Values vs the Customer Experience
I’ve been in dispute with one of our suppliers. It’s a rare event that causes the frustration that sometimes results in tweets that make me appear slightly more cantankerous than Victor Meldrew and slightly angrier than Mr Trump on one of his angry tweet days. (I’ve realised that I really only use my personal Twitter account to reach out to companies that have failed to respond in an appropriate or timely way to more traditional forms of contact.)
My annoyance with this particular supplier reached a crescendo last week when I reminded them of their ‘fanatical support’ promise and emailed them a copy of it.
The response I received included this telling line: “I’m speaking to our legal team about the fanatical support document you attached, I was previously unaware of it.”
It was a response that told me a great deal more about the real culture within that organisation than the promise they so proudly espouse on their website and sales brochures.
Which got me thinking: We’ve all come across organisations that cite an impressive list of values, ethics and service commitments that simply fail to translate to day-to-day business.
What causes this mismatch?
Complexity: One very practical barrier is complexity. I remember working with one organisation in particular, which had a long list of values and a separate list of principles. I never found a single employee who could recount them all. Whilst complexity in itself doesn’t mean values can’t be embedded in an organisation’s culture, I firmly believe that having an overly complex set of values makes communicating them and achieving buy-in more difficult. That’s why, within Glasstap we’ve restricted ourselves to a handful of Passions, which have stood us in good stead for nearly 20 years.
Complexity wasn’t really the issue with the organisation I was in dispute with last week; on paper their promise appeared simple and crystal clear. It just didn’t translate in any shape or form to our experience. So, I listed some other barriers:
Leadership: If leaders don’t demonstrate a real belief in the values or role model the behaviours associated with them, why would their teams?
Strategy: If the organisation’s values aren’t at the heart of strategic decisions, how important are they really perceived to be?
Bias: What behaviours do organisations really value with its rewards policy, for example? Chances are, in a lot of organisations you’ll find the focus is on short-term financials – profit and costs - and that very little recognition is given to achievements linked to other core values.
My list was growing too long for a blog. But I realised a common theme was emerging. Isn’t it simply that values only work if they are the heart and soul of an organisation?
Every year, for nearly 20 years, the whole team at Glasstap have gathered to discuss and devise our annual strategy and agree what we’ll each contribute to it. It’s the reason why our Alston office will be closed on Thursday and Friday next week. (Don’t worry, you’ll still be able to contact us by emailing [email protected].) The resulting strategy is owned by everyone and, critically, includes clear objectives for each one of our values. And to emphasise their importance, profit sharing and other rewards are linked not just to financial results but to achievements in customer focus, innovation, team spirt and social responsibility too.
I’m not claiming we’re perfect and I appreciate it’s easier for small businesses like ours. But, at the end of the day, for me, it comes to this: If your values genuinely matter, every business decision you make should reflect them, even if there’s a short-term financial cost. Why? Because people want to know that the organisation’s they work for and choose to buy from are honest, trustworthy and authentic.
Our values are us, and they are our business. And if we fail to live any of our values, I want you to tell me - because they matter, and because we are still learning. It’s that feedback that helps ensure we keep our values at the heart of Glasstap.
And, if you want a training activity that illustrates how strong values can help engage staff, and improve business performance, have a look at 'The Card Factory' in Trainers' Library. With Christmas and a brand new year approaching, there’s no better time to use it!
Until next time…