Overwhelm clients and customers with service. It doesn’t sound hard, does it? It’s nothing more than following the Golden Rule. And yet…
During many happy years of managing retail brokerage offices I found out that the Golden Rule just isn’t specific enough for some. We bring human frailties to our work every day – frailties which get in the way of consistent service. As staffs come back after two years of working from home, you may find that the old band is out of tune. Here is way to get everyone back into harmony.
A few years ago, at an office in New Jersey my team and I considered different ways to memorialize our basic standards – something that could serve as a daily reminder. We talked about writing a rule book, starting a local service recognition program and many other good ideas before we opted for the tried-and-true Code of Conduct model. The military’s Code of Conduct is a masterpiece of simplicity, easy to remember and effective. We made our own, distilling our expectations into six ideas. Here they are, just as they were written down in 2007:
This Office's Service Code
We are here to provide excellent service, the best possible. We are not the judges of what excellent service is, the clients and colleagues that we serve are.
Every person we deal with is somebody’s mother, son or grandpa. These are people and they need to be treated the same way that we treat our dads, kids and grandmas.
If something is incorrect, fix it or make sure that somebody else does.
It is never good enough to give up on solving a problem because we didn’t know how, or forgot, or got distracted.
The questions, notes, and emails that you get came to you because the people who asked or sent them expect an answer. Don’t fail them.
Money does not make people happy. The milk of human kindness does. Make people happy.
My business happened to be retail brokerage, but this sort of code can be adapted to any business environment where service comes first. The key isn’t writing the code, it’s using it. Here is how I implemented ours:
1. Flaunt it! Be brave and hold a meeting with your people for the sole purpose of discussing the code. Expect to be laughed at, expect to be questioned, and expect to be ignored. Don’t worry about it. That is exactly what a great leader is built to endure. Keep your sense of humor, stick to the message, and let them know that you live by this code and you want them to also.
2. Deputize Them! Every member of the team must have equal authority to ask others to abide by the service code. Let them know that you expect them to call you out when you, as the leader, fail to live up to the code. That will get them paying attention! It also sets up great opportunities for you to be vulnerable and human as the leader.
3. Put It On The Wall! Literally. I handed out printed copies of the code at meetings a few times a year. I was thrilled whenever I saw that someone decided to pin the code to their cubicle wall or tape it to their desk. I framed it and hung a copy the wall next to the reception station. We never distributed it to clients (nor would I recommend that) but more than one client commented favorably framed copies they saw over the years.
4. Enforce It! This can be the hard part, but it can also be the easiest. When I saw service that was not up to par, I didn’t have to sit someone down and give them a written evaluation. I could just point to the code and people got the message. I never used the code as a tool for corrective action, only as a flag to rally around when the way was unclear.
All in all, you’ll find that an organizational service code will help to make your office the best that it can be. It helped me develop the environment of trust, respect, and harmony that I always owed to my staffs, and it can do the same for you.