SIXTY SECONDS OF CHANGE
In the absence of a full understanding of change management concepts, individuals are left to implement organizational change in the same fashion they implement process change. Unfortunately, cultural change cannot happen as easily, and management must pursue the needed education on how to manage change. Here's a 60-second lesson in change management: Everything you do, everything you say, has ramifications. Those ramifications may be positive—they may be negative. To effectively manage change, individuals must first recognize, then address those ramifications—typically through education, training, communications, etc., before the change can be implemented. In effect—no surprises! By providing communications on the need for change, and how those changes affect the organization as well as the individual, there is a higher likelihood the change will
be embraced. Without that communication, training, and education, individuals will reject change.
CUSTOMER SERVICE VS. CUSTOMER FOCUS
Customer service is generally the treatment customers receive during points of contact, whether face-to-face, telephone, mail, e-mail, fax, jungle drums, or smoke signals. To keep customers coming back, organizations must also maintain a customer focus. The primary difference between customer service and a true customer focus is the total customer experience. Not just points of contact, but the very nature of the products and services offered help define customer focus. It addresses policies and procedures supporting service levels, and such things as hours of operations—the time customers can do business with you—as well as the extent of employee empowerment allowing people the ability to make necessary decisions to support complete customer satisfaction. Customer service is a key component to ensure a customer focus.
And a customer focus is key to overall service excellence. But service excellence requires much more. It requires the elimination of some old-school attitudes, a few paradigm changes, and shared values within the organization. Putting the pieces together is an arduous task requiring cultural change. And cultural change is perhaps the most dangerous of all changes to an organization.
BACK TO SERVICE EXCELLENCE
So what does all this quality and change management discussion have to do with service excellence? Simple! No matter how proficient a customer service group is, they are only as good as the processes supporting their endeavors. A customer service representative might be as committed as anybody in the organization, but if processes supporting the product or service provided are not managed, a customer service rep has no ability to effect change and improvement. To ensure service excellence, it starts at the beginning of the process—understanding that the weakest link is the best a process will be. All the customer service in the world cannot improve a process problem. The bottom line is, if product quality is inferior, who cares how good service is? And product quality will be only as good as the service chain throughout the organization. Service excellence begins with product quality. And if the organizational structure is not conducive to quality—if organizational values are not embraced—the likelihood of success is greatly diminished.
BARRIERS TO SUCCESS
Much has been discussed regarding the steps an organization must pursue to realize true service excellence. We're not talking customer service here—we're talking business survival. And certain barriers must be eliminated to ensure the organization has the necessary attributes in place to allow quality to happen.
• First, corporate values must be in place, shared, and
embraced by every member of the organization. Val
ues provide individuals guidance on how to work with
each other, and clearly state the values system neces
sary for success.
• Second, change management must be understood.
How individuals and organizations deal with change
will define the future culture of the business. Face
it—how well individuals deal with change is a direct
result of the current organizational culture.
• Third, quality training and support. The weakest pro
cess is the strongest link. The best service in the world
won't make up for a shoddy product. Quality imple
mentation efforts and complete management sup
port are prerequisite.
• Fourth, organizations must maintain a strong cus
tomer focus. Companies around the globe set up processes, procedures, and policies that are great for the organization and the people working those processes, but don't do squat for the customer. Policies must be customer-focused. In my organization, customer service associates are trained to perform one primary task—satisfy the customer. Everything else is secondary. If policies are barriers in providing complete customer satisfaction, then go around the policy. Then we review the policy to determine why it is not customer-focused, and make necessary changes so it never again impedes service.
• Fifth, measure, measure, measure. If you don't know
where you are, you'll never know where you're going,
or if you're improving. Embrace measurement as one
of the primary factors of success—it is! It's the begin
ning of the process, and it never ends. If you stop
measurement, the only time you'll know of problems
is when the customer lets you know. And it's too late
to do anything except damage control at that point.
• Sixth, you can't communicate too much. If nothing
else—just talk. Subscribe to the theory of management
by walking around. You'll learn more about the orga
nization, the people, processes, and problems by walk
ing around talking to individuals. If you're committed
to the organization, great. But commit yourself to your
employees too. Commit time to communicate on a
regular basis. It's those folks that make you look good.
Make sure you're doing the same thing.
• Lastly, have patience. You can't rush quality, and you
can't rush change. To be successful, you've got to have
both. So be patient, measure what's going on, and
take action based on those measurements. Change
will happen soon enough.
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Lean Manufacturing Articles and click on Series 13