What’s Most Important: Culture v. Customer Service…the Zappos Debate

At this week’s BoxWorks 2011 conference, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh stated that if an organization gets its culture right, that everything else – including great customer service will follow. Unfortunately, the conclusion that some in the media world have made is that culture is more important than customer service.

That conclusion is faulty, not because it’s untrue but because it’s comparing apples and oranges. Culture drives business performance. It drives the level of customer service, the quality of the product. It’s not more important than customer service or product quality; it’s a driver of them.

To the customer, product quality and customer service are more important than corporate culture. They couldn’t care less about the culture; they care about how they’re treated and the pricing and quality of the product. Now if the culture drives the product and customer service performance, that’s fine. But the customer couldn’t care less if it does. They’re concerned with what they receive, not what the company did to provide that product in a customer-friendly manner.

Think of this from the flip side. If your company is late in delivering a product, the customer cares that it was late to get to them. They don’t much care what happened internally in your organization to cause it to be late. The customer cares about the outcome.

So let’s avoid the debate of culture v. customer service. That’s irrelevant.

Now if you want to debate what’s most important to the customer – customer service v. product quality – now that’s pretty interesting. If you want to talk about what businesses truly prioritize customer service v. quality v. operational excellence (i.e., Wal-Mart), and then truly create a culture to become GREAT at their priority, then that’s a fun discussion as well.

But don’t argue about culture v. customer service. Argue for the need for both to be great.

Read our New Book – “Ask Yourself…Am I GREAT at Customer Service?” http://www.amigreatat.com/

Interested in improving your company’s customer service? See more at our new website! http://www.cssamerica.com/

Listen to our latest podcast episode of “Stepping Up Service” on The MESH Network at http://themesh.tv/stepping-up-service/

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