Focus on your values to deliver customer excellence

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These days, most business articles from news sources, major worldwide consultancies, subject-matter experts, academics, and corporate leaders, seem to have a major focus on company values. The primary assertion I see is the focus on corporate values as a key element in corporate identity. This is more than just “finding your why” as author Simon Sinek postulated about a decade ago.

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These days, most business articles from news sources, major worldwide consultancies, subject-matter experts, academics, and corporate leaders, seem to have a major focus on company values. The primary assertion I see is the focus on corporate values as a key element in corporate identity. This is more than just “finding your why” as author Simon Sinek postulated about a decade ago.

This is supposed to be the essence of the organization. These are the core elements that build the successful culture of a business.

We talk about core values when I lead strategic planning engagements. When I teach courses, establishing values is a part of strategic planning and marketing.

And yet, we still have reports of corporate greed, ethical violations, fraud, corruption, poor labour relations with employees, and various other incidents that make me shake my head. I do not want to dwell on these items — they exist. The bigger question is, “what can be done to improve commitment to core values?”

I use a series of fundamental, block-and-tackle type questions that help clarify if the company is really committed to executing its core values or is it just something nice to put up on the office wall for visitors to see. Living and executing your values is part of every winning game plan.

Ask yourself these questions. First, does my company claim to be customer-centric? How do you know and how do you measure? And how will you make appropriate adjustments?

Next, consider whether redesigning company policies is to benefit customers or protect our company. While profitability is important for every business to focus on, it is more important to understand the drivers of profitability. Research from MarketCulture has clearly shown that a customer-centric view — an important value — results in better profitability.

Third, does my company have a prompt and clear process to remedy customer complaints/issues?

Finally, do we allow front-line employees (those with the first touchpoint with a customer) the ability to override our company policy for the benefit of a customer? Would we reprimand an employee for going against our policy for the benefit of a customer? And would we consider changing a policy to be a benefit for our customers?

Core values do not change annually or at the whim of management. A value is like the organization’s DNA and is unique and sacred to each individual organization. While it is tempting to look at other companies you admire, do not arbitrarily steal their values.

The development of your core values is a deliberate process where key people agree on the values and ensure that each employee knows how their job fits into delivering on these values on a daily basis. If there is any disconnect where senior leaders deviate from those established values and an employee cannot make this link, your internal strength will diminish.

The result will be deteriorating employee/employer relationships and reduced trust with customers. Once trust is lost in either of these two scenarios, it is tough to regain, and there is a negative impact on your corporate performance.

I use a three-step process that you may find helpful to identify your core values. First, review your company history, trends, important achievements and innovations, and annual successes, to find out what your employees and customers believe are the factors that have led to this success. You will uncover so many gems that the challenge is to home in on the four or five that define you. And it doesn’t matter who produces the values, just ensure you select the most foundational ones.

This is a deep thinking process and requires a substantial commitment to develop them. They will define what you stand for and what you stand against in the service to your customers, employees, and community.

Second, you need to align your priorities against those values. One excellent exercise is to compare your annual objectives against the values to ensure that your company activities and initiatives match your stated words.

Finally, you must recharge and empower your employees to ensure everyone knows how their daily activities support your values to deliver on the customer-centric game plan that is necessary for success. This is not simply high fives and pizza lunches, but includes thoughtful discussion and ongoing interaction between front-line employees and senior leadership. Living your values keeps companies doing excellent work and off the front page of the news.

Tim’s bits: It is critical that you uphold your values in all your policies and actions on a daily basis at each level of the organization. You must treat employees well, so they treat your customers well. That is the foundation of every winning game plan.

Tim Kist is a Certified Management Consultant, authorized by law, and a Fellow of the Institute of Certified Management Consultants of Manitoba.

Tim Kist

Tim Kist
Columnist

Tim is a certified management consultant with more than two decades of experience in various marketing and sales leadership positions.

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