Scholar, Start Your Business—Three Steps to a Customer Service Vision

Scholar, Start Your Business—Three Steps to a Customer Service Vision

Do you have a business, or are you in the process of starting one during this COVID crisis?

Whether you’ve got no employees or a hundred, consider a customer service vision.  A solid customer service vision can take your start-up to limitless growth.  Ah, now that sounds worthy of a business.  You don’t need hundreds of dollars either.  A shoestring budget can get you an ooh-la-la customer service vision.

Customer service expert Jeff Toister (2017) says, “Many companies over-engineer the process of creating their customer service vision.  Expensive consultants are hired to spend months conducting research and writing drafts before presenting their recommendations to senior leaders at an executive retreat.  The final product is inevitably so convoluted or out of touch with reality that it fails to resonate with employees” (24%).

I’ve worked at a firm that had no clear customer service plan.  If it had one, my guess is its stock would’ve skyrocketed.  And I’ve seen a company that had outstanding customer service but bad product.  And it still got five-star reviews.  It did so with free samples and exaggeratedly fuzzy warm staff.

There’s no smile too broad for good customer service.  That’s my customer service motto.  But I just came up with that out of the blue.  You’ll want an in-depth process for creating your customer service vision.

Here’s a snippet of that process, as outlined by Jeff Toister in his book The Service Culture Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Employees Obsessed with Customer Service:

He says, “There are three steps to creating a customer service vision.  The first is gathering input from all stakeholders.  The second is writing the vision itself.  The third step is validating the vision statement with key stakeholders” (2017, 24%).

Ready to explore these steps?

Step 1: Ask employees about their vision.

Step one, according to Jeff Toister (2017), involves gathering input—from a cross-range of employees: “Creating a customer service vision shouldn’t be an autocratic process driven by a few executives.  You want the vision to feel right to employees if it’s going to guide their behavior.  Therefore, you need to include them in the process.  Here are examples of employee groups you might want to include: ​frontline employees, ​middle management, ​senior executives” (24%).

I went into a small shop today, and the manager and staff shone.  They were down to earth and decent, often breaking into wild laughter.  Compare that with the formal settings of most downtown offices.  The customer service culture will vary.  You want to capture what it means for you, your company, and your staff.

So, how does Jeff Toister (2017) gather input from employees when crafting a customer service vision?  He says, “I usually gather stakeholder input with an online survey.  It’s a fast, easy, and inexpensive way to gather data from a large group of people.  I use Survey Monkey (, but there are many other survey programs available” (25%).

You can even use Google docs to make a free, live survey.  Just send a link to your employees.  But what if you’ve got no employees yet?  Maybe then it’s okay to ask your stakeholders for their input.  Or, you might draft a customer service vision statement on your own.  You can always revise it once you get staff.

So, if you’ve got input from your employees, then what?  To analyze his data, Jeff Toister (2017) uses “a text analytics program to create a word cloud, which is a visual depiction of the written comments.  The most commonly used words are large and bold, while infrequently used words are less prominent” (25%).

Just type what your employees say in the word cloud software.  Then, take three of the biggest, boldest words in your word cloud.  Weave them into your customer service vision statement.

Step 2: Gather ten people to draft the vision.

Jeff Toister (2017) says the second step is to convene to write the vision: “The next step in creating a customer service vision is to convene a meeting to draft the statement.  You’ll accomplish two things in this meeting.  The first is the actual writing of the customer service vision; the second is [to] ….  Identify illustrative stories that exemplify employees living the vision” (25%).

First, review the word cloud, and then take the next four steps:

“1.  Split into two teams 2.  ​Each team drafts a vision statement (15 minutes) 3.​ Share drafts and compare 4.​ Edit down to one draft” (Toister, 2017, 25%).

Toister (2017) says you want no more than ten people at these meetings.  I went through a similar team event, but we had to paint what we thought of the company.  Our group painted a gaudy face with big earrings as a symbol of our company.  To this day, I have no clue what the face meant.

Second, “is to develop illustrative examples.  These are anecdotes that clearly define behaviors that are aligned with the customer service vision” (Toister, 2017, 28%).

Illustrative examples capture your best employee-customer service interactions, says Toister (2017).  When I worked retail, I’d say hello to every single customer as soon as they entered the store.  That might be an illustrative example of the word-cloud word “welcoming.”

Step 3: Is everybody pumped? If not, tweak it or draft another one.

Step three, says Toister (2017), is making sure the vision resonates: “The final step in the process is to validate the vision with key stakeholders ….  You’ll know whether your customer service vision is on target if it receives enthusiastic support.  Ideally, you want people to read the statement for the first time and think ‘Yes!  That’s us!’” (28%).

Toister (2017) says, if staff aren’t pumped by your customer service vision statement, tweak it, or reconvene.

You could say that about all of life, though, couldn’t you?  If what we do doesn’t say, “Wow!” there’s room for growth.  And with your customer service vision, don’t stop until you and your crew chime, “ooh-la-la!”


Toister, Jeff.  (2017).  The Service Culture Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Employees Obsessed with Customer Service.  [Kindle Unlimited].  Downloaded from