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What is the culture in your organisation? More importantly, is it the culture identical across every person and every department? You see, it’s one thing to be aware of the importance of having a strong culture, an innovative culture which is designed to produce engaged employees delivering outstanding customer service, but reality says that unless everyone speaks with the same voice all of the hard work is wasted.
The importance of a universally infused culture was highlighted recently when a colleague suffered a power cut at their home. Within five minutes a patrol was out looking for the fault and given the nature of the weather at the time our colleague didn’t take any action until the next day. A call to the local power company then resulted in full details of the remedial work being provided together with a promise to call back with an update should the situation change. This was swiftly followed up by a call from a more senior person who apologised for the delay in restoration, sympathised with the worry over freezers and stressed the number of personnel being applied to remedying the fault. The result was a happy customer who may have been cold and in the dark but was reassured that they mattered to the organisation which was working hard on their behalf.
Unfortunately the fault was not remedied within the promised time scale and, hearing nothing, our colleague phoned again. The result this time was curt in the extreme. No sympathy, no empathy, little information and when our colleague expressed surprise that they hadn’t been called back the impression given was that the company didn’t do that sort of thing and it was up to their customers to do the chasing. The organisation which only a few hours earlier was being praised was now giving out all of the wrong signals.
Now maybe the call centre was under pressure, maybe shifts had changed and notes lost but to turn around the customer from happy and reassured to angry in such a short space of time doesn’t bode well for the organisation. And we have seen the same time and time again in businesses which seem to “get” the importance of customer service in one department but fail overall. So great products are let down by poor administration, smooth fast ordering processes fail when delivery is compromised and front line staff are hijacked by back room ‘jobsworths’.
When departments, or personnel, work at odds with each other in this way, not only is customer service compromised but a silo mentality develops which sets colleague against colleague and slashes levels of employee engagement. And it can so easily happen in the best of organisations. Culture is lead from the top but the guardians of the culture on a day to day basis are the middle managers, the team leaders who work closely with their groups in pursuit of the overall aim. All it takes is one poor team leader, one individual who takes their eye off the ball and allows team members to drift away or who pays attention to the success of their group whilst ignoring the overall picture and the business is lost.
Organisations which truly believe in providing exceptional levels of service, which recognise that that way leads to repeat business, to word of mouth recommendations and to a strong reputation cannot afford to allow even one element to drift away. Every department, every employee is an ambassador for the company. Front line sales staff, floor sweepers, IT people, everyone has a responsibility to uphold the company image and it is up to the leadership to ensure that the message is strong and permeates every aspect of organisational life.