Creating and Sustaining a Service Culture: Acknoweldge

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

The A in AIDET stands for Acknowledge. Why are we wasting time doing anything besides the task we are responsible for? If you haven’t been asked a question like this before, you will be if you continue down the road to overhaul your service culture. This is a common refrain of frontline staff and leaders alike. In the world of do more with less, it seems adding steps that aren’t essential to completing the assigned task is at least inefficient, right?

What is the case for doing it anyway?

In short, this approach is inefficient, but that does not make it non-essential. We have spent a considerable amount of time trying to reshape how we think about a service culture. In today’s marketplace, completing the task is merely a component of the customer experience. We must become experts in shaping the customer experience and AIDET helps us ensure that each time we engage the customer we are putting our best foot forward. The first step is to acknowledge who your customer is. In our world, that means a service tech should make every effort to find and identify the person who has entered the request. This acknowledgement ensures to them that we know who they are and we are here for them.

How can you do it?

Identify the customer. For us this starts before we ever go to perform our task. It starts with our process of receiving the request. We work very hard to identify a specific individual, an owner, for each request.

Seek out the customer. Some cases are easier than others. When the task consists of performing work in the immediate area of the requester, we don have to work hard to seek them out and acknowledge who they are. In other instances, we may have to go out of our way to find them and let them know we are there for them. In cases where the person is unavailable, we find a colleague and make sure that they are informed.

Engage the customer. Be personal. Use their name. Let them know you’re there for them.

Creating and Sustaining a Service Culture: Understand Customer Experience

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

We will often accept that if our service satisfies our customer that we have hit the mark. We can settle for this definition of our win. While a satisfied customer is a good goal, there is a tremendous amount of information to be found in digging deeper, beyond satisfaction and into the customer experience. We might not want to do this because we already have a satisfied customer, right?

What is the case for doing it anyway?

I would encourage you to take this deeper step to better understand how your customer was satisfied. What part of their experience made them satisfied? Was it because what they needed was done? Or was it because our team has successfully engaged them, performed the task to their satisfaction, and communicated with them to close the loop? We should strive for quality in all three components of this experience. Engage. Perform. Confirm. This cycle is essential for hard-wiring our success as a service department.

How can you do it?

Engage. Prior to performing the task, engage with the customer or stakeholder. Acknowledge them and introduce yourself. Explain what it is that you are going to do and how long it may take. This will level expectations and provide the opportunity for each party to clarify should is become apparent that it is necessary.

Perform. This is the bread and butter. We have to do what we say we will do when we say we will do it. Period.

Confirm. Follow-up with the customer or stakeholder and make sure that the task has been completed to their satisfaction. Thank them for the opportunity and move on.  Closing the loop in this way seals the deal and ensures a customer’s satisfaction. I

AIDET. This format contains a key concept that is utilized throughout various clinical services. Over the next few weeks, we will unpack AIDET (Acknowledge, Introduce, Duration, Explanation, Thank You) and how it can transform our service culture.

Creating and Sustaining a Service Culture: Define the Win

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

We have identified our customer. We have asked them what they want. We have evaluated whether or not our current tasks are in alignment with their expectations. Isn’t it about time to get to work? After all, isn’t this about producing results? Of course it is, but there is one more important step in developing a service culture. We must “define the win” for our team.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Defining the win is as simple as providing a definition for a successful service encounter between our team and our customer. The “win” should be clear and measurable for each member of the team. In most cases, the win is more than just the successful completion of a task or function. A customer service win should always include a completed task and communication with the customer. If we do not “define the win” for our team, then each individual member will be free to decide for themselves whether or not their efforts resulted in the best possible outcome. This will lead to a lack of consistency in our service and ultimately, some unsatisfied customers.

How can you do it?

Know your customer and their expectations. As we have already said, we can’t define a win if we don’t know who we are serving or what they need from us.

Define the win. Communicate clearly and consistently with the team about what a successful interaction with the customer looks like.

Manage to that expectation. Hold the team accountable to this expectation. It doesn’t do any good to define the win if we don’t expect people to deliver the win.

Creating and Sustaining a Service Culture: Align Tasks With Expectations

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

Acknowledging that your current practices are misaligned with your customer’s expectations can be a tough pill to swallow. Some leaders might not want to do this because they will feel that they are losing control of their area by allowing someone else to define their tasks for them. This control is just an allusion. Service exists for the customer and therefore it stands to reason that the customer is instrumental in defining the scope of the service.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

As service leaders, we have to understand that our success depends on allowing our customers to define their needs and orchestrating a reasonable and appropriate response to meet them. Our effectiveness will be measured in large part by the satisfaction our customers have for the service we provide them. Later on in this series, we will discuss how to navigate a common situation, unreasonable customer expectations. For now, however, we are focused on aligning our tasks with their expectations to produce a desirable outcome.

