“The Role of Leadership in Creating a Service Culture”

Gain more referrals * Keep more customers * Grow revenues

Even though leadership recognize the importance of creating a service culture to drive download (1)positive financial results, most companies are still not very good at it. This is because becoming service-driven is not an easy goal to accomplish.  It’s more than just demonstrating empathy for your customers and you can’t buy a technological fix.

Companies with executives who possess a service first mindset benefit because–

  • They become better places to work.
  • They become well known among prospective employees.
  • Referral rates and ideas for improving the business from existing employees are often high.
  • Screening process for new hires—mostly referrals–is simplified.
  • The pool of prospective employees grows.
    The cost of selecting among many applicants is offset by the cost savings above.

The problem is that leaders see the stats that prove a service-culture ‘can’ reach these benefits, but they don’t know ‘how’ to get to them.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Too many executives give their marching orders to the managers, who in turn pass those orders on to the lower-level supervisors, and then they sit in their office and hope everything will work out. It’s the executives’ job to look to the future, to scan the horizons.  It’s their job to paint a ‘Big Picture’ of the company, its direction and its purpose.  They must continually be on the lookout for the customer’s emerging needs, innovation, and potential difficulties.

Instilling a service-culture that benefit the customer and the employee requires a fundamental shift in how your business behaves and is organized.  In my 26 years I have learned what is necessary for a business to take on this financially rewarding mission.

Executives can and must adapt

Organizations with clearly defined service–cultures, made clear by the executives, enjoy great employee and customer loyalty. The largest contributor to this is because they are effective at empowering managers to coach away ineffective behaviors. Also, according to a recent study, 70% of companies feel they already deliver great service but, only 46% of their customers report satisfaction.  This is because executives read reports, often written by a manager, that says they are hitting all of their ‘numbers’ but those numbers fail to truly measure a customer’s dissatisfaction.

Executives must move their companies toward a service–culture because companies that truly do deliver great service grow at nearly twice the rate of their competition and enjoy a 15 to 20% cost advantage.

It’s not about re-engineering your processes’

Don’t let what I’m writing sound like the dreaded, ‘business process reengineering’ it’s not.  In my work, companies striving for a service—culture need only to understand that it’s about taking what you have, people, technologies, and offerings, and connecting the dots so they work together in concert to respond to the customers’ intellectual and emotional needs.

First you need to set the example of great service by providing it to your employees. Then you need to build trust so your employees don’t think this is just another crazy idea. Then you need to give your managers and supervisors the skill to coach and communicate the service message. And then your employees need to know they are empowered to service the customer in any manner it takes to retain them.

Leadership must live and breathe the service culture

Like anything worthwhile, a service-culture is something that must be invested in.  Not with more money but with time and energy from the leadership.  The culture of valuing the customer above all else cannot be instilled by speeches, but by action by the executives.  Strong culture have teeth and are much more than slogans and vague promises.  Leaders must set the example by living the elements of Effort and all of the other “7 Slight Edges.”  Companies need to find ways to separate themselves from any employee that does not value the customer.  And successes by employees should be grounds for celebration and leadership needs to be a part of the celebration even if it comes in the form of a “Nice job!” and a pat on the back.  Employees on all level will notice the example put forth by the leadership and it will serve to validate the elements of the culture in their eyes.

The “7 Slight Edges” are each dependent on the role of leadership.  But it’s “Effort” that requires more visibility; it requires that leadership set the example by demonstrating what’s expected by the company as a whole.  When it comes to delivering great service, no longer is it OK for executives to say to employees, “That’s why I hired you.”

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