This is not about customer service—we're talking business survival here! Service is not a department; it's a state of mind—an attitude—a corporate value integrated across business functions. Let one functional area fail in service efforts, and the entire process is jeopardized. Because of product failure? No, because the values system failed. The objective of this paper is to ingrain four concepts inherent in every business function—integral attributes to success: communication, motivation, people, and service.
Why is it whenever "customer service" is mentioned, the first thought is either a group of folks in the front office taking customer calls, or that retail department that handles gift wrap? This is generally where service ends, not where it begins—and certainly not where a culture of service excellence is developed. The best customer service group in the world won't ensure customer satisfaction if the organization hasn't placed priority on cross-functional excellence. And there's more to excellence than customer service. The real issue driving service excellence is organizational culture. And to be successful, many organizations need to launch an all-out offense on the strategy and principles by which the organization does business.
INGREDIENTS FOR SUCCESS
There are multiple ingredients for success. Close your eyes and picture a table. On that table are multiple containers, all opened, with measuring spoons in each. The containers are labeled quality, values, culture, communications, service, people, and motivation—all ingredients waiting to be blended to create success. Now belly up to the table, and mix the ingredients before you to create a customer-focused enterprise. Please determine exact measurements, and state why that amount is necessary for the final product. Not so easy? In the absence of a recipe, formula, guidelines, instructions, procedures, or process knowledge, how then does one develop the exact recipe? How indeed! The answers lie in understanding how each of these ingredients are defined and integrated into the entire organization.
There is an obvious lack of attention and continuing education that these success attributes receive in the workplace. The real issue is understanding how all of these attributes work together to form a cohesive, team-oriented enterprise. There is no question: When you talk survival, one must ensure these ingredients for success are not only considered—but implemented and continuously supported by the management team.
Philip Crosby says quality is "first among equals," meaning when discussed in relation to other business criteria such as cost, quality, and responsiveness, quality is first among these equals. Second, without either a quality process in place, or a prevailing quality attitude, all efforts to achieve successful implementation and support of corporate values will only go so far. Simply stated, you might empower people to provide customer satisfaction, and you might trust those individuals and respect them for their position, but in the absence of quality improvement efforts, a clear message is being sent: "We don't want to improve!" We all know this is not the case. Human beings inherently want to do a great job. They want to succeed. They want to work within a quality structure. Unfortunately, many organizations send compelling messages demonstrating a lack of support for quality to the workforce without knowing it's ever being done.
Individuals will readily accept a work-around for processes that fail, and will cope with organizational problems—so long as they know the organization is serious about fixing the problems long term. When individuals cannot rely on management to support and sustain quality improvement efforts, the message received is, "We don't really care about improvement efforts." This is the compelling message demonstrating the lack of support for quality processes. This may seem a bit harsh, but if problems continue to plague the organization, and processes do not improve, what other message can one deduce?
We hear a lot about walking the walk, and talking the talk. Can you truly verbalize exactly what this means? It's simple, actually. It means actions start with management. Management sets the tone and acts as the working example of what is expected of others. "Walking the walk" means that we don't just ask for measurements supporting specific processes—we measure our own processes as well. We don't just talk about improving work processes—we improve them.
The primary difficulty in implementing any quality improvement process is a sustained effort. There is an inherent excitement in a quality improvement process in its initial stages due to the mandate, involvement, and actions from top management. Communications on the importance of quality improvement efforts make clear the need for and support of an official policy statement. But this communication quickly becomes lip service when, after initial implementation phases, the excitement wears off and management sits back waiting for the troops to make it happen. As soon as management stops placing emphasis on improvement efforts and limits their personal involvement, everybody else gets the point, and follows the lead—the lead message of course being "not me—you." And the message is received. Not me—you! The result is everybody else waiting on somebody else to lead the charge. So nobody does anything, and quality improvement efforts fail. There is no shortage of companies
who have been through this process, and countless number have attempted the process multiple times, only to find failure for like reasons. The point is clear. Without complete management support and continuous involvement, quality improvement efforts cannot be sustained. Some will view quality improvement as the latest fad or management initiative that will change with the season.
To Be Continued
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