Start with why: especially in customer service (seriously!)
"Start with why". I believe, by now, most people have heard this phrase. Back in 2009, Simon Sinek gave a TEDx talk, which has been seen by over 7 million people. I want to show you why this framework — the Golden Circle — is more important than ever, especially in customer service.
If you are not familiar with Simon Sinek's framework, have a look here:
The idea is straightforward. In short: companies like Apple or Southwest Airlines did not become market leaders because they sell superior products (what). They sell an idea, a dream — a why.
Apple does not have the best performing computers on the market. You can get better specs for less. Apple sells the idea. Think different. Be bold. Be a rebel.
Similarly, Dr Martin Luther King did not say "I have a plan". He said, "I have a dream", as Sinek points out:
If you want to dive deeper into this topic, have a look at Simon Sinek's book "Start with Why"*, it gives you great background on the method itself and how it has been used by different thought leaders.
In customer service, we often forget about this dream. What's the purpose of our work? Why do we exist? To answer customers' questions? To deal with complaints? To handle the good, the bad, and the ugly? I bet that's what most managers would tell you.
If you think about the Golden Circle, you will see very quickly, that this is "what" customer service does. It's not "how", and it is very very far away from "why".
To highlight this problem even better, the same pattern transcends to job descriptions. Just look for customer service jobs on a random job board. The job itself will be described similarly to this:
- Responding to all customer inquiries.
- Communicating with customers through various channels.
- Resolving customer complaints.
- Knowing our products inside and out.
- Processing orders and requests.
- Keeping records of customer interactions, transactions, comments and complaints.
Great. That sounds really inspiring, doesn't it?
The thing is: if your company has a "what"-attitude towards the customer service team ("they will sort out complaints for us and deal with all problems"), it will never be a market leader. Customer service is not the "complaints department", it is where lead is turned into gold — if you start with why.
Let's circle back to the two companies I mentioned before: Apple and Southwest Airlines. Their "why" transcends throughout the whole company and doesn't stop when it comes to customer service. In fact, it literally explodes there.
If you have ever been to an Apple Store, you know that their frontline staff are more than just sales reps on the floor. They are more than just robots who try to sell you the most expensive laptop. They are the face of the company and represent its values to every single customer.
Defining the "why" of your customer service
Congratulations. By reading this post, you have already taken the first step out of the "what"-trap. Now it is time to use all of this inspiration to start working on your why.
You have a bigger team and want to include them in this process? Great! Simon Sinek actually wrote a second book. "Find your why"*. It's a great resource that helps you drill down on your team's purpose in a workshop format. It's more like a step-by-step guide and not a classic book you read for entertainment.
However, if you are not in the comfortable position to have an established team (yet), the book will be a bit tricky. It builds on the fact that there are different actors within the workshop, so I will run you through a condensed version here and show you how you can write your "why"-statement.
What is a "why"-statement
Simon Sinek loves his "why"-statements - for a good reason. They are short statements that narrow down the purpose of your company - or your team. The statement should answer the following questions:
- WHY does your company/team exist?
- WHY did you get out of bed this morning?
- WHY should anyone care?
Pretty simple, right?
The statement should inspire you and your team. It should be the vision you work towards, the north star that guides you if you will.
A few guidelines you should follow:
- Keep it short and simple -- one sentence is enough.
- It should be actionable -- nobody likes vague statements.
- Include how you will contribute to others.
- Use affirmative language that you resonate with.
How does a "why"-statement look like
As soon as you research the Golden Circle a bit, you will see that Simon Sinek always uses the same format:
To _____, so that _____.
It's a simple yet effective framework that gives you a bit of a guideline on where to go. The first part ("To _____") is the "contribution" -- what do you give to other people through your why. The second half ("so that _____") is the impact -- what will your contribution change in people's lives.
Examples of "why"-statements
- Simon Sinek: "To inspire people to do the things that inspire them so that, together, we can change our world."
- Spotify: "To inspire human creativity by enabling a million artists to live off their art and a billion people to enjoy it and to be inspired by it."
- Airbnb: "To connect millions of people in real life all over the world, through a community marketplace, so that you can belong anywhere."
- Asana: "To help humanity thrive by enabling all teams to work together, effortlessly."
- Generation Reply (hey, that's me 👋): "To empower and educate customer service professionals, so that helping becomes human again."
Let's get started!
Now that we have been through the theory behind "why"-statements, it is time to grab a pen and paper. Think about the following question as inspiration and fill in the "To _____, so that _____"-structure as you go. The first one you write will probably not be perfect. Don't let that discourage you. Keep the goal in mind: create a purpose for your customer service!
- Why do you want to improve your customer service?
- How would the ideal customer service experience look for you?
- What feelings should your customers have after they interacted with your team?
- Currently, what is your customers' most significant problem when interacting with your customer service?
- How do you want your customer service to change your customers' lives?
Got any questions or need help along the way? Feel free to drop a message in the comments below or send an email to email@example.com - I am happy to help!
*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.