Business Issues  



Culture Bonds, Right!

A clash of cultures can have substantial consequences to individual businesses and networks. Conflicts between public declarations of being customer-focussed and internal directions to cut costs leave staff members confused, frustrated and unfulfilled, while customers are dissatisfied

By Barry Urquhart

Positive cultures are the bonding forces that, figuratively, hold entities, nations and families together. Negative cultures and sub-cultures contribute to varying degrees of entropy. That is, the trend and tendency towards a state of disorder

The text below addresses the realities underlying the findings of a recent national Australian survey. In 82% of instances where a change of buying preference was effected by consumers, “poor” or “very poor” customer service was recognised among the top three most influential factors in the making of the decision. Conversely, notwithstanding an overall falling percentage of customer loyalty, in 91% of circumstances where consumers persisted in relationships, “good” or “very good” customer service was nominated to be a key influence.

Therefore, the importance, nature and application of customer-driven corporate cultures are issues that need to be addressed.

We have been here before!

Culture has a lot to answer for.

In food, it’s the very basis for a pathway to health, particularly with yoghurt and the like.

Sporting clubs consumer culture as a key explanation for on-ground and off-ground behaviour – good and bad.

Culture, reflected in behaviour, clothing and events, is a magnet that attracts tourists to many established European, Asian and South American countries.

In the corporate world, culture explains, determines and influences practices and values. It largely determined people “doing the right thing”.

Sub-optimal performances and inconsistent standards are often sheeted home to poor and inappropriate corporate and business cultures.

Positive cultures are the bonding forces that, figuratively, hold entities, nations and families together. Negative cultures and sub-cultures contribute to varying degrees of entropy. That is, the trend and tendency towards a state of disorder.

Sadly, many senior executives and business owners find it difficult, if not impossible, to articulate the essential elements and attributes of their organisations’ cultures. That shortcoming is readily reflected in staff behaviour, branding initiatives, advertising, company product and people images (and self-images).

WINDOW ON THE WORLD

Cultures are windows through which the world, and conversely, the entity is perceived and valued.

Cultures are filters that often distort reality.

Written statements like, “we are committed to maintaining the highest customer service standards” can be contradicted and typically stand in stack relief to decisions made to retrench staff, contain costs and to our-source services.

Which is to be believed and responded to... by team members, customers, clients, suppliers and associates?

Corporate cultures enable accurate expressions of company belief systems. Gaps between words and actions create problems.

ROOT CAUSE

Consistent deficiencies and inadequacies in customer service delivery, retailing selling skills and relationship management practices are invariably consequences of, and reflect an inappropriate or poorly deployed corporate culture.

Well-intended training programs usually address the symptoms and not the causes. Little positive outcome is achieved from these activities.

Focusing on processes is misguided. It is the inputs that need to be addressed and redressed.

A definitive statement that exhibits an understanding of the nature and importance of a corporate culture is:

“We do it that way, because that’s the way we do things”.

Note that the word and first person “I” has little emphasis in a corporate culture.

FORCED CHOICES

A telling test which identifies the true nature of a culture is when staff members are subjected to a choice between expending company money to provide customer service and hence, deliver customer satisfaction – or to save money.

It is the thought – process of people and their resultant actions, rather than craftily scripted and framed customer service texts that project and define a true corporate culture.

LEARNING EXPERIENCES

Our son David recently shared the details of an unpleasant personal life experience. He was tempted to “point-score” by responding to the disadvantage of another person.

He explained that he took pause, reflected on the Urquhart Clan motto: “Meane weil, Speak weil, Do weil”, and dismissed the thought as being inappropriate and inconsistent to the values to which he adheres.

You will excuse me for being impressed and proud.

Culture statements that are recognised, comprehended and respected typically out-rank corporate mission and vision statements.

True cultures are character-building and defining.

In essence, cultures are the very expressions of the personality of an entity, a nation, a family and an individual.

A sobering and insightful challenge is to ask team members, clients and customers to express in humanoid characteristics, the personality traits of a business. It results in a better, more comprehensive understanding of self, be it an entity, product, service, group or individual.

CULTURE DISPARITIES

There is much to learn, develop and refine when business advertising, literature, premises, practices and policies are analysed against the datum points of the corporate culture.

Inconsistencies become readily identifiable. Better understandings are gained about poor and inappropriate responses to texts, behaviour, marketing and sales initiatives. Certain perception and image factors can jar.

Casual comments by team members too often cause conflict, annoyance and frustration, resulting in loss of sales, profits and customers. Often the primary cause is a lack of recognition of, respect for and commitment to a clearly defined corporate culture.


Barry Urquhart,
Managing Director of Marketing Focus is a consumer behavioural analyst, business strategist and internationally recognised conference keynote speaker. He consults on the formulation, refinement and development of corporate cultures for small, medium and large sized businesses.