Skip to Main Content
this is omar Handles leads in the office

Going Full Circle: Why Great Customer Service Starts at Home

Article posted 12th Jul 2017Engagement News

So you want your company to offer the very best customer service? Some new thinking from the field of social psychology is suggesting something quite radical: Stop thinking about customers as customers, and start thinking of them as part of your team. 

It’s all to do with our “social brain”, that part of us that helps with forming and maintaining our social relationships. We use our social brain all the time, whether it’s interacting with our family and friends, driving to work, playing sport or teaching a class. It helps us navigate our social world, determine friend from foe, and avoid awkward situations. Crucially, it’s also that part of us that determines how we interact with colleagues at work.

Knowing how the social brain operates means we can apply a range of tools to help build better engagement at work (and stay tuned for more on these tools in future blogs!). But what's all this got to do with customer service? Well, it turns out, everything.

See, building good teams is all about breaking barriers. The tools, tips, and tricks we can use to do this are all designed to break the barrier between the self and the other; they enable us to psychologically connect with our team members; see things from their perspective, build trust, commitment and engagement. But, of course, these things happen to be precisely those qualities that define great customer service. What this means is that every time we’re helping our team engage better with one another, we’re also giving them the skills to engage better with their customers.

Try this thought experiment: Think for a moment of the customer not as something external to the company; someone to be captured or convinced. Think instead of them as a member of your team, someone you want to bring on board with your vision. Think of them as someone you want to inspire and build a relationship with. When you do this, all the tools and training we use to build better teams apply, and can apply to building better customer service. In short, if we can develop teams with the psychological skills to engage with one another, then we will also be sowing the seeds of better customer service. 

Traditionally, getting the team working together has been seen as something completely distinct from improving customer service. This research suggests that, in fact, the two are intrinsically linked. Better team engagement lays the psychological foundations of better customer service. Understanding these dynamics can help us create a truly holistic culture of engagement at work.

Posted by Professor Richard Crisp

Richard is an award-winning scientist, writer and educator in the field of social psychology. His research focuses on the power of social influence, and how we can harness this power to achieve lasting and effective behaviour change. Richard is also an elected Fellow of the British Psychological Society, Academy of Social Sciences, and Association for Psychological Science. Richard has blogged for the New York-based magazine Psychology Today and is currently Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Applied Social Psychology.