If you looks at our page on philosophy and values, you will see we are into things like positive attitudes, teamwork, giving good service and long term relationships.? With some recent events in the news and my life, I have been able to relate good “corporate culture” to “competitive advantage”; or shall we say..? good business.
Good service is most certainly “old hat”; and everyone wants it, touts it and expects to give it; and MOS is no exception.? It is all over our literature.
The big news event recently about service (well, quality, but all related) is Toyota.? I then had two experiences with local contractors taking care of my house, a heat and air company and a plumbing company.? In both cases; I have given them more business.? I began to put all this together, and relate it to business success.
I do believe that the company who is better at “good service” has a competitive advantage.? But, that service has to stand out; it has to be “head and shoulders” better than the competition.? It has to be demonstrated, and real.? It has to be part of our culture; it has to be who we are.
According to Wikipedia; Corporate Culture is the total sum of the values, customs, traditions and meanings that make a company unique. Corporate culture is often called “the character of an organization”; or “the specific collection of values and norms that are shared by people and groups in an organization and that control the way they interact with each other and with stakeholders outside the organization.”
While not my favorite; I can’t think of anything better?: According to Ellen Wallach, “Organization culture is like pornography; it is hard to define, but you know it when you see it.”
A little background:
The Heat and Air companyðŸ˜• (www.airassurance.com) Below are a few excerpts from a generic letter from the president I received after signing up for a maintenance program; incidentally attached to a bag of coffee.
“David remembered the many times we would sit down with our customers, have a cup of coffee and talk about our families, business or life in general.? Then it hit me. It wasn’t the topic of the conversation that mattered, it was the relationship. The relationship that we built with our customers, the relationship that we continue to have today with so many of you.
?seeing as I can’t make it to every home to have a cup of coffee (boy would I be wired after that many cups of coffee!), please accept this gesture by having a cup or two on me.
At Air Assurance, we strive to hire and train only those people that have the same passion for our customers that we do?? Over the last year, our entire team has been going through extensive training. Not only on the technical things, but more importantly on creating customer experiences so great that all of our customers will want to tell others about Air Assurance.
Today, I am asking for your assistance with this training. Attached to this letter is a survey card”
OK.. all that is well and good right?? The difference is they do it, they are that.? I didn’t sign up for their maintenance because of that letter; that letter was a result of me signing up.? I signed up because the first guy who came to my house spent “head and shoulders” more time explaining things to me.? His explanation didn’t just educate me, but he convinced me he knew what he was talking about, that his work (and the company) would make my life easier? etc.? He was “head and shoulders” above the competition.
Since that first visit, we have had occasion to have two additional technicians out on calls.? Each time their attitude, their competence, the time and effort they put in to fix the problem was consistent, was “above and beyond”.? Do I recommend them to others?… of course.
And the survey card is standard procedure for them?? I think it’s interesting, because I pretty much put down 10 all the time?; but they still want to improve.? One of the techs even said it; “I get a lot of 10’s, but please let me know of anything I can improve on”.? Wow?
The plumber: (www.mullinplumbing.com) While these guys are well known locally, they were not the plumber that we used on building this house 2 years ago.? But, we had a problem, and given we were not getting satisfaction from “our guy”?? Anyway, after spending two hours and explaining many things to us; I invited him back to fix it.? Why, because he was “head and shoulders” better.? They are better in response time, in competence, in seeming to care (not sell us things we don?t need), genuinely making our life easier? etc.
Toyota: Toyota has been synonymous with quality?for years.? How many times have you heard this.. “Toyotas will run forever; you can’t go wrong with a Toyota”, etc.? They earned this; and then they lost it; interesting analysis.
From a Time Magazine article (paraphrased): “The philosophy is popularly ascribed to a concept called “continuous improvement.” ?In practice, it’s the idea of empowering those people closest to a work process so they can participate in designing and improving it, rather than, say, spending every shift merely whacking four bolts to secure the front seat as each car moves down the line. Continuous improvement constantly squeezes excess labor and material out of the manufacturing process: people and parts meet at the optimal moment. It is also about spreading what you’ve learned throughout the system. ?It’s the reason, for instance, that when Toyota assumed full control of the New United Motor Manufacturing plant in Fremont, Calif., which it had co-owned with GM, it got way more productivity and quality out of it than GM could with essentially the same workforce and equipment.”
Sakichi Toyoda developed another concept, jidoka, or “automation with a human touch.” Think of it as built-in stress detection. At Toyota, that means work stops whenever and wherever a problem occurs. (Any employee can pull a cord to shut down the line if there is a problem.) That way, says Steven Spear of MIT, author of Chasing the Rabbit: How Market Leaders Outdistance the Competition and an expert in the dynamics of high-performance companies, “When I see something that’s not perfect, I call it out, figure out what it is that I don’t know and convert ignorance to knowledge.”
In the Toyota mantra, quality was always first, because it led to lower costs, which would eventually lead to higher market share. Eventually?
All this also gets us back to culture; the culture that Tom Peters in the early 90’s called “everybody does everything”; and “everyone thinks like an owner”.? Empowering the individual; in a culture of quality and service? produced Toyota’s result for many years..? it works.
Paraphrasing the Time article: But the fact that Toyota has produced so many imperfect cars (recently) is evidence that its system developed faults. The world’s most famous automobile company demonstrated that if you’re in the business of making cars, you’d better make sure your wheel works.
What happened?; essentially Toyota got greedy.? Their focus changed from quality to quantity.? They decided they wanted to be bigger than General Motors, they wanted to be the biggest.
And being the best and being the biggest created a tension that Toyota couldn’t resolve, says MIT operations expert Steven Spear: “If quality is first, it drives a certain set of behaviors. If market share is the goal, it drives a different set of behaviors.” i.e. culture.
And now, they are struggling to turn the big ship around.? Quoting Time again:? “Their focus on the customer has been nonexistent,” he says. “Toyota is famous for having an arrogant culture. They’re so used to dealing with successes that when they have a problem, they’re not sure how to respond.”
So what do we learn:
I’m sure it seems obvious?; provide good genuine service, focus on quality and the customer, give power to the people.? All well and good; but much easier said than done.? How do we “be” head and shoulders better?
Of importance; I look at this for MOS as like the technician who says “don’t give me all 10’s”; we are already pretty good.? To a person, we have the right attitude.? But like Toyota, we cannot rest on our laurels, we cannot let down, and we can always improve.
This is not a treatise on specifics; this is about culture.? We not only want to give good service; it’s who we are.? We are always thinking; “How can I make this customer tell others about us? (make his/her life easier); How can I make sure this customer knows of my competence (constant learning; How can I standout (be better) than the competition?; etc.? And then putting all those ideas into action.
All together now:? “We will continue to not only give good service, but convince folks, by our attitude and action; ?that our “essence” is caring, quality, honestly, leaving them better than we found them, etc.”