Core Values are the Key to Customer Service

by Shep Hyken

Photo by Malone & Company Photography

Photo by Malone & Company Photography

What are your company’s core values? If you can’t answer that, it’s worth taking some time to figure it out. One of my clients recently asked how core values should come into play when hiring and firing, and it got me thinking about the importance of the overall concept. Core values affect the customer service experience for external customers, as well as internal customers (employees). They can attract customers to do business with you and be a motivating factor for employees to enjoy their work and do it well.

If you are at the stage of determining your company’s core values, begin by thinking of words and phrases that you would use to describe yourself. What words would customers use to describe you? Hopefully they are the same, and you’re in alignment with the customer. These words and phrases can be the basis of the values that you want to be known by.

What does your company stand for? Do you want to be perceived as being helpful, honest, on the cutting edge, fun and driven? The list is endless, and as you can see, it is made up of simple words and concepts that project a certain image. Consider the few words I’ve mentioned, and you can probably name a company that has that quality as a core value. They have succeeded in building that value into the company culture, and it is understood — by customers and employees.

These “core values” are more than just aspirations or suggestions — everyone who works for the company must be committed to them. They are as important and permanent as your company vision or mission statement, and may be interconnected with those.

Someone who has a firm grasp on his company’s core values is Tony Hsieh, founder and leader of Zappos.com, the online shoe retailer. Zappos.com is one of my all-time favorite companies. It is known for its outstanding customer service and is an excellent example of how to run a customer-centric organization. In his bestselling book, “Delivering Happiness,” Hsieh describes the company’s core values and how they affect hiring decisions.
Employees are not selected based on their height or weight, race or religion, tattoos or piercings or the lack thereof. What’s important is the prospective employee’s personality, attitude and how he or she could fulfill Zappos.com’s core values, which include a passion for service, total transparency, a willingness to embrace and drive change, a positive team and family spirit, fun and a little weirdness. These are values that impact the customer service experience, and they are what Zappos.com is looking for in each employee.

So, if you don’t have clearly defined core values, now is the time to determine what they should be. What is important to your company and its mission? Don’t rush the process — take your time, and involve people from all parts of the company. If they help to define the core values, they are already on the road to “owning” them.

Perhaps you can already list your well-defined core values, but can your employees? If not, do something about it! Communicate your core values in a variety of ways, such as in the company newsletter or at a special event. In order to live them, the employees first need to learn them.

Copyright © MMXIV Shep Hyken – Used with permission.


shepShep Hyken is a customer experience expert and the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations. He is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author and has been inducted into the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement in the speaking profession. Shep works with companies and organizations who want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. For more articles on customer service and business go to Hyken.com.
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