“Customers Come First” is more than just a slogan; it’s a culture

Posted on January 2, 2007. Filed under: Blog--All categories, Management development, Staff selection |

The excerpt below comes from an article in Workforce.com and reinforces the importance of recognizing employees for their efforts–not only because of the effort made but also because of the long-range impact of that recognition:

Express carrier company DHL has a recognition program designed to reinforce customer service. The “Finding Their Heroes” program uses performance, service and on-the-spot awards to recognize extraordinary customer service. A trainer in one of DHL’s hubs was recognized after he sprinted to an ice cream store for ice when a package containing a blood sample was getting too warm as it was being delayed in customs.

“They [DHL] understand that you can’t just put a poster on the wall that says, ‘Customers Come First.’ The only way they’re going to develop that is by recognizing those behaviors,” Gostick says.

When managers understand the significance of recognizing employees for the quality of their work and their efforts on the company’s behalf–rather than just recognizing when something goes wrong, they build a strong foundation for employee motivation and commitment. The consistent recognition that is a part of a company’s culture–and not just a poster on the wall–is what makes the words on that poster reality. After all, if employees do not feel valued and appreciated for their efforts they are more likely to pass that feeling along to your customers. That’s a risk you do not want to take!

How does a company develop and foster this commitment to valuing not only customers but also employees? It has to do with an understanding in top management that your company is in business because of the people who work there, not in spite of them. It comes from realizing that customers–you and me included–do business with people and products they like. For example, if two products are comparable but the service you get when you are shopping for those products are markedly different, you will choose the product from the business that values and respects you as a person.

Likewise, employees work harder and with greater commitment for managers who value and respect their efforts and input to the success of the company.

But recognition of employees and their contribution isn’t all it takes. Creating a culture of appreciation requires that the message of appreciation be constantly and repeatedly communicated in the organization. Talking about it isn’t enough, though. That message must be reinforced through actions at the highest level with an expectation that similar action will be taken at the lowest level. The constant reinforcement through words and action is critical to changing the culture. Without that constant reinforcement over time, the message will be just another in a long line of do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do management.

Don’t expect rapid, overnight shifts in the culture in your organization just because you or someone else in the organization expressed appreciation to your staff one time. If that sort of appreciation is new in your company, employees will regard it skeptically at first. They won’t trust that this new thing will stick around, and they may even attempt to push some buttons to test it. Your commitment to changing the culture–regardless of how tough the going gets–is what will change that culture. Learn from DHL’s experience, and stay the course.


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