I spend a lot of time talking to leaders about service culture. One of the challenges I hear most often is complexity.
None of these leaders actually say "complexity." I hear it in the way they describe their business and what they're doing to get everyone on the same page. They often struggle to articulate exactly what they want their employees to do.
If you can’t describe it, it’s hard for your employees to do it.
One restaurant chain I worked with had a company mission statement, a service slogan, four elements of a "great experience," and a 17-step service procedure that waitstaff had to follow with every guest. The really confusing part was all of these elements pointed to slightly different behaviors.
Worst of all, there was no agreement on what was most important:
Executive leaders tended to focus on the mission and service slogan.
Store managers talked about the four elements of a great experience.
Shift leaders typically encouraged efficiency over everything else.
The chain's leadership team had the best intentions when all of these items were created. But they unwittingly created complexity for their employees by giving them too many things to think about.
Keep Things Simple
Leaders in customer-focused companies make things simple for employees, so employees can focus on customers.
Trader Joe's is a terrific example. Founder Joe Coulumbe created the successful grocery chain by focusing on simplicity:
Smaller product selection than typical grocery stores
Less square footage than typical grocery stores
No loyalty program
What you will find in Trader Joe's are high-quality, reasonably priced products along with friendly and helpful employees who are really knowledgeable. A Trader Joe's staffs more employees than most grocery stores, so it's also easier to find help when you need it.
At the restaurant chain, I asked the leadership team to decide which statement was the most important. It took some discussion, but they ultimately decided the mission statement would be the main thing.
The 17-step service procedure still contained helpful operating guidelines for servers, but it needed some changes. It was shortened to just ten steps, and those steps were carefully aligned with the mission.
These changes suddenly made it far easier for servers to understand what was most important when serving guests.
Here's an exercise that can help you focus your organization or team on simplicity.
Start by taking an inventory of existing cultural artifacts. These are statements, slogans, models, or other items that help define your culture. Examples include:
Next, identify which one of these is most important. The way to do this is imagine an employee is in the midst of serving a customer. What one statement do you want the employee to use as a guide?
The answer for many companies is "none" or "we're not sure." If that's the case, you may want to start from scratch by creating a single customer service vision.
Finally, take this mini-assessment to see how well your business is aligned with the single statement or slogan you chose. It's a shorter version of an in-depth service culture assessment I offer to my clients.