Earlier, I wrote about a hotel where the staff routinely lied to their customers. They misled them by booking their reservations for a building that was not available. They let their customers believe they were getting a certain “product” even though they knew that product was not available. I consider that a lie.
In cases like these it would be easy to blame the employees for the bad behavior. But I don’t. At least not entirely. They were just acting on orders from management. And, who knows, their jobs might be at risk if they chose to not follow those orders.
On the other hand, no matter who and where we are, no matter what our jobs are, we always have a choice in what we do and how we do it. Misleading your customers is a lousy thing to do. It’s dishonest. If as an employee, I’m asked to do something I think is wrong, I always have a choice to not do it. I also have to face the consequences of my actions.
If I’m an employee and I value honesty and openness in how I deal with others, I’m going to prefer a job where I can live those values without conflict or repercussions. If I am constantly asked to act in ways that conflict with those values, I’ll eventually experience stress or other issues that could make me less effective in my job.
This is critical in creating a workplace that works well.
When I ask employees what keeps them from giving their customers the best customer service, the number one answer is: management (or some variation such as “my boss”, “not enough time”, etc.). They say they get mixed messages about what is most important. That makes it hard for them to know what their priorities should be.
This is a double-edged sword.
As I mentioned above, every employee has the option to provide great customer service every time. It’s up to them. But they also have to accept the consequences of doing so. That might mean not getting other work done. It might mean contradicting what their boss told them to do. It could mean (in the employees mind) they put their job at risk.
As a manager, leader or owner, you need to understand this. If you tell employees to deliver amazing service but limit their ability to do so, you’re making it hard for them to be effective and successful. You might say your company has certain values. But if your actions do not support them, employees and customers will know. They’ll see it. Remember, actions still speak louder than words.
In the hotel example above, I doubt the management team tells employees “we value dishonesty” and “we want you to lie to our customers”. But their actions (through policies or procedures) compelled their employees to mislead their customers. The result is a conflict of values and actions. And a values-behavior conflict will eventually lead to other conflicts and problems.
If you want your employees to stay motivated to serve customers well, you need to tell them and show them that you value great customer service. Your actions, policies, procedures and words all need to demonstrate this in an ongoing way. They need to be consistent. When you affirm your values (with your employees and customers) you create an environment where everyone cane be focused on the same goal: helping the customer get what they want in a way that is sustainable for your organization.
How about your company? Are there unintentional conflicts? Are there ways is which your company values clash with what actually happens in the company?