What Are Your Employees Working Toward?

By Steve Curtin Founder, Steve Curtin LLC | March 29, 2015

Business as usual produces the usual results: average quality delivered by uninspired employees. There are far too many companies known for providing ordinary customer service - or worse. And there are far too many employees who are content to simply execute the mandatory job functions for which they are paid, unaware of the myriad opportunities missed to delight customers. Those companies that refuse to accept an unremarkable reputation by default take steps to define and communicate their purpose and foster a corporate culture that inspires employees to deliver their best work.

Corporate culture is the work environment that results from the daily decisions and behaviors of company employees. Ideally, the behavior exhibited by employees is aligned with their purpose at work and reflects the expressed values of the organization as defined in its formal mission or purpose statement and modeled by company leadership.

As a customer, the problem I observe within most corporate cultures is the gap that exists between the stated values outlined in their mission statements and employees' actual behavior. As an example, let's say a company espouses a culture rooted in "quality", but employees are content to cut corners; or promotes a culture of "empowerment", but employees are not given the latitude to make discretionary decisions in favor of the customer; or trumpets "exceptional customer service" in a transactional work environment where employees unwittingly process customers, treating each one like the one before.

Here's an observation that I've made: While employees consistently execute the mandatory job functions for which they are paid, they inconsistently demonstrate voluntary customer service behaviors for which there is little or no additional cost to the employer.

When was the last time you picked up your dry cleaning or brought your vehicle into the dealership for maintenance and did not receive a bill? Now think about the last time you received service and did not get a smile. My hunch is that you've received many more bills for services rendered than you've received genuine smiles, eye contact, and enthusiasm in the voices of employees who handed you the bills.

Job Function Versus Job Essence

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.