Without execution, systems in manuals are nothing more than ideas on paper. This is where most companies fail the execution of these systems.
The two most important words in the success of implementing systems are consistency and continuity. Nearly every company has more ideas than it knows what to do with. Here’s a scenario familiar in every company: Some executives attend a fantastic seminar, get dozens of great ideas, and return to work all fired up to start executing. A month later, not one idea is being executed even 10 percent of the time. The managers are either preoccupied with a crisis or have moved on to a new focus. Managers are not short on ideas; they are short on strategy that will result in successful implementation.
Select a path and stick with it
I can’t tell you how often I hear the same thing from the companies I consult: “A few years ago, our theme was ‘fish,’ last year our theme was ‘raving fans,’ and this year our theme is your book.”
It’s no wonder nothing sticks. There’s no continuity from one generation of employees to the next because they joined under a different theme.
There is nothing wrong with using any of those books and concepts as themes. What I am saying is pick a path. The world-class customer service companies focus on one concept and build their training program around it. Over the years, every new employee goes through the same training, learns the same underlying concept and theme, reads the same book, and hears the same message.
That doesn’t mean the training doesn’t evolve. But you have a consistent foundation on which everyone has been trained. And it can’t just be new employees who go through intensive training; existing employees need to be retrained and re-energized on at least an annual basis. Beyond that training, world-class customer service companies advertise superior customer service to their employees on a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis.
Implement slowly and properly
Let’s assume you have just successfully completed the Customer Experience Cycle Workshop with your entire organization. You should now have the buzz.
Stop right there. This is when the train wreck so often happens. The workshop was easy; the hard part is implementation. Yes, you are excited about the buy-in to being world-class. Yes, you want to maintain the enthusiasm and the momentum. But now you must crawl before you can walk.
A worst practice is to allow managers to roll out the implementation on their own or to introduce many new concepts every week. If you do either, in about 45 days, all of those great ideas will be a distant memory because not one of them will stick. The only result will be a loss of credibility. Employees will feel that all their work was just a bunch of rah-rah and hot air because nothing ever came of it. Customers will be disappointed by the inconsistency between your promises and their experiences.
Both your front-line managers and employees already have too much on their plate to digest and manage the execution of more than a few things at once. You need to create a roll-out calendar of new customer service systems. Never introduce more than two or three things per 120 days to any one department. This may sound like a slow process, but wouldn’t you be doing cartwheels if I told you that a year from now, you will have introduced 10 new initiatives that are all being executed consistently?
Manage the experience
It is imperative that every manager is uncompromising about the execution of your standards. Your employees have to know that they cannot pick and choose. That is why it is very important NOT to have too many standards for every stage of interaction. Less is more, so keep it realistic to achieve.
As soon as employees start to think no one is really paying attention or cares, the standards go from nonnegotiable to optional. To avoid this, managers have to routinely do audits of the standards and recognize when they are being executed and immediately coach when they aren’t. You can have the greatest customer experience on paper, but it is the leadership’s responsibility to make sure every employee is well aware of the importance of consistent, continuous execution.
JOHN R. DIJULIUS 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. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org