Today’s world of ultra-sophisticated customers often necessitates the delivery of exceptional customer experiences to create marketplace differentiation, and sometimes, just to survive in a competitive landscape. Last week, we addressed the importance of an aligned organization design to develop or maintain an ideal customer relationship. In Part 2, we will share five essential business values that can be the foundation of your organization’s capabilities to deliver an exceptional customer experience.
The backbone of any successful organization is its culture. In our book, “Mastering the Cube,” we define culture as “an organization’s assumptions, beliefs, values, and norms.” Defining the core company values provides employees with the guideposts they need to shape their actions and helps customers understand what makes the company distinctive.
When John Warnock and Charles Geschke founded Adobe in 1983, they identified the key values upon which they would center the business. Today, as a Fortune 400 company with over 22,000 employees, Adobe remains committed to the four core values that have led them to greatness; Adobe lists these values on its website as a reminder to both customers and employees. As a brand with perhaps the largest creative community in the world, Adobe exemplifies one of its essential values, “exceptional,” by finding ways to engage with customers and celebrate their work. For example, Adobe’s website invites customers to “go wherever your imagination takes you” and features an extensive blog section with customer stories of how Adobe products have solved their problems or enhanced their business opportunities.
Nurturing Relationships in the Absence of Customer Contact
Business relationships are built slowly, must be secured deliberately, and can be destroyed quickly. Rarely can relationships with customers be continually nurtured. Instead, a company-wide commitment to core business values can act as a time-released catalyst to ensure customer relationships are healthy and secure. Indeed, strong business values will help continually nourish the relationship between customers and businesses, even when contact with the customer is only occasional or is absent for a time.
Five Essential Business Values
The five essential business values of accountability, integrity, trust, mutual respect, and excellence are vital to building and maintaining business relationships that flourish.
Value #1: Accountability
Accountability requires taking responsibility for and justifying our actions by reporting our results in accordance with goals or expectations. Accountability comprises a mutually agreed plan that will achieve the goals and expectations of the customer, while also helping to achieve the analogous goals and objectives of the company.
When leaders utilize data and metrics or other technology to determine whether an organization’s customer service is improving or declining, it is important that the data be accurate and timely and that leaders hold themselves accountable for the customer experience. Accountability is not blaming people for lack of success. It simply means that leaders take ownership of what they need to do and lay a path for their team to follow. When customers are aware that the business holds itself responsible, that accountability continually nourishes the business relationship in its absence.
Value #2: Integrity
An initial definition of integrity is “being whole and undivided,” which is entirely appropriate for business relationships. It is meeting the customer with only one agenda, one purpose, and clean intentions. Customers can sense ulterior or selfish motives and second agendas. Such business behaviors always gnaw at the roots of the relationship, preventing it from reaching its full potential.
A second definition of integrity is honesty and strong moral principles. This would include authenticity, sincerity, and the lack of double standards, agendas, or a chameleon-like personality. Integrity is not defined by just one good act, but it is built over time and becomes the cumulative effect of many acts and behaviors. It is doing the right thing for the customer when it may not immediately be the most advantageous for the company. When customers believe in the company’s honesty, that integrity nourishes the business relationship in its absence.
Value #3: Trust
We think of trust as precious, and yet it is the basis for nearly everything we do as civilized people. It is because of trust that we exchange our hard-earned paychecks for goods and services or enter business or personal relationships. To trust an organization, a customer must view it as sincere and authentic, presenting credible data and justification for its products and pricing. Ensuring that your customers can trust your company will nourish the business relationship in its absence.
Value #4: Mutual Respect
Mutual respect is simply the ability to show the same respect we desire to receive, even on those occasions when it may feel one-sided. Mutual respect is nearly always unconditional, and true leadership takes this to a higher level, without the guarantee nor requirement for the other party to reciprocate. While this could be perceived as a paradox to “mutual,” it is the most effective definition. The best leaders will teach mutual respect by exemplifying it. As customers perceive the sincerity of a company’s respect, this will also nourish the business relationship in its absence.
Value #5: Excellence
Excellence is not a destination that when we reach, we stop. Rather, it is a continual process of improvement. Essentially, it is “consistently striving.” Leadership has by far the most direct effect on the company’s cultural commitment to excellence, which revolves around employee engagement, environment, atmosphere and the success of the company and its customers. What customer would not want to do business with a company constantly striving for excellence? Indeed, making every effort to achieve excellence will nourish the business relationship in its absence.
Relationships with customers endure far beyond the value of product offerings or even customers’ perceptions of the products. It is leaders who establish the business values by engaging in a deeply committed and grounded process that will infuse and motivate such values and culture in every employee, at every level, every time. Successfully instilling these five values into your organization’s culture will allow you to create strategic differentiation through exceptional customer service.
We’d like to thank Michael Page, Au.D., for lending his insight to this blog. Michael has spent more than three decades working as a global business and education consultant, including his expertise on ethical practices and workplace trust.