With nearly two decades of experience in hospitality technology, Ken is an industry-wide recognized expert in running a global, high volume, multi-product and multilingual technical support environment.
Get your foundations right. How that much-maligned “mission statement” can help you and your team to achieve your customer service goals. It’s the message that counts!
A big mistake customer services departments often make is not aligning their employees with the company’s vision. When an employee is on the front line grinding away day after day, it is important that they are reminded of why they are doing it in the first place.
A good, solid customer service mission statement is often overlooked as “just another administrative task”. However, it is the hammer that shapes steel into swords. If customer services staff understand their mission, they will have a purpose – and everyone needs a purpose. Let that purpose be to make customers happy.
Good customer services managers go about creating powerful mission statements by learning from esteemed academics in the industry, applying their own experience, and then adding their own unique insight that is company-specific.
Step 1: Academic Know-How
Use what you have learned from books, articles, podcasts, and any other form of reliable media. Otherwise, go with what trusted people such as the Professor of Strategy and Governance at McMaster University, Canada, Chris Bratt, says; “A great mission statement should have 3 parts”:
- Key market: the target audience
- Contribution: the product or service
- Distinction: what makes the product unique or why the audience should buy it over another
“If you steal from one book you are condemned as a plagiarist, but if you steal from ten books you are considered a scholar, and if you steal from thirty or forty books, a distinguished scholar.”
― Amos Oz, A Tale of Love and Darkness
Step 2: Customer Services Knowledge
It can be really difficult to fully comprehend what you already know, so here is a simple way to go about it. If you know it will work, put it in the mission statement. If you know it won’t work, don’t put it in the mission statement. At the same time, once a decision has been made and finalized stick with it, believe in it, and live it. Finally, an important point, and often the most important point, is to keep track of the progress of the mission statement once it has been implemented.
The main criteria when consciously applying your knowledge to creating a customer services mission are:
- Trust in what works and discard what does not
- Consistency is key
- Track progress
“No thief, however skilful, can rob one of knowledge, and that is why knowledge is the best and safest treasure to acquire.”
― L. Frank Baum, The Lost Princess of Oz.
Step 3: Company Specific Insight
Brainstorming is imperative when it comes to customer services mission statement creation. Gather your team together, if the team is too big then just the most senior staff members, and give a quick description of what a mission statement is. This will get everyone in the right frame of mind.
Next put forward the 3 main questions a mission statement should answer:
- What is the purpose of this department and why do we exist?
- What is important to us as a department?
- What is our culture and what are our values?
Create 3 columns. Then, let the team fire off ideas, all ideas are typed up or written on a whiteboard. Limit the time period to say 10 minutes. E.g.,
|Purpose||Culture||Important to Us|
|To make customers happy||Positivity||98% Customer Satisfaction rating|
|To provide assistance to our Customers||Confidence and Strength||30-second average hold time (if call centre based)|
|To convert dissatisfied customers into happy customers||Happy go Lucky||Pineapples*|
* It’s important to note that there is such a thing as an irrelevant idea. If someone is asked what’s important to the department and they have a personal agenda, it is perfectly acceptable to say “ah okay great” and then move on. They avoid embarrassment and you don’t end up having a mission statement with “pineapples” as the priority for a company that sells bananas..
Great! Now you have the basis for the customer services mission statement. Hold a simple vote and slowly eliminate each word/idea until there is only one left in each column. At this stage you can let the troops return to the frontlines. It is important to remember at this stage that mission statements are focused on company benefits. It explains why the company exists, so in this case, why the customer services department exists. What positive contribution can the department make to customers? It is a good idea to define the mission statement in broad terms in order to ensure that no limitations are placed on the potential for growth.
Here are some inspiring company mission statements to get the juices flowing:
- American Express: We work hard every day to make American Express the world’s most respected service brand.
- Google: To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
- Tesla: To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
Now it is time to sit down and focus. Start by taking the written information you have accumulated in step 3, then apply the 5 Ws and one H (Who, What Where, When, Why and How) combined with your insights from steps 1 and 2 to really articulate what the department stands for and what makes it unique.
Now it is just a case of writing, rewriting, and condensing the statement as much as possible. Once you are moderately happy with it (it does not need to be perfect) send it around to your team, to colleagues and peers whose opinion you value and ask them for input and feedback.
Don’t be afraid to even send it to a customer or two! Keep refining until you have a customer services mission statement that truly defines what your department stands for, excites the customer, and motivates staff every day to be the best customer support champions they can be.