I am writing this article inside a Jet Airways flight from Mumbai to Delhi. As you would expect from a premium airlines, even I was expecting warmth and smiles along the journey. But, to my despair.
The moment I entered the flight there was no smile on the faces of air hostesses, other than a couple of stewards who greeted me with a plastic smile. While the air hostesses were making the passengers comfortable I could see that majority of them were either not interested or were working as if someone has forced them to work. Smiles, warmth and feelings were completely invisible for miles and to me it looked as if the passengers also didn’t bother too much, perhaps they were quite used to this attitude now.
In another incidence, the hotel where I was staying (5 star property near Mumbai International airport) also believed that guests are not too important. My partner and me stayed for three nights and in those three nights we experienced at least five-six power failures in our room. At times even the room telephone didn’t work and we had to call the reception through our mobile phones. We requested them to fix it up and every time they said, “sir it’s done”, only to be called again for repairs.
I just fail to understand why do some employees fail to take care of the very basic and core functions, functions that reflect their strengths and values. And why is it that some employees go miles to keep their customers happy not at all bothering about the costs involved. For them, service comes before self.
We all know about the famous 26/11 attacks in Mumbai and how the staff in Taj Hotel managed to save hundreds of lives without even bothering about their own lives. Harvard Business School did a case study on ‘The Heroes of Taj” and came out with the conclusion that Taj Hotels lay a very strong emphasis on employee hiring, training and happiness. They hire people from Tier-2 cities because those are the places where culture, family values, respect for elders and traditions still run in the blood of youngsters and that is exactly what is required in a hospitality industry. Taj Hotels has a rigorous training programme that helps the recruits imbibe the strong Taj culture of service before self.
Starbucks worldwide has been known as the best coffee chain and the only reason why people feel so good in Starbucks cafes is not only because of their world class coffee beans, but also because the staff who works in Starbucks make their customers feel at home. Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Starbucks says that they are in the business of relationships and not coffee. Starbucks is the place where people meet to nurture relationships and in that process, they also sell coffee. What an amazing philosophy!! Starbucks is trying to create a second home between office and homes.
That is the kind of philosophy that I think takes organizations to places. This is the kind of thought process that differentiates an average mediocre organization from an organization that transmits awesomeness and superiority. There are hundreds of premium hotel chains and coffee outlets, but why is that only few have been able to make a mark for themselves and not all.
All organizations, big or small spend money on publicity, marketing and getting business, obviously that is required. But what is more important to understand for management is whether they are spending time and money in making the core stronger. And core to any organization in my personal view is, Employees. You may spend crores in marketing and business promotion but what’s the use if the people serving your clients don’t have a smile on their faces. What’s the point of spending money on setting up kiosks at events when your employees are not trained to talk and impress customers? There is no fun in setting up a call center to address customer’s complaints if the staff attending the calls doesn’t have warmth in their voice tones. And the list can go on and on…
Recently, I read few articles in Economic Times where organizations have started replacing the Bell Curve method of appraising their employees with some more employee friendly appraising tools. Bell curve is a tool that suggests the management the way to promote people and offer bonuses basis some statistical analysis. What it meant was that if any person deserved a promotion but in the overall hierarchy of the organization it wasn’t possible to do that, he/she is dropped from the promote list.
Now days, organisations have started realizing the importance of employee retention and how traditional ways to motivate and retain employees are not serving any purpose. A statistical tool like a Bell curve shouldn’t determine a person’s career path, rather it should be determined purely on the basis of his performance, commitment and loyalty towards the organization. Nothing can take your organization away from success and glory if you have a committed and happy workforce.
I am not trying to suggest that only Taj and Starbucks have great employee friendly policies and others don’t. But the point I am trying to make is that mediocrity can’t take any organization or employee to heights, only extreme devotion to work and a superlative work environment can. And whichever organization does that, wins in the long term.
As a leader of any organization, big or small, one should not allow mediocrity to permeate any function or department. Your organization is a reflection of the management’s core values and that can be seen right from the office boy to receptionist to a trainee to a manager to a Director and to the CEO. How you want your customers, vendors and employees to feel about you is determined by how you behave with them and the policies you implement in true spirit.
Awesomeness should only be a prerogative of the Company, not necessary. Each and every one of you who is working in an organization should believe in creating magic. The magic should run in your blood even if there’s no support from your peers, seniors or the organization. Each one of us working somewhere can bring a change in the culture of the organization and make it a better place.
If you are running a company, try and create the magic with your staff, vendors and clients. Size doesn’t matter and even if your organization is small, you should never behave small. Always think big and do some wonderful acts to make your workplace the best.
The pilot has made the announcement for landing at the Delhi airport and I need to stop here. I hope I will get a better service next time…
Authored by Nimish Goel (www.nimishgoel.com), a qualified chartered accountant who’s passion is to coach young chartered accountants and aspiring students achieve the best in their life. Nimish used to work with EY and PwC in India and has also worked with KPMG in Europe. He now runs his own consulting company and runs a blog www.nimishgoel.com. He can be reached for any queries and issues on his blog.