Textiles: Steve Kallenbach, ADI American Dawn, Los Angeles, Calif.
Communication is the basis of all culture. The business world talks about culture all the time, never really touching on what needs to be developed, taught, exampled and managed—which is, in fact, the communication process.
We have customers. Some are internal associates, and some are external trading partners. Successful cultures have a common language that starts from the inside out, is led from the top and is based in the “heart of house”—those folks who do the work day in and day out. From that “inside” language, a company can build a common culture, whatever the mission. From the ground up or the top down, you all have to believe and be able to state the same goals. Once the language is in place, efficiencies in your company will take wing.
Start with what you are delivering. Is it a product or service? Neither. It’s a customer experience—better said, a quality customer experience. So, put a language to the mission. Customer experience = quality + value-added + enumeration + perception. If you can manage these keywords in your language, and get everyone in the organization headed in the same direction, then every conversation regarding your products and services (and all the support around them) should be centered in your “corporate language.”
Let’s look at these four keywords:
Quality: While companies set standards for products and services, they must understand, accept and embrace the fact that it is the external trading partners who are the ones who set the acceptable standards. Once a company clearly understands market standards, and where they are in comparison, they must accept the fact that quality expectations will always shift, expand, and heighten (and never diminish).
Value-Added: People buy things for what they do, not what they are. Companies that understand this concept focus on differentiating their products and services with all the special little extras that offer additional “benefit.” In the absence of these value-added differentiators, customers will only rely on price comparison—just like employees will only rely on salary comparison. Go value-added and teach your people to look for this attribute in everything they do, both for your customers and for each other.
Enumeration: Bottom line, if you do something for someone (internal or external customer), and if you don’t somehow tell them, in many cases you simply haven’t done it. Your associates need to look at this in every communication and not leave the perception open. This closes communication threads in a definite and positive way.
Perception: Relationships are won and lost on this word—possibly the hardest word in the English language. We must manage perceptions in our communication. That is to say, if you have a quality product or service that performs or outperforms your competitors, then you must discover or develop the value-added, be able to communicate (enumerate) it and then manage the perception of the receiver to make sure your understandings match.
Improving communication is about culture. Culture is based in a common language. The next time you have any business issue, ask these four questions of your team.
- What did we do in comparison to what our external market or internal audience expected as standard?
- What have we done “extra” (with or without cost) that makes what we did more valuable?
- Did we specify and explain exactly what we did in steps 1 and 2 above?
- What is the audience’s perception of steps 1, 2 and 3 above, and how does that compare with what we thought we did?
Use this communication process in your work, your home, your neighborhood or wherever people communicate. Bring the language of customer experience to the table consistently, and you’ll see your company thrive in employee satisfaction and customer retention. And finally, make sure that every person in your organization understands this language. Start all your meetings with this overview. Understand it. Speak it. Write it. Show it. Live it. Thrive.
Commercial Laundry: Rick Rone, Laundry Plus, Bradenton, Fla.
Above all else, be honest!
When things are going well, all too often we forget to thank the people who are responsible. On the other hand, however, we rarely forget to comment or reprimand the responsible parties for their mistakes.
The definition of communication is “The imparting or exchanging of information or news.” This implies a two-way discussion.
I believe that it is imperative to find a balance between keeping an open mind and honestly listening to what people are saying, or taking the position that you are right and therefore the other party must be wrong.
I find that attempting to maintain an even balance between talking and listening can provide quite acceptable results most of the time.
I believe that we all try to surround ourselves with the most qualified and professional people possible. That being the case, keep an open mind, make your point but be willing to admit that you are not always right.
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