Service Culture: past, present, future?

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My grandparents grew up in a time when impeccable service was expected, and was delivered in the restaurants they took me to as a child.

I still remember. It wasn’t just the act of providing an excellent service experience. Service was the way it was done. From the time a tuxedo clad maitre’d walked us to a white linen covered table, a napkin gently shaken out and laid carefully across my lap, through the crumbs being brushed from our table as dessert and coffee were served with grace, this kind of elegant service was in style. Anything less than pristine service in my grandparents day signalled the end of a successful restaurant business.

Now, fast forward 50 years. Service culture has frequently been lost to rapid turn-over of employees, profit first mentality, and a crescendo of automated processes. A great service experience has become the exception, not the rule. When did we go from being shocked by poor service culture, to being shocked by finding a service culture that is GREAT?

But there is GOOD news here!

The widespread lack of service culture in business, government and society leaves an amazing opportunity to seize a leadership position by building an uplifting service culture in your organization. A powerful and preferred culture leads to better margins, better customers, a better reputation, and the ability to attract and retain better staff. In short, a the opportunity to build a sustainable competitive advantage.

One great example is the long-standing position of the Ritz Carlton Hotels. Their well-regarded credo is: “We are Ladies and Gentlemen, serving Ladies and Gentlemen”. This is the beacon they use to recruit, develop, manage and deliver the world class service for which they are so well known.

Twice the recipient of the famed Malcolm Baldridge quality award, the company empowers every employee up to $2,000 to take whatever action they deem necessary make an upset customer fully satisfied. This is not a budget per employee per year; it is the level of personal authority accorded to each staff member per incident!

And how has this paid off? When travellers throughout the world look for world-class hospitality, the Ritz Carlton is one brand that leaps to mind. When journalists look for a widely recognized icon of superior service, the same brand is often quoted. How much is this public perception and brand value worth? You can hardly measure.

The Ritz Carlton put their stake in the ground as the Service Culture Leader in the hospitality space. Singapore Airlines did it in high-end air travel. Southwest Airlines in the budget airline space. Zappos is doing it today in online retailing, with a different style, yet closely aligned with their corporate parent, Amazon.

So – how is this done? How does a company become a leader in service culture? The answer is more practical and proven than many realize today. It is neither magical nor “soft and fuzzy” and is not dependent upon a charismatic individual or two.

The process of building a powerful and profitable service culture can in fact be engineered: the same way my grandparent’s favorite restaurant put it to work every day with careful planning, top down support, daily reminders, a dedicated staff, and engaging vision and values. To those of you who follow UP! Your Service methodology for building an Uplifting Service Culture, you know how actionable education connects with leadership from every level, and how “The12 Building Blocks” align and combine into world class service culture building roadmap.

Our methodology is clearly presented and easily seen right here. And if you decide to build your own Uplifting Service Culture, don’t worry. There won’t be much competition for you to deal with. The majority will not make the effort.

Will you?

Posted On: 24 February 2011
Categories: Service Culture




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