain problems are solved, it works!  The client is quite profitable and continues to deliver great customer service.

Once again, do not misunderstand me.  I am not arguing against improving process.  I am arguing for a balance between improving processes and changing culture.  In fact, the client described in the above example is beginning an effort to improve processes, which they recognize as a need.

Having the best processes in the world will only get you so far.  It is critical that the people who carry out the processes really want to do so.  They must have the desire to serve the customer in the most effective way possible.  This only happens when employees are engaged in their work and the culture recognizes this engagement.

When culture and process combine your customers benefit.


Lynn Daniel is president of The Daniel Group, a Charlotte, NC (USA) based consulting firm that helps business-to-business companies measure, manage, and improve customer service.  

is Specialist in Customer Success and chief writer and editor of I Want It Now, a blog for Customer Service Experts. Follow her @StefWalkMe