Building a service culture is something I get asked about often. Those words may not be the exact ones used, but it is what they mean.   It more often is asked as:

  • How can we improve our teamwork?
  • How do we instill a mindset of customer service?
  • What is needed to tear down “silos” in the workplace?

It all starts with the same mindset. “We” instead of “me,” with the will to do something about it.

Here are the fundamentals of building a service culture.

Be a role model. It all starts at the top. All eyes are upon you. If you visibly serve others, within your company and without, it speaks louder than any stated value or bulleted poster.

Hire for service. Ask your candidates how they serve their community. It doesn’t matter where. It could be a church, school, community organization, or nonprofit. It might be a neighbor or a friend. Someone already doing service will bring that attitude into the workplace.

Encourage service. Have the company sponsor service opportunities in your community. I don’t mean writing a check (that’s good but too easy). Two things that increase impact: volunteer yourself, and give your employees paid time off to attend.

Recognize service. Create a formal recognition program for service within your workplace. Here’s where you bring it home and it can be as simple as a posting on your website or a photo in your break room. Recognition gets positive attention. Positive attention incents activity.

Reward service. Here is where it gets dangerous. If new opportunities and promotions are not consistently awarded to those who embrace service, the incentive for service behavior disappears. This is the “rubber meets the road” message that everyone hears no matter how softly whispered.

Let’s face it. The reason building a service culture is so hard is because putting others before self is not the norm in human behavior.   Nor is placing service before talent in the workplace the norm in business.   However, when service comes first, when “we” comes before “me,” then customer service is natural and teamwork more common.

Service cultures are very possible and worthwhile but take commitment. There are proven techniques to get there.


“Profit is not the legitimate purpose of business. The legitimate purpose of business is to provide a product or service that people need and do it so well that it’s profitable.”

– James Rouse


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