Great company managers and leaders serve all the time - by listening, paying attention and supporting people to fulfil their true talents.
Colleagues who are well cared for give great customer service. Make sure that you provide an environment of care, enhancing the well being of those who work with you, and your customer base will be equally healthy.
Recognise good work and let everyone know what has happened - this will encourage more of the same.
Encourage strong relationships throughout the company and treat people like adults. Then they will behave like adults with your customer.
Serving the community is a positive gift to the world around you that engenders pride, loyalty and development in colleagues.
It takes a couple of years for poor customer service to hit the bottom line - get feedback and act on it consistently.
Customers talk about poor service - it is a way of dealing with the negative feelings. But by the time you realise that something is wrong, it is really wrong and hard to change.
Flight Centre realised the truth of this and decided to set up a customer service survey worldwide every six months - just what is it like to buy a holiday through a Flight Centre representative? Not much new there - but you would be amazed at how many organisations ask for feedback, collate it, study it and then put it away! At FC, detailed results are given to all managers, on the understanding that they need to work on the negatives that emerge. The upside is that it allows them to congratulate and reinforce the positives that make for exceptional service.
Companies have information coming out of their ears, and it is really tempting to gloss over yet another set of results when faced with countless meetings, e-mails and deadlines. ‘Head stuck in the sand' can be appealing at times. Great companies really want to know how they are doing. As Gary Hogan says:
We're always questioning ourselves, just because it's working now are we kidding ourselves that we're getting this right? We need to know why people call, what they get, what their perception was of the service.
They want the detail, rather than just asking if people had a good or bad service - that is too nebulous and cannot be acted upon.
This totally sensible response takes courage and determination because it means being ready to listen to what you did not get right. Especially if you have had 20 years of 20 to 30 per cent compound improvement, as FC has, why bother putting yourself through it? But the horrible truth is that no one gets it right all the time - we are only human, after all. The trick is to accept that and welcome the tough feedback as learning. If you do not, the chances are that the problems will creep up on you and cause much bigger problems in the long run.
Check when you last asked customers - internal or external - for feedback. Work out what you need to know, whom you need to ask, and clarify the questions that will evoke this information. If you are not the analytical type, join forces with an expert in this field to ensure that you are making the most of the opportunity.
Inform those who need to know and get the backing to act on the information gathered.
Listen fully to the feedback - better not to ask than to ask and not listen.
Plan how you will utilise the information. Make sure that the right people are included.
Develop a timeline for action, with regular meetings to report back on findings and changes.
Celebrate successes, including everyone involved.
Once primary needs are answered we begin to think more widely of the world about us. This leads increasingly to strong corporate social responsibility initiatives in organisations.
Wragge & Co. - serving the needs of Birmingham
Steve had been a solicitor with Wragge & Co. for a while and felt the need for a change. Because of his loyalty to the firm he gave his manager plenty of warning (always the sign of a great working relationship). He explained that he really enjoyed his work but wanted to be more useful, and so was thinking of working for a charity. Keen to hold on to a good person, but also knowing that the firm wanted to extend its work in the community, his manager sent Steve off to write a CSR job description.
He has been happily working in this capacity for some time now, doing everything from raising funds by swimming with sharks, sleeping rough alongside the senior partner, John Crabtree, to raise awareness for the plight of the homeless, and building strong partnership connections, to working on behalf of a number of charities in Birmingham. There is a great deal to do in this area and the firm is making an extremely positive contribution.
St Luke's - serving the needs of community and planet
Nina came to St Luke's from the Prince's Trust with no experience of advertising. Her role is twofold: to tend the culture of St Luke's and to enable the company to provide service to the outside world. The range of work done is extremely varied and, as you would expect, highly innovative.
The agency has what it calls ‘social shares' - a virtual currency that enables it to provide help outside the confines of the business. Agency members began by striving to make St Luke's a carbon-neutral company. Having measured their negative environmental impact, they work in partnership with Future Forests, an organisation that offsets emissions through such projects as planting mango trees, which have an equal and opposite positive effect on carbon levels.
Time social shares enable colleagues to use work time for social projects that touch their hearts. Financial social shares fund programmes such as the St Luke's Scholarship in partnership with YCTV, which sponsors young people to attend a media programme designed to give them a head start in the industry.
Nina manages all these initiatives and more. Given the freedom to extend her thinking and work in areas that are her passion, she can see a direct impact. Like the young woman who recently won a prize from YCTV and has been offered the chance to develop a career in TV - here is someone whose life would be much less interesting if it were not for the CSR work of St Luke's.
Asda - store of the community
Asda are highly active in supporting their communities. In October 2000 they launched their own standard of what makes for a socially responsible store. To qualify, stores demonstrate good relationships with their local communities including schools, charities, the emergency services, MPs and local suppliers. This is achieved both through fund-raising for charities and by people getting directly involved in issues that matter to them personally.
Helen Oates joined the finance team at Asda House in 2002 and was soon involved in a fashion show to raise funds for charity. Modelling George clothes, the team worked out their own choreography and music, attracting 200 people. Everyone pulled together and played their part, even Helen when she was asked to wear a nightie. ‘It was a bit revealing - oh, my goodness! - but I managed to do it.'
But this is not all she has done. The team have adopted Broom Court, a home for handicapped children, and she has already spent considerable time there, painting murals, planting a seasonal garden and just getting to know the kids. There are benefits all round, not just to Broom Court. Helen has got to know her team really well - better than in previous workplaces - and she quite rightly feels a huge sense of pride in all they have achieved together.
Talk with your team to discover what community initiatives they are keen to undertake.
If you can set about this on your own as a team, work out ways of achieving your desired end. Choose the people who will support you, and plan how you will celebrate your success. Make sure that necessary work time is set aside to support people in this activity.
If you need company agreement, create a plan together and make a presentation to the relevant leaders. Involve the whole team and use the opportunity to build relationships with leaders in the company.
Send out the call to others in the company who could be interested in working with you.
If you want the company to do more, get together a group of interested people to prepare a proposal for a company-wide CSR programme. Look at the DTI website on Corporate Social Responsibility for information of what other companies are doing. Take it to the relevant leaders and advocate your case.