Training Talks—How to Create a Service Culture: A Chat with Jeff Toister


At Lessonly, we’ve helped hundreds of teams across the globe learn, practice, and Do Better Work. We found that the best teams examine their training efforts through six key phases: Assess, Plan, Build, Learn, Practice, and Perform. That’s why we decided to create Lessonly’s Better Work Guide to Customer Service Training.

In the process of putting together The Better Work Guide, Lessonly’s VP of Marketing, Kyle Lacy talked with Jeff Toister, founder of Toister Performance Solutions and author of The Service Culture Handbook: A Step-By-Step Guide to Getting Your Employees Obsessed with Customer Service. With more than 25 years of experience, he’s an advocate for the importance of customer-focused cultures. Find out exactly what service culture means and how you can build one within your organization. 


Kyle: So, what makes the best customer service rep when it comes to their psyche or their work ethic? What do you think the foundational ideas are that make a great rep?


Jeff: What’s interesting about this is that finding and hiring the right people for your company is one of the most challenging concepts. The good news is, you can take an average person who has some basic skills, put them in the right system, and they’ll perform very well. 

The right system means you give them the right tools. You give them a good leader who’s going to support them. It’s also about the right culture that’s focused on service. If you put someone who is amazing at service in the wrong system with poor tools, poor leadership, and a toxic culture they won’t perform. 


Kyle: Is that what you mean when you talk about service culture?


Jeff: Culture is a collective way of thinking and acting. Service culture says, ”this is how we’re all focused on serving the customer.” Service culture explicitly defines the right way to serve the customer and ensures everyone is working on the same page. There are very few organizations that really do that well. But in those organizations, employees know what’s expected and how they’re supposed to serve people the moment they start interacting with a customer. 

For most organizations, they just focus on policies and procedures. Customer service employees are trained from the beginning not how to delight customers, but how to follow policy x, how to walk people through a procedure, or how to use this software. It’s all transactional focused. As a result, you’re training people to be transactional service providers.


Kyle: Have you ever run into a situation where the culture at the top is great, but the service is struggling with trying to find their own voice within the culture of the company?


Jeff: The short answer to that is no. If a company routinely provides poor service, I’ve never been able to make the case that the culture at the top is great. I’ve actually seen the opposite. 

Occasionally, there are organizations with poor cultures, yet there’s a really strong leader or two that creates greatness within their team.


Get Jeff’s guide to create a service culture. Learn more in The Service Culture Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Employees Obsessed with Customer Service.


Kyle: Got it. If a customer service leader reads this and says, “I want to create a culture like that,” what are some tips that you would give them?


Jeff: I addressed this in “The Service Culture Handbook,” and I created a step-by-step guide to build a service culture. It highlights three simple concepts, but they’re hard to execute: 

Step one: You have to define the culture through a customer service vision. This is a shared definition of outstanding service and it gets everyone on the same page. For some organizations, they call it their mission, organizational values, or brand promise. It doesn’t matter what you call it. What matters is that you have one thing that clearly defines the service you’re trying to provide so your employees can understand and embrace it. 

Step two: Next, you need to engage employees. This is what’s tricky for a lot of organizations as employee engagement has been a big topic for a long time. If you ask people what engagement means, everyone will give a different answer. An engaged employee has two qualities. First, they know what makes the organization successful because they understand the service vision. Then, they’re committed to helping achieve it. 

Step three: Finally, leaders need to align business practices to the vision. This includes every aspect of the business. It’s how you hire, train, empower and lead people. Everything should point in the same direction, but it’s difficult to execute.

Creating and sustaining a service culture is a never-ending journey that takes hard work, dedication, and training. Companies who truly engage their employees differently unlock their potential and deliver better customer service.


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