Culture club Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2008

Having a service vision for your company is only the first step of developing a top-flight, service-oriented business. Even the most visionary organizations can’t pull off top service if they don’t have a world-class internal culture. That is accomplished only by attracting, hiring and retaining only those people who have the all-important service DNA.

As business leaders, we need to have standards that require prospective employees to earn the right to be a part of our company. Having a set of non-negotiable hiring standards will turn your prospective employees either on or off.

People need to earn the right to work for you The main objective of any human resource person who conducts first interviews with prospective hires is to try to scare the applicant out of working for you. If the applicant doesn’t scare, chances are high that he or she is a good fit for your company. What “scare” really means is to help candidates recognize that a job at your company may be either a much bigger commitment than they wanted or exactly what they have been looking for. In order to do this, your company needs to have its own set of nonnegotiable hiring standards.

Very similar to creating the service vision, there are two distinct parts of creating your hiring standards: creating the values that truly embody what your company stands for and being able to articulate those values to potential, new and seasoned employees so clearly and passionately that, within minutes, you can tell if your are turning them on or off. Otherwise, it will just be another company slogan.

A world-class culture does not compromise values; rather, it remains faithful to values, even when remaining faithful means doing things differently from everyone else. A legendary culture is created in the head and the heart of the leader and passed from team member to team member.

Build the culture and the customers will come

If you truly want to be a world-class customer service organization, then you have to be the employer of choice. And to do that, you need to be known for four things:

  1. Being a great place to work

  2. Providing great training

  3. Having superior customer service

  4. Offering unlimited opportunity

If you can create that type of reputation, you will never have a shortage of applicants.

The employee career experience

The employee career experience encompasses the traditional stages an employee has during his or her career with your company. These stages are quite consistent from company to company — recruiting, screening and hiring, orientation and training, 90 days after hire, six months after hire, one year after hire, two years after hire, and five or more years of employment.

Because the employee’s mentality is different at each stage, managers need to be trained how to coach, emphasize and avoid certain factors at each stage. By creating this, you are designing a blueprint on how to create a positive working environment. This blueprint teaches new managers — and reminds experienced managers — how to create a great culture throughout an employee’s career in a way that continually reinforces his or her emotional capital in the company.

There are three components of each stage: service defects, standards and above-and-beyond opportunities.

Service defects are the things that the company and management need to avoid at each stage because those things can cause the employee’s morale to take a nosedive.

Standards are actions we want the company and management to deliver at each stage because those are the things that will differentiate the company from any other company for which the employee has ever worked.

And finally, above-and-beyond opportunities allow management to demonstrate a culture of going out of their way to care about the individual employee, leaving a reoccurring impression that this company is unlike any other for which they have worked.

I have never come across a world-class customer service organization that wasn’t a world-class company to work for — not only vertically (management to employee) but horizontally (employee to employee), as well.

JOHN R. DIJULIUS III, John is the best-selling author of “What’s The Secret? To Providing a World-Class Customer Experience” (Wiley May 2008). He is also president of The DiJulius Group, a firm specializing in giving companies a superior competitive advantage by helping them differentiate on delivering an experience and making price irrelevant. He can be reached at john@thedijuliusgroup.com.