‘I promise to…’ are three words commonly used in everyday life. From husband to wife (and vice versa); child to parent (often); company to customer (sometimes). Promises are broken as often as fulfilled, but they are made all the same. The intent is usually there, and that intent is a key driver of relationships. One thing that has always puzzled me with ‘the promise’ is why it is not as prevalent in work relationships as it is in our personal lives, and that is the subject of this blog post.
Last month I was fortunate enough to be able to judge the Customer Service Training Awards. I feel fortunate to judge awards like this (I also judge the UK Customer Experience Awards) because I get to see first hand some of the inspirational, passionate, committed customer service and experience practitioners at the absolute peak of their profession. Even if a finalist does not win an award, it is still a rewarding experience being able to feedback to individuals and teams about some of the amazing things they have done to make lives better and easier for staff and customers. This year was no exception.
One of the finalists in the ‘training team of the year’ category was a company called Restaurant Associates. Part of the Compass Group, Restaurant Associates is as the Compass Group website states:
“For organisations who want to partner with a specialist company whose brilliant food will bring their people together in powerful ways. It will bring out the best in them so they can perform at their very peak”
The Restaurant Associates website (http://www.restaurantassociates.co.uk/index.htm) goes on to say:
“We’re trusted every single day by a very special group of high-profile clients. Lots of them are leaders in their own markets. They choose extremely carefully. And they choose us because our inspirational food is created by talented chefs and matched by excellent service. They love the fact that we run a Michelin star restaurant”
Sounds impressive – it is a shame that I have never worked for a company whose in-house catering is managed by them. Restaurant Associates presentation was impressive. Delivered as a collaboration of senior management and staff, it was very clear how significant customer service is to their proposition, and how passionate team members are key in their strategy to inspire other colleagues. Amongst other things that they presented was an A4 sheet of paper entitled ‘Managers Promises’. It is this sheet of paper that made me think of the last time…….any time……that a manager of mine made a promise to me.
It is abundantly clear that engaged, motivated, supported employees will consistently deliver better customer experiences – especially when they are an essential element of a customer experience management framework. Whilst it is common to see employees ‘promising’ or committing to do certain things in support of company strategy, it is less common to see managers committing to do the same for their employees. Where businesses have established performance management mechanisms in place, employees ‘promise’ to achieve certain things, behave in certain ways, and develop themselves on an annual basis. Their annual remuneration is determined according to their ability to meet their promises, and adhere to company values. Whilst performance management goes someway to driving behaviour, if it is supported by open, supportive, committed managers, the effect on the employee, and thus the customer can be even more effective.
What Restaurant Associates have done ,very openly and transparently, is communicate with their people how managers will behave. I personally have never seen anything like this before. It is incredibly refreshing. It essentially puts managers and employees on a level playing field. If a manager is able to adhere to their promises, it is very likely that employees will want to do the same. It brings certain phrases to mind – ‘practice what we preach’; ‘walk the talk’ – cheesy perhaps, but very true. If you read through some of Restaurant Associates managers promises, how many of them would you be prepared to commit to? I know plenty of ‘managers’ who would not be able to commit to any of them. However, the effect adhering to these promises must have on employees is huge.
One of Sir Richard Branson’s most famous quotes is:
“The way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers”
It is a wonderful quote. The way Restaurant Associates treat employees clearly underpins their consistently great customer service. It is this great customer service which led to them being shortlisted for a national award. I have no doubt that they will win awards in the future, as well as deserved recognition for the great things they are doing. Their approach is creating engaged employees who have the ability to be, or already are, advocates of their brand. This is an essential ingredient in any customer experience management framework (http://ijgolding.com/2013/03/26/strategy-measurement-people-a-simple-framework-for-managing-customer-experience/). As an independent consultant, I no longer have the pleasure of directly managing employees. However, I always believed in committing to do certain things for the people I was lucky enough to work with. Yet even though I made commitments, I never wrote them down – I never made my commitments transparent – I never reviewed my commitments on a monthly basis. I spent all of my time reviewing my people’s commitments, without ever holding the mirror up to myself.
I applaud Restaurant Associates for what they are doing. It is not easy, but it is bold. I would like to think that anyone who reads this will ask themselves whether they would be prepared to openly publish their promises to their people. Those who will – I applaud you too. Those who do not – ask yourself why not – I would be interested to know the answer(s).