Customers Or Culture – What Comes First?

Customers Or Culture – What Comes First?

simplfying-changeQuestion: How many of your employees are volunteers?

Answer: ALL of them!
They volunteer the discretionary effort in every decision they make. That means the choice to perform at a level that will differentiate one organisation from another.

Therefore, the environment in which an individual chooses to immerse themselves needs to engender that understanding.

Products are seldom unique. Or at best, unique for long. But people are unique. They can achieve unique results in a culture that rewards and allows its members to use their unique talents. We must engage employees as meaningful contributors, not just doers, in the main challenges facing the organisation.

Never underestimate the results and commitment of an employee who has been given the chance to demonstrate their abilities. Fear those who have been stifled or ridiculed for trying to make a difference or challenge the way ‘it’s has always been’.

Are You Ready?

It happens all too often. A company wants to introduce a customer service program with high expectations of improving performance. But is it ready for such a program? Is it really ready to make the necessary changes so that the program has some chance of being implemented?

The organisation may superficially perceive that their people need to improve their attitude towards customers. What may really be required to support the training endeavour is a culture change aimed at developing a sustained climate of internal service.

So why do so many endeavours to instil a culture of customer focus fail?
They fail because the organisation is either too frightened or unwilling to address the wide range of issues requiring simultaneous attention. They want to change as little as they can, not as much as they should.

A service culture does not descend upon an organisation like a universal cloud. Nor does it permeate every nook and cranny of the physical and mental processes of every employee with a one-off training program or motivational speech by the Managing Director at the annual conference, however well intentioned they may be. Without due planning and expert advice, any new effort risks being chewed up or dissipated by the existing culture.

Practiced Cynicism

This results in only one outcome. Practiced cynicism and learned distrust. The well voiced undercurrent of, “We tried that before and it didn’t work”, may be ringing so loudly in the ears of each person that any attempt to introduce another training endeavour or similar project will land on deafened ears. Sound familiar?

Many executives still want to catch their breath between projects and try to get all the ducks flying in order perfectly before adding another to the formation.

This mentality alone may position a company to effectively stagnate, regress and ultimately fail. The world is no longer ordered, sequential, predictable.

Global pace demands we must layer our projects while simultaneously monitoring the ever changing demands of our internal as well as external customers. By concurrently focusing on multiple levels, functions and persons, a total solution to cultural change stands in stark contrast to a short term ‘silver bullet’ approach.

A cultural change requires a careful (as well as caring) examination of the external climate and the existing internal culture of the organisation.

Communication Strategies
Communication is vital. Take the time to establish an internal communication strategy with as much care as the external public relations strategy would dictate.

If managers still believe that offering information on a ‘needs to know’ basis is appropriate, then think again. If people are only fed rations of information then those managers and, indeed, whole organisations face the imminent peril of stark failure if service is important.

We cannot realistically expect our people to give the very best of themselves, and therefore service, if they are operating in a culture of brevity and scarcity of resources or spirit. If the vacuum syndrome pervades, people will quickly fill the void with their own voices.

The Big Picture

Taking the time to give the ‘big picture’ is one of the most crucial ingredients for service delivery. Employees must be given sufficient tools to do their job. Information, and lots of it, is as important to any employee as their immediate physical tools required to do their work.

For true, genuine and natural service to emanate from each employee, they must be given the opportunity to understand, and participate, in the company’s direction. That way they can begin to develop an environment where they will choose to be ambassadors for the company beyond the physical parameters of the organisation.

Culture has to be the initial consideration for superior, sustained customer service delivery.

Written by Jill Sweatman

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