By Richard Shoaf.
Customer service and safety management are not routinely mentioned in the same sentence. However, they relate to each other more than one may think. Customer service is impacted by a well-managed safety program.
The University of Central Oklahoma surveyed 821 workers at an electrical utility company and found a direct correlation between units with higher rates of injuries and customers less happy with the service they received. The university also found that better customer service was related to a positive safety culture.
The study, which was conducted by the National Safety Council and published in the Journal of Safety Research, states: “The results of this research bolster the business case for safety. They demonstrate that workplace safety is not simply an issue of doing the right thing or avoiding costs associated with lost-time injuries and related expenses. There are positive business outcomes to be gained in the form of improved customer satisfaction. The explanatory logic, although not proven conclusively here, is that a better safety environment produces spillover effects into the service environment. These findings offer good news for safety professionals because they add to the arsenal of arguments for investing in initiatives to improve safety environments and reduce injuries.”
Safety Results in More Work
A positive safety culture affects all parts of a business. When a company demonstrates that the culture prioritizes safety, it causes a participative environment in the company. That environment can impact better communications in other areas of the workforce, further improving productivity. When a company is more productive, its clients see a direct correlation in their customer service.
Key personnel, such as account executives, are the first line of support for many clients. Their actions can effectively show customers that safety is a routine part of their company’s work culture.
In addition, a strong safety culture can impact customers’ perceptions of a company’s reliability, which is an important element in day-to-day operations. If a client has a concern regarding the reliability of a provider, it often affects the decision to hire that provider and retain its services. Knowing the service provider has an effective safety program that is part of its culture can impact contracting decisions—and eventually the bottom line.
The culture of safety must reach past the company. When a service provider demonstrates it cares about a customer’s safety as well as its own, it will result in repeat business. No matter how great the customer service team is, how responsive they are or how smooth the service or product delivery goes, a company is unlikely to recover from an injury due to unsafe services, products or locations.
In the end, company leadership has to want a strong safety culture. It is not the lack of money, resources or time that impact safety, it’s often the lack of desire. A positive safety culture directly impacts customer service—or at least the perception of reliability and responsiveness—which impacts customer satisfaction and ultimately their bottom line.