On his first Friday at the bank, everyone walked that day in some strange attire. It must have been a wonderful coincidence, he thought to himself. The dress code had some connotation to legal matters, and everyone seemed to imitate legal jargon. Being a learnt friend, he felt at home, but wondered how everyone all of a sudden turned to be a lawyer. At the end of the day, colleagues from his office floor gathered at a very impressive ceremony, to celebrate a newcomer, Nisana. He had never felt so appreciated and highly feted before. He wondered whether this recognition was only a staff affair, or it extended to customers of the bank. He had a lot to learn.
In many strategy meetings for business, I uphold the discussion on service culture as a priority. A lot of company executives would like the sales culture to be the only centre of attraction and conversation, some dismissing my approach. One client I was assisting in strategy asked me, “Where is the money, in sales or service culture?”
Across the world, we know institutions that embrace and cultivate a salesman culture so competitive that their rivals find it hard to catch up. I have no objection to this high performance, highly rewarding culture, even in production industries. In fact Lincoln Electric, one of the largest American multinationals is built on this platform.
Service culture promotes some behaviour of employees that increase concern for serving customers. A lot of people think this culture is only needed for the service industry. That narrative will never be true in the present competitive business environment, where all products are extremely conventional. The differentiation factor is in the service culture. A company can develop it, it’s never too late.
First, develop a service philosophy. Many business people think customers are becoming difficult, and profile then focuses on the easy targets. Indeed, the difficult ones end up being served by someone else. A service philosophy defines how you could accommodate all types of customers and guides your staff in that direction.
Second, train your staff. It’s not enough to have a service charter. It needs to be removed from the walls and reside in the hearts of your employees. Training helps cultivate this service culture, and implement it.
Third, empower your employees. I particularly fret institutions where decision making is entirely on one individual. Imagine a situation where the CEO has to be consulted to buy toiletries! In the absence of such a person everything stalls. An empowered workforce is an enabled organisation.
Organisation would better focus on resolution of issues rather than problems. This coupled with personalised service helps reduce what is called “stupid rules” that always serve as a barrier to satisfied customers.
So, what is your business known for? Is it excellent service culture, or a lot of sales that lack service quality and customer retention?