In part one we talked about the importance of personal responsibility in driving customer satisfaction. This week is about building a culture of personal responsibility, and how that culture creates opportunities for highly personal relationships.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CULTURE
Culture is the average of every individual’s values in your organization. This means that if the majority of individuals in your company desire to make a name for themselves, the culture will reflect that “dog eat dog” mentality. Likewise, if your employees value unity, conflict resolution is a skill many of them use on a daily basis. No matter what, culture exists. And though cultures vary, two broad types of culture separate every organization: transactional or relational.
Like a vending machine each input variable results in a specific output. With a vending machine, humans put in money, we punch in our request, and the machine distributes the item. When the transaction goes smoothly we feel satisfied. When the machine doesn’t deliver, we can call the 1-800 number but what we really do is bang on the machine to get our snack to break loose or concede the battle and pay again.
Here, inputs and outputs still exist, but the delivery process gives us a sense of connection. The best example of this in our world is the relational vending machine, Amazon. Inputs and outputs still exist; however, Amazon also offers recommendations or “frequently purchased together” suggestions that create a shopping experience more tailored to our needs and wants. They also send updates including shipment and delivery notifications. When the transaction goes smoothly, items arrive in a couple of days. When Amazon doesn’t deliver, a short phone call, email or live chat result in a quick refund.
I’m not saying transactional businesses are inherently bad, it’s just that businesses with relational cultures have higher levels of trust and commitment from their customers. And building a relational culture and a culture of personal responsibility go hand in hand. In fact, there is one question that can help us do both at the same time.
THE QUESTION: HOW ARE YOU DOING?
It’s a question we hear every day. Unfortunately, we use it so much we’ve become numb to its meaning. Yes, we can use it to show concern for someone we care about it, but most of the time it’ is just a responsive greeting. We use it when talking with complete strangers without any expectation of an honest response. Yet, despite its commonality, if we are intentional and genuine, this question prevents us from remaining passive. By asking it, we assume the burden of hearing and replying to the answer.
And leaders must be the first to ask, “How are you doing?” and listen. For when leadership asks and is intentional about listening, they model care and responsibility for their team. Over time, this will encourage other team members to ask the question and assume the burden to listen and act. In so doing trust, commitment, and regard for others will be reciprocated beyond the four walls of your business.
How do you get started? What does asking this question look like in different business activities? To help answer these questions, here are three ideas you can use today.
ASK TEAM MEMBERS IN THE DAILY HUDDLE
This is a discipline we recommend to all of our clients so that the team begins each day on the same page. The focus of these 5-10 minute meetings is for leaders to support their employees by asking three questions.
What is on your list for today?
Did you get yesterday’s list done?
How are you doing? Are you stuck?
The beauty of the huddle is that there isn’t enough time to get into operational weeds, and the focus is on hearing and responding to the needs of your employees.
ASK CUSTOMERS WHEN WE TALK TO THEM
You should directly ask your customers the question with phone scripts or surveys. You may think it’s a no-brainer, but your receptionist should ask this question to every customer. Not only does it provide valuable intel about the customer, but if the receptionist passes that info along to the next department who speaks with the customer, it immediately becomes an opportunity to communicate that your company listens and cares.
ASK OUR PROCESSES WHEN WE MAKE CHANGES
Weekly operations meetings are a time to address issues and troubleshoot. In these meetings someone in the room should always play “customer advocate” when discussing changes. The assigned individual’s role is to get everyone in the room to ask, “Is the customer going to be better off after this change?” In this indirect way we are trying to ask our customer “How are you doing?” after a change is made. The answer should always be better, and it is the advocates job to articulate exactly how the customer will be better off after the change.
Cultures don’t change overnight and creating a culture of personal responsibility will take time. By asking “How are you doing?” and intentionally listening to the response you will start to see individuals not only accept, but assume personal responsibility in the business. Always start from the inside out. Your team needs to know that you feel a responsibility toward them before they can ever pass that along to customers and the business at large.