Customer service is not found on a T-shirt or a bumper sticker or in a mission statement. A true service culture, what three researchers from Valtera Corporation (a professional services firm located in Chicago that provides scientific expertise to global organizations) call “corporate service intelligence,” is built directly into the organization. In their working paper, “Corporate Service Intelligence: What it is, Why it is Important, How to Measure it, and How to Make it Happen,” Benjamin Schneider, Scott A. Young and William H. Macey use over 25 years of research documenting both the impressions of customers and customer service representatives to identify the elements involved in CSI.
Additionally, the authors were able to link the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) ratings of companies to data provided from internal surveys of employees. In fact, they show that there is a significant correlation between the level that service employees feel they are able to provide customers and the perceived value the customers feel they received. In other words, the authors say, if you want to know how good your CSI is and how satisfied your customers will be you can ask your employees.
This employee element is vital to CSI, as survey data has shown that there are four major management practices that employees feel are necessary as a foundation to a service culture: (1) supportive supervision — the degree to which the immediate manager or supervisor is available for employees, (2) adequate resources — the degree to which employees report that they have the equipment/technology needed to do their work, (3) empowerment — the degree to which employees are consulted about changes that will affect them and are kept informed, and (4) internal service from others on whom they depend to in turn deliver excellent service. When these conditions exist, claim the authors, a true service culture can be created that focuses everyone’s efforts and competencies on meeting customer requirements. This happens when managers set goals for and reward service excellence.
There are obvious practical benefits that come from a high CSI. First, when front-line employees are surrounded by a focus on service quality they observe a company-wide service culture. This makes it clear that superior service is expected, and mediocre service will not go unnoticed. Second, when an employee or unit is surrounded by the service-quality message many excuses to only justify mediocre service are removed.