Company culture plays a big role in customer retention.

I don’t know any business that doesn’t say it values its customers. But to consistently deliver a positive experience to customers, a business needs a strong culture behind it. While businesses may not set out to treat their customers badly, a poor company culture has a habit of shining through.

Great customer service stems from a positive company culture.

What is company culture?

There isn’t an exact definition for company culture and it encompasses many aspects of a business. Mostly, culture is about the core identity and values of a business, as well as the feelings and behaviors of everyone in the organization. It’s essentially the social order of the organization. Company culture definitely isn’t surface-level perks. While perks are a nice add-on, they don’t make culture per se.

The culture of a business reflects how people communicate and interact. Culture is about management getting to know staff and helping them to succeed. It’s the whole ecosystem of a business, and just as in nature, it needs metaphorical nurturing, feeding, and watering to survive.

How does culture affect customer experience?

Company culture differentiates successful businesses from unsuccessful ones. Companies pouring money into customer service initiatives without paying attention to the business culture behind the scenes, are wasting money.

Improving customer touch points without recognizing the value of company culture doesn’t lead to lasting and meaningful improvement in customer care. Here’s why.

Disgruntled staff

No matter how much training you give your employees, if you pay them badly and don’t treat them respectfully, they won’t be transmitting the best vibe to your customers. Feelings have a way of showing themselves. Unhappy employees who feel disgruntled won’t take pride in their work.

Staff turnover

Businesses with poor company culture suffer higher staff turnover. It’s a fact. We’ve all heard that people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. If people are quitting because of bad management, then you have a problem with culture.

Staff turnover has a huge impact on customers. Training new staff takes time, so more mistakes in customer service are likely. Customers also like familiarity. If every time they call, visit, buy from you, or use your services they deal with a new face, it doesn’t send a great message.

Additionally, high staff turnover affects the morale of those employees who (for now) are staying put. A poor reputation won’t help recruit the best talent either.

Loyalty

Customers love reading about bad customer service stories, but don’t like being on the receiving end of them. Word soon gets around if you operate with a poor culture. Employees working in an organization with poor culture won’t hesitate to bad mouth the business to friends and family. In a positive culture the opposite is true. If employees feel aligned with the values of a business, they will happily espouse these attributes to everyone they know.

Equally, customers have a sense of whether a business has a good culture or not as soon as they walk through the door. A scowling receptionist, for example, doesn’t set your business off on the right foot. If service is mediocre as a result of poor culture, it’s unlikely you’ll build brand loyalty with customers.

The “Cauliflower Story”

Rob May, MD at Ramsac, came up with “The Cauliflower Story” to explain the concept of how culture permeates a business. The story goes along the lines of how customers get a different response from sales staff depending on the supermarket they visit.

Ask where to find cauliflowers in Restaurant A and ”… you’re surrounded by staff and they pick you up and they carry you to the fruit and veg section, and someone will notice the bottle of wine that you’ve selected and they’ll show you their array of various cauliflowers and they’ll say, “actually that one would go really well with that bottle of wine” help you with your selection, check to see whether you need anything else, carry you to the till, maybe feeding you grapes on the way, and send you off and say “have a lovely day”.

In Restaurant B, “…the member of staff might take you to the end of the aisle that you’re on and point out that the fruit and veg were second on the right and that’s where you’ll find the cauliflower.”

In a budget supermarket, the same inquiry may result in a grunt, a shrugging of shoulders, and the store assistant walking away.

“The point of it, is actually as the customer you’ve asked the same question in every single store, but the response that you get and the customer service that you get is as a result of the culture of that organization.”

Organizational culture cuts through every aspect of business. Consistently great customer experience can only be sustained from great culture.

Written by: Mike James, BOSS Contributor