6 Ways to Establish a Winning Customer Service Culture – Tal Shnall

A service culture is a true competitive asset. Not necessarily in the accounting definition, but a form of human potential. A toxic culture and negative customer experience can be a liability for any business. Leaders must be intentional about establishing a service culture. Often times when I speak with new clients, I encounter several slogans and good intentions to turn a company culture around.

If you want an enduring service culture, you must walk the talk.  Culture has become a buzzword in many organizations, but it must be reflected in people’s words, behavior, decisions, the customer experience and the mission of the company.

I was introduced to the idea of service culture many years ago. As I began to work at the top brand’s hotel companies, I learned and trained on the importance of service culture. It was not a checklist of some sort, it was a very systematic and actionable way to engage the hearts and minds of our employees. The result was a competitive advantage. No one could duplicate our people and the culture. Our customer loyalty went through the roof! We continuously worked on improving our culture and improving the customer experience.

In this post, I would like to share with you some of the lessons in creating a winning customer service culture. These are not tactics or quick fixes, but long-term strategies for sustaining excellence. There are many ways to shape a culture and bring it to life as many of you can share. Feel free to share your own ideas in the comments below.

#1. Create A Clear Definition Of Your Service Culture

Many people who work in the service industry, look for other companies’ service cultures. I think these companies serve as great examples, but your company needs its own definition and identity. It must be authentic and relevant to your business. It must be unique for your own purpose and core values that can inspire people in your company. Without creating a clear definition of a service culture, your people would have a hard time understanding their own actions and the goals of the company.

#2. Leaders Must Be The Cultural Ambassadors

Service culture - leader
Photo by Paul Bence

Service culture is not a slogan. It must be live it and executed. Every leader must serve as a role model for behavior that’s consistent with the culture. Otherwise, people will not be engaged. People do what people see. If you are a leader in your organization, you must model the way and show the way to service excellence. You may wonder, what is this all means? Leadership must set the tone and create a clear mission of customer service. Everyone needs to align with a clear, compelling mission of customer excellence.

#3. Develop Standards and Behaviors That Align With The Culture

Your team must be clear on the service standards and behaviors that’s going to shape the customer experience. Many customer service companies articulate standards and behaviors that stay on their walls. When it comes to establishing service standards and behaviors, we need be very systematic with full accountability to deliver excellence. You want to think about ways you can execute and measure these standards. Some companies use mystery shops and other means to evaluate how their employees perform.

#4. Employee Orientation and Training Programs

Service culture - training Some companies do a really good job on-boarding new employees to the company’s vision, core values, and culture. New employee orientation programs are critical to help people understand the company culture. New employees need to know the company’s history and cultural values. These efforts must continue through employee training and development. Without on-going skills development and training, the culture cannot live up to its commitment to excellence.

#5. Accountability

How will you measure the effectiveness of your success? If you don’t measure something, you cannot improve it. Accountability helps your stay on track of the systems, process and coaching opportunities to maintain consistency of service excellence. Without transparency and accountability, companies are leaving the culture piece up to chance.

#6. Rewards and Appreciation

Building a Service Culture - RewardsPeople want to know that they make a positive difference. As a leader, you also want to reinforce good behaviors. Accountability is about coaching and learning, while appreciation and recognition is about celebrating the wins. Great leaders take the time to create meaning and purpose in the workplace. Specific appreciation and recognition can go along way to sustaining a culture of excellence.


Tal is a Customer Service Trainer and Speaker, with more than 20 years’ of hotel guest operations. He has facilitated training programs for several hotel brands such as Marriott, Hilton, Starwood and Intercontinental Hotel Group. He adds value through Customer Excellence Training, Leadership Development, Corporate Training, and Executive Coaching. Connect with him on Linkedin

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Kelechi Okeke

Kelechi Okeke is a Customer Experience Analyst in a leading financial institution in sub-Saharan African. He helps businesses develop strategies that improve customer loyalty and enhance profitability. He is also a customer service trainer, content developer and graphic designer