You want clients to feel they get “value for money” when they deal with you. That’s fine. But there’s more to a business relationship than only that value. To gain superior staff performance you need to tell employees all business values you want your business to represent to prospects and customers.
Two Essential Questions
As manager you need to be clear about two things concerning business values.
- What values you want your business to stand for
- What you’ll do to ensure that your employees represent those values to prospects and customers.
What Your Business Stands For
These values should be stated as clearly as possible. No room for “waffle words” here. A plumbing company client of mine says simply, “If we’re late you pay nothing.” Can you imagine how reassured clients are by that statement? It’s emblazoned on all official company documents and websites. No “ifs, buts or perhaps”: no “conditions apply” or “within 10km”. Simply, “If we’re late you pay nothing.”
As each job is booked, the customer is given a commitment that the work will be commenced within a 2 hour window agreeable to the customer. If the work starts late, even by one minute, the customer pays nothing regardless of the overall cost of the job.
Customers are overjoyed when staff meet the guarantee and refuse to accept payment. Some customers insist on paying. But a guarantee is a guarantee. Customers sometimes contact head office and offer payment, particularly when they’re happy with the work done. But the guarantee is always honoured.
Customers learn quickly that
- The company knows customers are busy and can expect plumbers to be there as mutually agreed
- They can trust the word of the plumbing company
- It links with another guarantee: that the customers is the final judge of satisfactory work. The customer is always asked to test the repair. When it works well but there’s no payment required, the customer learns that the guarantee wasn’t merely a “cover” for inferior work
- The company is committed to a long term relationship with the customer
- The company is definitely not “just another plumbing company”
- The relationship between customer and company is based on values beyond mere “value for money”.
Staff Learn That
- Company guarantees mean what they say
- Company guarantees will be honoured
- Customer satisfaction is the paramount measure of satisfactory repair work
- When they themselves make a commitment to a customer, they must honour that commitment
- Being late for a job is a major deficiency in customer service
- Retaining a customer’s business has greater long term value than the cost of one job
- The relationship between the customer and the business isn’t “just about money”.
“Values” Underpin Every Interaction
- Every interaction between your customer and your company is underpinned by a set of values… good or ill
- Customers will infer a value from every interaction. If you claim that “your satisfaction is our prime concern” then haggle over the cost of a $10.00 part, you’re not only raising doubts about the $10 cost. You’re also raising doubts about whether what you say can be believed.
Other “Value” Perceptions
What values do you wish to promote and retain when
- Dealing with employees
- Dealing with competitors
- Dealing with providers and suppliers: businesses who have you as a customer
- Operating legally and ethically
- Working with colleagues such as other members of your management group to name just a few “value” based issues.
And the Staff… ?
It’s important to remember that your staff infer values from your actions in the same way that customers, competitors and service providers do. The two things that staff want to see are clarity and consistency.
Clarity and Consistency
If you say, for instance, “my door is always open if there’s something you want to talk about” make sure they can easily and readily speak with you. Don’t expect employees to be satisfied with having to make an appointment to see you two weeks in advance. And if it seems that some staff can arrange to see you any time at a moment’s notice, don’t imagine that those who have to wait two weeks won’t notice the difference.
When Staff Fail You
A couple of years ago, a truck struck my car as I was leaving my driveway. The driver of the truck had mounted a median strip in trying to pass other cars stopped at a red light. The damage was only slight and the driver admitted he’d made an error. He told me the name of the manager to call to arrange compensation.
When I phoned the manager concerned – a son of the owner – he denied any liability and insisted I was lying and that I was at fault. As the damage was slight I didn’t bother to pursue the matter.
The company involved has a chain of hardware stores. But I’ll never enter one again. We don’t share values.
Empty Promises: Conflicting Values
Many years ago I spent some months consulting with a national company. The founder and Managing Director always claimed that “anyone can reach the top here if they want to.” All members of the top management group had been promoted from within. The General Manager had been a Branch Manager. The Operations Manager had started as a cleaner. You may disagree with the Managing Director’s policy. But it was transparently real. And it offered all employees the same opportunities.
You, Values and Employees
Firstly, make sure that you’re clear about the values you want your business to stand for. You may think that your employees already know. Check that out. Your values will be represented in your marketing position, your performance standards and systems, your rewards and incentive program and the effectiveness of your customers relations. If they aren’t crystal clear to you, they’ll be even less clear to employees. Constantly ask yourself and your employees, “Does this represent the business values that are important to us?”
Why Employees Matter
Customers learn about your business values primarily from interactions with employees. It’s so important that employees understand how important they are in representing values in your business.
Values are an essential element of how every company, large, medium or small, operates. They go way beyond conventional concepts of “value for many”. They underpin every aspect of business operation. The importance of values can’t be overestimated. And it should never be counted.