Culture - we have heard it all too often. What is culture?
As a nation, we do boast of a rich culture. And our organizations tend to believe that cultural DNAs have been infused in to their systems almost naturally. Well, unfortunately, reality for most of us is very different.
Culture is about beliefs, values, assumptions, behaviours and ideologies communities share. They could be negative, positive or neutral. And they don't happen, no, not like natural phenomena. There must surely be concerted effort and a compelling need to create a culture that augments well towards the delivery of customer value through products or services that are offered, while their unique features enhanced. Same goes for national cultures. Cultures speak volumes of your direction, where you aspire to be. And also of your goals and objectives.
|Deepanie Perera MAB (Sri J), DPHRM (UK), CPE (UK)
Business Consultant, HR Specialist & Trainer /Lecturer
Thus defining and designing your competitive advantage.
Have we not experienced more than enough times, when complaints and / or grievances are raised about goods and services we have had purchased, the utterly 'don't-care' or 'so-what' attitudes? Leaving us helpless and baffled? The real litmus test for cultural richness stand in situations of this nature. Collectively, we are at a sorry state, so to say.
Our people, being as 'accepting' as they are, leave room for not only 'use' but 'abuse' in the hands of vendors and service providers, who are happy to compromise on quality. The minority who demand, or take pains to complain, is hardly met with decent solutions. The cause is clear. Culture.
Corporate cultures must fit the needs of both their external (market needs) and internal environments. Without this fit, no effort will ever bear fruit.
Let's take a simple example.
Consider you, having identified a gap (external environmental need) and deciding to fill it by making a certain brand of beverage. Within your organization, you must ensure the right people are in right structures. Right people essentially mean right skills sets, right training and most of all right attitudes. This would also mean you have the right technology and machinery. Right supplies too. Culturally this situation represents congruence with your business needs. A win-win all round.
Sri Lankans almost always see unity in adversity. So why not capitalize on this? Take situations like Tsunami, terrorism, corruption, corporate frauds, etc., we have demonstrated 'care' at overwhelming proportions. We have demonstrated empathy and unity too. Then, why not replicate such values in all our activities? In all our business transactions? We can't alienate from such values, as customers become more and more demanding, seeking greater quality for least costs, with businesses continuously thrown in to highly turbulent markets.
Customer care must be integrated with the corporate culture, in order to gain a competitive edge. It is therefore, imperative that we create the right mindset and right cultures where 'care' gains pride of place - nationally and organizationally. We can, and we MUST.
The Dialog Delight
I was hospitalized at a private hospital for dengue a good 10 years back during the new year season of April. The day happened to be April 14. As you know, the country was on holiday, with most services either shut or essential ones operating an extremely scaled down version.
The mobile phone I was using started giving me trouble, the issue was with the instrument. My sister who was on a corporate package then, called the customer contact her company was assigned by the phone company. He promised to get a temporary instrument across to me until such time he got my phone attended to upon business resuming after the holidays. We were happy. Bang! There comes a phone, approximately within 45 minutes. Believe it or not, this young gentleman had walked all the way from Battaramulla to Narahenpita (due to unavailability of transport, both private and public), to handover his personal mobile phone for my use (as his office was shut, he had no way of getting an on-loan phone). We were both shocked and delighted. I have since used this story whenever and wherever possible as a tribute to two exemplary young men from Dialog. He is Riyaz Ikram. The one who delivered the phone was his colleague Ujala Wickremsinghe (as Riyaz was out of town then). A profound demonstration indeed, of Dialog's corporate values, and the unwavering commitment to their customers.
What a story!
Visible demonstration of what a businesses' purpose is at the centre of this delightful experience. Making employees live organisational values is fundamentally important. Recognising and rewarding them, from an employer's perspective is even more important. And this is one thing that Dialog is particularly committed to. Riyaz and Ujala had gone out of the way, to be there for their customer at a very crucial moment. A real 'moment of truth'. Customers would only believe you when they touch, feel and smell the real experience; that construct 'credibility' of you and your product not only in their hearts and minds, but among their larger networks. This goes to prove that promotional campaigns, material and merchandise businesses invest in heavily becomes secondary. What sells best is referral, through credible delivery of course.
The Callous Cab Experience
I salute 'Education Times' for the initiative to dedicate this space for customer care.
This incident took place 2 months ago, when I had ordered a cab to take me from Nawala to Kollupitiya, around mid day on a Saturday, drop only. I have a habit to order fifteen minutes ahead, so that any delays could be accommodated without affecting my appointments.
From the word go things were going wrong in the hands of this errant driver, I had to put up with. I was getting in to the cab, he was on the phone. Leaving alone opening the door for me and welcoming the customer, he didn't care less but continued to be on the phone and at his own cool pace. I decided to remain patient. The events that followed were as follows:
1. the a/c was not cooling enough, my repeated requests to turn the temperature down were ignored
2. he drove at 35 km per hour when he could have easily driven faster (when ever there was no traffic), ignoring my repeated requests to go faster
3. took the wrong turn at one point, making my whole journey longer and more time consuming
4. started arguing with me claiming he was unable to drive faster than what he was going at
5. I ordered him to stop by and got off the car (without paying the bill of course, as I felt abused, exploited and extremely unsafe at this stage) and got in to the three-wheeler parked near by and got to my destination 10 minutes later than my appointment!
6. I called the cab company after my meeting, talked to their Manager and informed what I had gone through in the hands of their driver. He promised to investigate through his marketing manager. I was also told that the subject driver had just returned after a major accident and had not got over the fear to drive.
7. Two days later the marketing manager calls, makes an appointment, cancels it later, informs he would meet me a few days later, etc., etc., but never makes it eventually.
8. A week later I receive an anonymous letter by post written in sinhala, addressed to me, threatening to kill me in connection with the drama. The language used was extremely abusive and foul. The anonymous writer discloses that he had lost his job with the cab company as a result of my complaint.
9. I contacted the cab company (at this point I had already stopped using their service) and shared the letter incident. They seemed to sound shocked and assured to get back to me…..and to date nothing's materialized.
I am waiting.
We empathise with Ms. Fathima Uvais.
A complaint as serious as this one particularly, should have received very serious attention and swift action. If this had taken place in the developed world, just this alone, one may risk it for costing you the business. Sadly, we lag behind in our commitment towards customer satisfaction, leave alone customer delight. Preventing such eventualities and damage controlling if /and when they do take place are two basic approaches. The former involves the cab company taking all possible measures in the right selection of drivers (consider the accident he had had recently, obtain police clearances, check on past employment records, etc.,) providing them with necessary trainin with a great deal of focus on customer care. Mechanisms to reward and recognize good performers and creating a performance culture within the organization are important to make the employees compound and internalize such compelling practices as company values.
Remember, what is not measured can't be managed.
In terms of damage control, the company should have a transparent complaint management system that customers could trust. Discipline management becomes all so important here. As an industry, there should be a system in place for, such unacceptable behaviour to be reported to other cab operators so that errant drivers don't stand another chance for employment when they think they could move from one place to another like grass hoppers. Ms. Uvais could file a complaint with the police and / or Childrens' and Womens' bureau at Fort for legal remedy.
The research carried out on this company's culture, revealed so much the absence of care, not only towards customers, but towards their own employees; and larger-than- life presence of customer carelessness.