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  • Writer's pictureBurk Moreland

Where Does Your Company Culture Allow Missed Opportunities for Greatness?

Nearly every business owner or CEO has visions of greatness when he or she starts a company or takes over as its head.  Sadly, the majority never get anywhere near it.  They get mired into the details of other areas – stuck in the mud of reports, competitors and politics. 

The positive energy they started with is reduced to forced smiles in meeting after meeting discussing the problems and issues at hand.  Their initial goal of “greatness” is changed to one of “survival.”Developing a culture of winning is overwhelmed by a culture of “cover your ass.”  Employees think “as long as I’m not causing problems, I will probably survive.  The bosses have bigger more troublesome fish to fry.”  Mediocrity becomes acceptable – even encouraged.

Don’t believe me?  Here is a great example from a VERY large global car rental company. (We are talking hundreds of millions of dollars here – tens of thousands of employees.)  As I came to the lot to get my car, I was greeted very warmly by an employee and shown to my car. Sam put my bag in the trunk, double-checked that the tank was full, made sure I knew where I was going and even brought me a cold bottle of water.  He did everything as well as I could imagine – it was a great experience. (He had even given me an upgraded car for free because he noticed how tall I am and wanted me to be comfortable.) As I was ready to pull away, I thanked him profusely.  He responded, “Remember me on the survey.  All nines!” Perplexed, I acquiesced and left, wondering if perhaps their survey only went to nine?  The moment passed and I chased my next squirrel, so I didn’t really even think about Sam any more. 

This was a quick turn around trip – I rented the car that morning and returned it late that night. I pack a lot into each trip and fly home as soon as I can to be with my family, so sometimes I am a little scattered as I return the car.  This night was no different. I rolled onto the lot, grabbed my backpack and hopped out. I even left the engine running so the attendant could read the mileage quickly and I could be on my way. Sasha saw my anxious look as I got out of the car and hurried over. She asked if everything was ok with the car and how my trip was.  When I explained that I was in a hurry to make a flight, she nodded understandingly and jumped in the car to collect the data.  As soon as she sat down she turned and looked at me. “You declined the fuel option, right?” Crap….  In my haste, I had forgotten to fill up the few gallons I used.  “This is going to cost me,” I thought. And then it happened: “Mr. Moreland, I know you are in a hurry and probably just forgot. It’s only a few gallons and I’ll take care of it for you, no charge.” I was pleasantly surprised. I thanked her, and asked if there was any way I could reward her good deed.  Her words: “All nines on the survey would be great.” I was late but couldn’t resist: I asked if nine was the highest score. “No,” she said, “ten is; but we get a bonus for nines or above.” I thanked her again, promised high scores and ran to get on my plane.

So what is the problem here? Where did they miss possible greatness? This company has two employees that go above and beyond for service. However, the company has set their goals at less than above and beyond. It tells them that other people that are not as good will be rewarded the same. Does that drive them to do more? Are they challenged to continue to pursue excellence? I am not saying that only perfection should be rewarded, but based on the fact that nine is what they asked for, my guess is that they get paid the same for a nine as a ten – it doesn’t matter at all.  Greatness is lost in the difference between nine and ten many times. 

I used to coach teams to ask this question on surveys: “Has my service exceeded your expectations today enough where you would say we deserve a ten out of ten?”  If yes, great; if no, follow up with “What could we have done to earn that type of score from you, so we can do better next time?” Even better, ask in the beginning:  “At the end of our service, we are going to survey you – my goal is to exceed your expectations and earn 10 out of 10.  Can I do anything for you at this point that would assure my achievement?”

 You know what the really sad part was? They never surveyed me at all. I deal with at least three rental car companies on a regular basis. The other two survey me every single time I use them. I would have given Sam and Sasha tens, named them in the survey and sung their praises. Based on their request for only nines and the company’s failure to send a survey at all, though, I don’t think the company really cares. People say they are interested in customer service all the time, and say they want to be the best; they just don’t really put their money where their mouth is to make it happen. I would hire these two employees in a second – you can’t teach positive attitude and happiness, which they had in spades. The company, however? I will more than likely rent from them again, but they certainly won’t be my first choice.

If you need help creating company culture and pushing your organization toward greatness, let’s talk. If you don’t, I have one phrase for you:  Unless you are the lead dog, the view never changes. You can blaze the trail and make things happen, or follow behind those that do.  The choice is yours. 

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