The Unlikely Way to Check Your True Service Philosophy

Companies have two customer service philosophies.

The first one is the outstanding service fantasy. Executives preach about being great. There's an occasional initiative to rally the team. Perhaps the company advertises it's stellar service quality. 

The second philosophy is the reality.

This is how people at the company really feel about service. You can see this in executive decisions, the way managers lead their teams, and the actions of their employees.

The two philosophies don't match at most companies. The fantasy is that service is great, but the reality is quite different. Service is mediocre at best. It might even be terrible.

Only a very few companies have melded these two philosophies together; where the fantasy of customer-focus is also the reality.

Want to check your organization?

There's a simple test via an unlikely source. Go see how your accounts payable team is treating your vendors. This little test is based on the principle that who you are is how you serve.

Read on to see the answer key.

Result: Vendors Are Paid Late

Some companies are consistently late paying bills. 

These dead beats stretch payments past the agreed upon terms. An excuse is invented to cause a delay. Or, the bureaucratic trolls in the accounts payable department will sit on an invoice until the due date and then start the lengthy payment process.

It's a procedure built on the company's convenience and desire to conserve cash flow. It also reveals a rotten core.

You can't treat your vendors with disrespect and then suddenly flip a switch when it comes to your own customers. These payment delays come from the real customer service philosophy, not the fantasy one.

I've worked with a few companies like this. These organizations are typically hopeless. 


Result: Vendors Are Paid On Time

These organizations consistently pay vendors on time.

Payment terms are agreed upon and that's exactly how the company pays its bills. Occasionally, a payment gets delayed for an oddball reason like an incorrect purchase order number, but someone from the accounts payable department generally gets it sorted out.

There's nothing wrong with organizations like this, but there's nothing special either.

You can see the same philosophy in the way employees at these companies treat customers. Do what you say you are going to do and then scramble to fix things when they go wrong.


Result: Vendors Are Paid Early

A few companies pay vendors early.

Let's say a bill is due in 30 days. These rare organizations might pay in 16. Why? First, it's easier to avoid being late if you pay early. When something occasionally goes wrong, you can fix it and still be on time.

Second, leaders in these organizations realize their vendors are important stakeholders. They pay early because they want to keep their vendors happy. It's a strategic move.

I've worked with quite a few companies like this. They have all had a strong, customer-focused culture. Leaders consistently insist that all stakeholders (customers, vendors, employees, etc.) are treated like valued customers.

Paying early is part of their organizational DNA. It's how they are.