“That was excellent!”. “Whoa, talk about brilliant service!” “I can’t believe what I just experienced.”
These are the phrases and sounds of what creates a compelling difference for business. They reflect the real, rich and resonating experiences in which a customer is all the more likely to recommend, refer and advocate that business.
Customers are being increasingly influenced by what others are saying
We are living within a future where what a business says about itself matters far less than what other people are saying. Customers are being influenced far more by what is being said through the social commentary and narrative of friends, family and on online forums and social media sites.
For a business to be portrayed as positive and attractive within such discourses I believe they need to strive for excellence in the experiences they provide their customers. Excellence needs to reverberate throughout their business … it needs to echo from every corner, and be reflected in how employees interact with each other and in how they engage with customers.
My belief is that such experiences need to managed beyond the label of ‘customer touch point’ and seen more as a delightful sensation, and a sensation that has substance. These sensations resonate with an attitude of doing the best we can for other people because people matter and what we do matters.
An analogy from the world of music
To use the analogy of a band. If you take a guitar and play the one string you’ll hear a note. Play a few strings together whilst making up a chord shape on the fretboard and you’ll enjoy a ‘chord sound’. Now harmonise the music of the guitar with that of other instruments and you have an emotive resonance that can move the soul. Add some meaningful lyrics and the music can become timeless.
This concept of harmony and alignment is the same with business. There needs to be congruence with each of the ways in which a customer engages with the business.
So if your marketing message is one of ‘we care’ then this needs to be demonstrated in the way customers are treated on the phone, and how they are greeted at the reception area, and with the assistance they receive during challenging times. For a message to engage and resonant with integrity it needs to remain congruent through all of these engagement points. The ‘instruments’ within that business need to be in tune and in harmony.
Taking responsibility for our resonant message
I can not remember who it was who instilled in me the message that the first responsibility of a trainer is to your participants … whoever it was many thanks!
If I am facilitating a group of participants within a learning environment such as a training session and these participants are ‘flat’ then the responsibility rests with me in the first instance. No excuses! It has to come back to me and in how I designed, delivered and facilitated that session. To blame the participants is a cop out and disrespectful.
Why I mention this is that I believe it is the same with how we engage with others – if our message is not resonating then do not blame or just speak louder but do something different.
The responsibility to adjust, adapt and be relevant rests with us in the first instance and is just one of the many notes of excellence.
Diversity adds richness
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work in a range of positions and with a diverse range of individuals including members of start up teams, Volunteers with various not-for-profit and public sector agencies, people with mental illness, prisoners on day release programs, chronically unemployed, corporate executives and small business owners. Each of these individuals had something to teach and each engagement provided an opportunity to learn.
And it is the same within any business in that the more a diversity of individuals can contribute their voice toward a shared purpose then the more that business can resonate with its employees and with its customers. The responsibility of leaders is to encourage and nurture the beauty that can be evoked by such diversity – to help create the euphoria of achievement … in the words of Peter Bradley Adams:
Don’t stop Ohio, don’t stop until you smile
And I’ll watch as you dance out the door
Even a black and white photo has immense depth of diversity once you note the subtle detail highlighted by the shades of light. Just check out the leaders of black and white photographers such as the stunning landscape photos by Ansel Adams or the evocative photos of both landscape and people by Max Dupain, and the portrait work of Mary Ellen Mark.
As Najla Turk promotes in her book ‘The art of diversity’, listening to and learning from the difference that exists within the workplace is what can make a positive difference.
In his book ‘Amplifers … the power of motivational leadership to inspire and influence’, Matt Church promotes a position similar to Najla and the importance of leaders to inspire and influence so as to realise the value of diversity within the workplace.
Resonance and the habit of excellence
What can help in our quest for excellence is to remind ourselves of the famous line from Aristotle “excellence is a habit”. The Japanese have a similar phrase but expressed as the one word ‘Kaizen’ … which refers to ‘change for the better’ or ‘continuous improvement’.
To extend on this wisdom I’d like to challenge the notion of best practice as an aspirational goal. I might be guided by best practice but I am never constrained by the same. My aspiration is to strive for better practice. By it’s very definition best practice is time dependent – it is best practice at a snapshot in time, for a particular point of time … perhaps even for a fleeting glance. But that time soon passes as product and service life spans are shortened by disruptive change. Unless we continually strive to be better, to engage in our ‘habits of excellence’ and Kaizen practices, then we soon become redundant and outclassed by the marketplace.
The resonance of excellence
The notes that help excellence to resonate include responsibility, diversity, and a quest to keep on improving. And when played in tune these notes have the power to resonant well beyond the business that creates them. To echo across many a landscape.
Excellence is where it’s at
I believe excellence is where it’s at … as a kid I remember so many great experiences provided to me from shop keepers. They obviously resonated given how long ago that was.
One of my vivid memories was from when I was about 13 years old and my mates and I used to rebuild and fix pushbikes and how we’d head down to the local mechanics who’d happily weld pieces of metal together … for free! I Still remember (and feel) the one time that a mechanic ruffled my hair on the way out and said ‘she’s looking good’ referring to the bike I was rebuilding.
Perhaps I was a disillusioned kid but I still believe that excellence is where it’s at and that it’s a damn awesome goal to strive for.