How many times have you called a business inquiring about a product, service or policy and received a different answer from multiple representatives? Have you ever responded to an ad with verbiage like, “ask our qualified service technicians about our ‘fill in the blank’,” only to have had a technician show up to your home or business that could not answer any of your questions – even those questions they were supposed to have had knowledge of? Consumers today are quite possibly more demanding and more knowledgeable than ever. In order for a business to sustain growth and maintain its integrity, a united front must be presented.
Dr. Sylvia Rimm, Ph.D, a psychologist who directs the Family Achievement Clinic in Ohio writes, “If adults are consistent with each other, children will know what’s expected of them. They’ll also understand that they cannot avoid doing what feels a little hard or scary or challenging by the protection of another adult.” For over two decades, more than half of the children raised in this country have grown up in a familial system where they are unintentionally taught if they don’t get what they want from one parent, to go to the other. Many of us, myself included, were raised in this type of family environment. What’s important to understand is that these children are now consumers and ultimately, experts at getting their way!
I suppose we all realize that as soon as our business arrives on the scene, we are being watched and evaluate by the world, but most importantly, by our target audience. This is the group we want to win over – I mean, as a provider of products and services, a business operates for the consumer, right? And, it is important to note, that this consumer group actually desires a united front – we all want to know what can be expected. If we don’t know what to expect, we begin to become frustrated and the relationship we have with a business weakens. If this practice continues, eventually we will take our business elsewhere.
We have all seen it – most likely from both sides – as a business or representative and as the consumer. A customer contacts a business from an ad, and the representative who answers doesn’t have the information the customer has, “I want to speak to your manager!” they demand. After taking the elevator up 3 floors, usually a deal is made to keep the customer and revenue, but credibility and integrity are lost.
Why does this happen? Oftentimes, at some point, there is a paradigm shift within a business where the attitude of service is sacrificed, and what the business needs is more important than what the customer or consumer needs. Essentially, the attitude that in order to increase profit, values must be sacrificed. However, over the long haul, this model cannot be sustained. Success can be attributed to the maintaining of those values. Yet, when presenting a united front, this run will last longer – however, unethical.
So, how can it be stopped? Here are a few proven examples that decrease the likelihood of this happening within an organization.
- Values – Every business is founded on a specific set of core values, and those businesses that are successful have maintained those values. If you do not have core values established within your organization, think about what defines your company, your employees, and your mission. Answer some basic questions: Why do we do what we do? What do we believe in? Why does that matter? Why are we better than the competition? Once you have defined these values, cling to them as if life itself is depending on it!
- Planning – Simply, following a process. Being spontaneous is not a benefit in this area, even when the idea or action is valid. An organization should not change the way business is conducted “just because”, there should always be a reason and a goal. Identify the goals and objectives to be achieved, frame strategies to achieve those goals, arrange for necessary resources, and then implement them.
- Maintain Communication – Keep staff informed. What good is planning if those on the front line are not informed of the plan? With all the means available to us to communicate in our world, this should be easier than it is. In fact, that is often what makes communication so difficult today. Do we send an email, a text message, make a phone call, chat, hold a meeting – the list goes on and on. Some businesses have succeeded by enforcing a single mode of interoffice communication. Others have found a mixture to be effective. Determine what works best for your team, and keep the communication flowing.
The lack of a united front within an organization displays weakness and diminishes trust. If consumers cannot believe in what you say, they likely won’t come back, and the competition gains an edge. Stay true to the values that have brought you success, plan to succeed and always maintain communication.