Hi everyone! Matt Havens here again. Last month I stepped in for Jeff to talk about performance reviews. Since nobody screamed too loud about how awful it was (or at least not loud enough for me to hear) I’m back for another round to see if I can ratchet up the volume. So please share what you like and what you don’t, and I’ll incorporate the feedback into future articles. Assuming you’re nice about it. If you’re not then I’ll just act like I never got the email.
As I was thinking about what to write for the newsletter, I did what I always do when I can’t think for myself – turn to Twitter! Sure enough, there was a common theme around the topic of culture, specifically some version of a story about the Netflix culture. In business today, there is a LOT of conversation around the topic of culture – what it is, how to create a good one, and so on and so forth. You’ve probably seen a hundred different corporate cultures profiled, dissected, and picked apart with greater scrutiny than the people we let run for President. So this topic was top of mind when I went through a fairly frequent (for me) consumer experience last week.
I am your stereotypical man in at least two respects: I love grilling, and I hate shopping. The first is only relevant because I recently caught my grill on fire and had to call 911 (true story, and you should ask me about it sometime). The second, however, means that I am a big fan of Zappos. The idea of ordering shoes online, with free returns and great customer service, has always appealed to me. So a few weeks ago I ordered a pair of shoes which weren’t delivered on time. When I called, the representative found the shoes stuck in their warehouse. I was assured they would go out the same day, and I received a $25 gift card for my troubles. Awesome!
But wait! There’s more. A few days later the shoes still hadn’t arrived. I called again and got the same story. So I decided to cancel that order in favor of a different pair. Not only was I refunded my money, but this time I got a $50 gift card for my trouble. Double awesome!
But wait! There’s still more!!!! A few days later a hand-written “Thank You” letter arrived at my house. It was from the last representative I spoke with, apologizing again for the hassle and said thank you for being a customer.
Now on the surface, the fact a company sent a hand-written thank you letter is not earth-shattering news. However, at second thought, it sort of was. Call centers don’t exactly conjure up the warmest of feelings amongst consumers. They are often (albeit incorrectly) thought of as staunchy cube-farms where customer service goes to die a slow death. But here I was, holding a hand-written thank you note from one of those people on the other end of the line. Hmmm…..
More importantly, I knew a little something about the woman who’d written the letter (we’d had some time to talk during my call). She had just started her shift (at 4:30am PST by the way) and was really excited about going to see a friend who was performing at a nearby club later that evening. She didn’t work there full-time, but she loved the hours and flexibility the job provided her. She was exuding Zappos in every breath. And mind you, I was calling because I had a problem!
Originally I thought this was a story about a good customer service experience. But as I thought more, I found I couldn’t discount the culture aspect. How is Zappos able to tap into their core of “Delivering Wow” with all of their customer service associates – especially when some of those employees aren’t full-time?
Different companies will do things differently, of course. The culture that Netflix has created isn’t for everyone and would not survive at some companies. However, Netflix has created their culture in the same way other cultures have come into being – through two distinct processes:
1. Through Transparency:
Building a culture used to be this secret underbelly of organizations and teams. Nowadays, the companies or teams with cultures worth creating are painfully exposed and open. There’s no hiding. And in fact, they call out their culture for conversation and debate. Take The Container Store, for example; their organization is so wide open that they publish their financial reports for all employees to see. It’s hard to argue with whatever the culture is when everyone is fully aware of its working parts and the rules to play by.
2. Through Onboarding:
And no, by onboarding I don’t mean that 2-weeks of “job training” you do when you start a new job. (Although that might be a part of it). Successful onboarding is a continuous process that involves the rules and norms observed to help engrain the culture you’re trying to create.
While obviously not an exhaustive list, it’s a great starting point for looking at your organization or your team. So ask yourself the following questions:
- How transparent are you with the culture you want to create? Can your team articulate the same culture you’re trying to build if they were unprompted and asked to do so? Keep in mind – culture is not the same as a mission statement or vision! People can often recite a mission statement, but can they articulate the culture you’ve built or are trying to build?
- What does your onboarding process look like? Is it a one-and-done?
- If you’re trying to change your culture, are you rewarding the right behaviors? Or are you still rewarding the very behaviors you’re trying to get rid of?
In the example with Zappos earlier, I think they’re pretty clear about their desire to “Deliver Wow.” So much so that a call center representative is empowered to send a hand-written thank you letter. And authorize a $50 coupon without layers of approvals. What’s your culture saying about you?