Creating a culture of service, performance, and operational excellence does not happen by chance. It takes a sound, systematic process, implemented throughout the organization, to create sustainable change.
During my 17 year career with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, I had the opportunity to see firsthand how creating a clear and simple service culture and holding everyone accountable for embracing it could create global, long-term recognition and success. After I left The Ritz-Carlton, I made it my mission to study other world-class organizations in hospitality, retail, manufacturing, and healthcare. In doing so, I found that there were many other organizations that also enjoyed sustainable success and recognition for driving excellence through employee engagement, customer loyalty, and ultimately profit dominance. During six months of in-depth benchmarking and research, I found six common principles that all of these organizations shared which attributed to their long-term success.
Thus, I created the customer service business model popularly known as The Six Principles of Service Excellence.
* Principle 1 – Vision & Mission – World-class organizations that are able to create and sustain a culture of service excellence have a sound vision and mission that is known, owned, and energized by every employee. In such cases, their vision statements clarify what they aspire to be in the future; while their mission statements articulate their purpose, what they stand for.
* Principle 2 – Business Objectives – World-class organizations that are able to create and sustain a culture of service excellence have clear, simple, quantifiable organizational goals and objectives that every employee is aware of. They don’t confuse employees with a multitude of objectives, but select 3-4 that employees not only know, but also understand how the work they do contributes to the successful achievement of them. Along with objectives that focus on growth and profitability, world-class organizations also have service-oriented objectives that focus on customer loyalty, employee engagement, and some form of quality improvement.
* Principle 3 – Service Standards – The purpose of service standards are to clarify for employees exactly what actions and behaviors are expected of them in driving excellence everyday, and creating customer loyalty. World-class organizations that are able to create and sustain a culture of service excellence create and regularly communicate the standards of excellence (key touch points) that are necessary in bringing their vision, mission, and business objectives to life. They do not leave this to chance.
* Principle 4 – Intervention & Learning Strategy – Just as they have a sound strategy in place to ensure financial success, world-class organizations have systems and processes in place to ensure their service philosophy (vision, mission, business objectives, and service standards) is interwoven into every aspect of the organizational culture. When it comes to employee recruitment and selection, new employee orientation, training and development, performance management, reward and recognition, incentive programs, and so on – the service philosophy is integrated each step of the way.
* Principle 5 – Organizational Alignment – World-class organizations that are able to create and sustain a culture of service excellence use every communication resource within their sphere of influence to constantly reinforce their service philosophy. They hold leaders accountable for regularly discussing the organizational vision, mission, business objectives, and service standards during daily pre-shift meeting, as well as, monthly or quarterly departmental meetings (which are required, not optional). Other communication resources used to align staff include posters, tent cards, and wallet cards that display the service philosophy. Also, they communicate and reinforce this information through employee newsletters, bulletin boards, and email taglines. Most importantly, senior executives are also accountable for discussing the relevance of the service philosophy every opportunity they get to interact with employees.
* Principle 6 – Measurement & Leadership Accountability – In the final analysis, what gets measured gets done. World-class organizations that are able to drive excellence use simple scorecards to help employees keep track of the organization’s success or failure in driving excellence. Measurement is what helps establish credibility in the process, by helping senior leaders determine strengths and weaknesses in the system, and more effectively hold mid-management accountable for driving excellence everyday.
Creating a culture of service excellence is a journey, not a destination. Honestly, there is no short cut or quick fix. To achieve it leadership must be 100% committed to applying a comprehensive approach and in it for the long-term to ensure sustainability.
Bottom-line, The Six Principles of Service Excellence is more than just a business model. It is a proven strategy for driving world-class employee performance and elevating the customer experience from average to extraordinary. And if followed implicitly, it will lead any organization (small or large) to achieving and sustaining a work environment that will foster superior employee performance and service excellence.