Many organisations make the mistake of launching customer loyalty programmes and CRM systems before they identify their values, according to Customer Care Coach, which promotes a full understanding and implementation of organisational values before implementing such initiatives.
JoAnna Brandi of Customer Care Coach, a Florida-based customer care and loyalty consultancy, asserts that for employees to be fully empowered to consistently create customer experiences that foster loyalty, they must first "understand and live the organisation's values". They must therefore understand what those values are, and how they should affect employee behaviour. Clearly defined corporate values provide a framework for the day-to-day choices employees make, and for the actions they take toward achieving organisational goals.
"You can encourage your staff to deliver excellent customer service until the cows come home, and you can buy a top-of-the-line CRM system. But if your organisation isn't clear on its values - what it stands for - you're very likely to undermine your efforts," Brandi explained.
According to Brandi, unifying values are factors that drive an organisation's culture. For example, if employees know that 'excellence' is an organisational value, they will make more choices with that in mind. If 'teamwork' is a corporate value, they are more likely to make choices and take actions with the team's best interests in mind.
Values have several different effects on the company and its employees:
- They make it easier for employees to work out how to 'do the right thing';
- They foster strong feelings of personal effectiveness and pride;
- They help everyone to agree about goals and to understand job expectations;
- They reduce levels of job stress and tension;
- They provide a sense of order without appearing to impose rigid rules;
- They promote high levels of loyalty to the company.
Brandi described one of the biggest mistakes companies make: believing that they're already living the values they feature in public relations and marketing materials. "There's often a huge gap between the values organisations say they have and the values they'd like to have or are actually living," warned Brandi. To help close that gap, she proposes five steps for defining, refining and reinforcing organisational values:
- Brainstorm, explore and clarify organisational values. Give everyone a clear, common, everyday understanding of how you define your values and what they look like in terms of daily behaviour. But simply using words like 'integrity' or 'balance' is not enough because everyone has their own definition of what those words mean.
- Make sure your values are 'customer-focused'. This will help achieve or maintain your competitive edge. This means you've taken the time to look at what your customers value, and it usually requires an 'outside-in' view of the company. Spend time understanding what the customer expects, what their goals and dreams are, and how they feel about doing business with the company.
- Give each employee the chance to uncover their personal values. Research shows that even if personal values are not in step with corporate values, employees who are clear on what their own personal values are tend to be more engaged in and committed to their work.
- Reinforce values. Make sure they are an integral part of your hiring, orientation, and ongoing training programmes. Management should consciously model organisational values, and encourage and praise staff members when they exhibit behaviour that support company values.
- Revisit values regularly. You will need to keep checking to see that they still make sense, and determine whether or not any changes are needed.
"Today's more cynical, demanding consumers are looking for companies that are driven by values, not just profit motives," explained Brandi. "Those that know and live their values tend to create great places to work in and do business with. They enjoy healthy profits as a result of their customers returning to buy more, often with friends and colleagues in tow."
According to Brandi's special report, entitled 'Making the Intangible Tangible: Identify Your Values & Transform Them Into Action', companies that live by their values and keep customers more easily are the ones that create profits more readily. The complete report can be purchased directly from the Customer Care Coach web site (for US$39, at the time of writing).