THE BLOG
12/02/2014 12:00 am ET Updated Jun 09, 2015
PRESENTED BY CANON

Customer Service and the Happiness Factor

Knowledge, dedication and efficiency are the qualities you might expect to define good customer service on a corporate level. But after more than 17 years of working for Canon Information Technology Services (CITS), I've learned that the best results stem from a culture of happiness.

As the president of CITS, I am responsible for planning, managing and delivering support for the countless people in the U.S. who own Canon products. Satisfying such a large and diverse array of people is a challenge, but I've learned that the key to achieving this success is in our employees. Happy employees lead to happy customers, and that is something no organization should take for granted.

To foster your own culture of happiness, focus on these five key factors:

1. Hire happy people
When I started at CITS, having a technological background was the key for employment. But over time, positivity and a natural talent for relating to people proved to be better predictors of superior customer service. It's easier to teach an eager person technology and product features than it is to teach a non-people person to be empathetic.

2. Build happy spaces
Of course hiring positive people is not the only factor for success; a company needs to actively work to keep them happy and productive. And this starts with architecture. Outgoing people don't like to be shut in. Our support centers are surrounded by glass that lets our employees see the outside world as they work. This plays a huge factor in their day-to-day attitude.

3. Create a happy team
Customer support is too important to be delivered by temps. A team of fulltime employees who participate in extensive training fosters a strong sense of belonging to a team along with constantly acknowledging and promoting achievement.

4. Support happy goals
Team members should be offered the tools and leeway to provide superior support. CITS employees, for example, use whatever communications media work best for the customer: e-mail, chat, social media and, of course, telephone. Calls should never be given a time limit, so that the employee can continue until the customer is satisfied. And while metrics for employee performance are necessary, they should be aligned with overall customer support goals.

5. Encourage happy motivation
At CITS, peer expectations are stronger motivators of success than management expectations. Team members should help co-workers with coaching, mentoring and practical tips. The appreciation that our employees get from the customers they serve helps motivate them, too.

I've learned that there are significant operational benefits to this approach. Our turnover is substantially below industry averages, but the real benefit is most evident in the way employees learn to humanize their customers.

Take the story of a printer tech that came into my office one day. He told me, "I just got off a call with a woman in her eighties. She had never used a computer or a printer before, but she really wanted to print a document. I visualized her as my grandmother and worked with her for two hours. At the end of the call she broke down and told me the document was a brochure for her late husband's funeral. You never know what's going on in someone's life. It's important to be kind and patient."

Done right, happiness can be viral. Our team members are happiest when they make our customers happy. That generates loyalty to the Canon brand, which makes our management happy. I know the names of my team members. They give me suggestions for how we can innovate. They share reports of interactions that reinforce our sense of mission. And that makes me happy.