Consistency and Continuity
The two most important words in the success of implementing systems are consistency and continuity. Nearly every company has more ideas than it knows what to do with.
Here’s a scenario familiar in every company: Some executives attend a fantastic seminar, get dozens of great ideas, and return to work all fired up and eager to start executing all those ideas. A month later, not even one idea is being executed even 10 percent of the time. The managers are either preoccupied with a crisis or have moved on to a new focus.
Have you ever attended a seminar so great that six months later it had dramatically changed the way your company does business? Probably not!
The real problem is that more ideas are the last thing companies need. Managers are not short on ideas; they are short on an implementation strategy that will result in those ideas being successfully implemented. These rules will enable you to implement those great ideas. Better yet, it will raise the standard for your organization—and for your competition.
After being deluged a number of times with great ideas, employees realize they don’t need to panic or actually start doing what their managers tell them. If employees just wait long enough, these newest ideas will also pass. This syndrome has been called Flavor of the Month, or management by bestseller.
There are two big rules for implementation:
Rule 1: Select a Path, Train on It, and Stick with It
I can’t tell you how often I hear the same thing from many of the companies I speak or consult for: “A few years ago, our theme was ‘Fish’. Last year our theme was ‘Raving Fans’. And this year our theme is your book, What’s the Secret?”
It’s no wonder nothing sticks! No systems are created. There’s no enrollment or buy-in by employees. There’s no continuity from one generation of employees to the next, because they joined under a different theme, and it has very little correlation with your training program.
There is nothing wrong with using any of those books and concepts as themes. They are all fantastic. What I am saying is, pick a path. The world-class customer service companies focus on one concept and build their training program around it. They create their own internal terminology as it relates to customer service. Over the years, every new employee goes through the same training, learns the same underlying concept and theme, reads the same book, and hears the same message.
In Good to Great, part of Jim Collins’ formula for success is that people need to hear a few messages constantly. That doesn’t mean the training doesn’t evolve—every year, your current training should make last year’s training program pale by comparison. But you have a consistent foundation on which everyone has been trained. And it can’t just be new employees who go through intensive training; existing employees need to be retrained and reenergized on at least an annual basis.
Beyond that training, the world-class customer service companies advertise superior customer service to their employees on a daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis, everything from pre-shift huddles to departmental meetings to re-orientation. If I could sum up this process in one word, it would be continuity: continuity of theme and continuity of training.
When you have developed your terminology, make it an integral part of the training you give your employees.
Rule 2: Implement Slowly and Properly
Let’s assume you have just successfully completed the Customer Experience Cycle Workshop. You should now have the “buzz”— everyone who attended the workshop is pumped up, and you have numerous sheets filled with ideas for each stage of your customer interaction. The workshop was a home run, your team got the concept and the message, they shared and debated ideas, and they are now totally pumped to go back to work and start being world-class to their customers.
Stop! This is when the train wreck so often happens. The workshop was easy; the hard part is implementation. Yes, you are excited about the buy-in to being world-class. Yes, you want to maintain the enthusiasm and the momentum. But now you must crawl before you can walk or even think about running.
A company cannot rush the implementation process. A “worst practice” is to allow managers to roll out the implementation on their own or to introduce 12 new concepts next week. If you do either of these things, in about 45 days all those great ideas from the workshop will be a distant memory because not one of them will have stuck. The only result will be a loss of credibility with your employees and with your customers. Employees will feel that all their work at the workshop was just a bunch of rah-rah and hot air, because nothing ever came of it. This will result in your employees feeling like the workshop and all their efforts were a waste of time. Customers will be disappointed by the inconsistency between your promises and their experiences.
John R. DiJulius III, best-selling author, consultant, and keynote speaker, is the president of The DiJulius Group, the leading customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on customer experience trends and best practices. Learn more about The DiJulius Group or The Secret Service Summit, America's #1 Customer Service Conference.