How to Build a Customer Service Culture that Empowers Your Employees

Creating a Motivating and Empowering Service Culture

Latest research by Media Partners asked HR, learning, and other talent professionals what would best support their organizations’ ability to provide successful customer service training. 

The top answer, cited by nearly two-thirds of those surveyed: “Ideas for creating a service culture that motivates and empowers employees.” Their request highlights the importance of a positive customer service culture that helps drive better training outcomes, but benefits employees and the organization, too. 

What is a Customer Service Culture?

Sometimes referred to as a service culture or a customer-centric culture, a customer service culture unites all organizational employees (regardless of their job roles or functions) around a shared commitment to keeping customers top-of-mind at all times – putting their needs first and turning their interactions with a company into outstanding experiences. 

 Although a service culture places the focus on customers, a Harvard Business Review article  points out benefits for employees and organizations also: “When organizations develop positive, virtuous cultures they achieve significantly higher levels of organizational effectiveness — including financial performance, customer satisfaction, productivity, and employee engagement.”  

In addition, such a unified culture also benefits employees by increasing “positive emotions and well-being,” improving relationships with colleagues, heightening creativity, attracting talent, and helping workers emphasize “their best strengths.” 

A recent Forbes article concurs, affirming that “A strong customer care culture is essential to winning customer loyalty in highly competitive markets,” making it a must for success in today’s volatile business environment. 

4% - 8%

Revenue growth potential for companties that prioritize improved customer service


25% - 95%

Potential increases in profits based on a 5% increase in customer retention rates


Source: Bain & Company

The Elements of a Customer Service Culture

Many factors must come together effectively to create and grow an organizational culture centered on customer service. There will be variation in what those elements are, based on industry, company size, products and services, business strategies, and other important considerations. 

But there is commonality, too. Some of the elements most-often cited as strong contributors to effective customer service cultures include:

  • An agreed-upon definition of what customer service means. A clear understanding of the organization’s own definition – along with consistent and ongoing communication about it – ensures that everyone is on the same page. This critical piece forms the core on which a customer service culture is built. 
  • Purposeful hiring. Companies find it much easier to establish and expand a customer-centric culture when talent acquisition goes beyond screening for experience and skills to ensure that hiring focuses on candidates whose values fit those that characterize the organization’s desired service culture.
  • Curated success stories. Companies with strong customer service cultures gather stories of their successes in providing outstanding customer experiences. Told often and proudly, these stories become powerful illustrations that reinforce and perpetuate a customer service culture. Stories also enable customer service teams to assimilate new hires more rapidly and provide real-world examples for honing and applying service skills.
  • Accountability. Effective customer service cultures emphasize ownership of outcomes by everyone. “There’s an understanding within great company cultures that every employee will pitch in wherever needed, regardless of an employee’s particular job description and level in the organization,” says author and customer service turnaround expert Micah Solomon. Such practices might find senior leaders helping on customer service calls or employees from multiple departments packing last-minute orders for shipment.  

The Elements that Motivate and Empower Employees 

Other elements of customer service cultures are particularly important in providing the kind of support that motivates and empowers employees:

  • Training isn’t a destination, it’s a journey. Companies with solid service cultures teach their employees what customer service means and how to provide it. That training is a continuous process that enables customer service teams to add and refine new skills and knowledge on an ongoing basis. Effective training enables team members to develop the knowledge foundation required to act with initiative when unique circumstances demand creative answers to resolve customer issues.
  • Managers deliver strong support. Customer service representatives often need reliable back-up in order to excel in their jobs. Managers must advocate for their teams and create a safe work environment in which employees can try new strategies and make (and learn from) mistakes without fear.
  • Employees have the leeway to deliver exceptional service. In top companies, customer service team members have the freedom they need to think outside the box and the autonomy to take actions necessary to solve problems and create truly outstanding customer experiences.
  • Rewards and recognition reinforce success. Incentives are widely used to help motivate customer service teams. Recognizing and rewarding excellent performance and delivery of outstanding service to customers helps strengthen employees’ dedication to, and engagement in, their work.

The elements of customer service cultures may extend far beyond those presented here, and must appropriately support companies’ diverse objectives and circumstances. However, experts agree that comprehensive and continuous training is a fundamental driver of success.  

For more insights into exceptional customer service and training programs designed to help companies across all industries craft powerful service teams and cultures, see Fill the Glass and our other offerings below!