How can you do it?

Focus on results. Your team needs to be focused on meeting the customer’s expectations. Those are the results we are most interested in.

Evaluate existing tasks. Are your current daily tasks sufficient for meeting these needs? Do you fall short? Identify any gaps between expectation and practice.

Align tasks with goals. Leaders see gaps and close them. They work with their teams to determine the best plan and they give them the resources to facilitate the plan. Don’t hesitate to find your team’s gaps and start working with them to improve your processes.

Creating and Sustaining a Service Culture: What Does Your Customer Want?

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

We have established that we must change our culture and identify our customer. However, if we stop here, we are almost certain to miss the mark of success. We must identify what our customer expects of us. It is not enough to assume that we know what their needs are based on previous experience. We must engage our customer and allow them input into our culture. This is can be hard because as leaders of service departments we like to think we know what people need from us and how to best provide it to them.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

While it may seem reasonable to assume we know what they need, we are not living in other leader’s shoes each day. We do not know the challenges their team is facing. If we work together with them to identify how we can best serve them, we will see improvement in key indicators in each department. Service to patients will be better. Outcomes will improve. Satisfaction will rise. Working with the departments you serve produces better results than working for the departments you serve. The difference is having the humility to ask how we can best serve instead of assuming we already know.

How can you do it?

Engage your colleagues. Reach out to the leaders that your team serves. Ask them what is working and what isn’t? Ask them if your efforts are in alignment with their goals?

Make it a habit. We must understand that the dynamics of our engagement is likely changing. Set up a regularly meeting with these leaders to make sure that you are still aligned in your efforts. I would suggest that you start by committing to this discussion quarterly. From there you can see if this is too often or not often enough.

Listen. Good leaders identify opportunities for improvement and try to fix them. When your colleagues ask you a questions or share a request, what they may be saying is that our process can be improved. Listen to what they have to say and see if it is an outlier or the result of a process that needs improved.

Creating and Sustaining a Service Culture: Define Your Customer

Justin Clark, MBA

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

I suppose the biggest challenge to doing this is just assuming that you already know. It is easy to get stuck in a habit or pattern and not take the time to continually re-evaluate who your customer is. It is also easy to define who the obvious customers are, but look past some of the less obvious ones. For example, as a support service at the hospital, we would say that patients are our customers. However, we must also acknowledge that our co-workers are our customers too. If we don’t properly meet their needs, then we can’t expect them to have everything that they need to take care of our patients.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Workplace dynamics are constantly changing. As technology advances, the way we provide care to patients is changing as well. As a support service, it is imperative that we have a clear understanding of who our customers are. If we don’t know this, how could we possibly construct a culture to best serve them?

How can you do it?

Honestly assess who you’re serving. Take a step back from the day to day operations to evaluate who you and your team are serving.

Ask your team. It might not always be obvious to you as a leader who your team is serving. Involve them in defining who your customers are. After all, they are the ones going out each day and engaging with them.

Clearly define the customer. Once you have done your assessment and solicited the input of your team, define the customer for your entire team. Don’t assume that everyone understands who they are serving. In our team, we clearly articulate that we are here for patients and staff. That our responsibility is to serve each group.

Creating and Sustaining a Service Culture: Where to Start

Justin Clark, MBA

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

There can be many barriers to developing and sustaining a service culture. As in my case, the people you lead could provide support services (Maintenance) to the primary service (Healthcare) of your business or institution. My reflections will be shared from this perspective. I will call it, leading from the second seat. We aren’t providing the core service of our business, but without us, the core services aren’t sustainable.

I believe the most common leadership barrier to starting this process is feeling overwhelmed about where to start. Culture itself can be a huge obstacle. Unless you are starting from scratch, you have to change culture. As leaders, we all know that as much time and effort as it takes to start from scratch to build culture, it can be measurably more difficult to successfully reshape culture.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

The case for doing it is simple. If you don’t have the right culture, you will have the wrong one. Culture is something that we all have. Every organization. Every department.  We either actively shape culture or we passively allow culture to be shaped. As leaders, the burden to help shape the culture starts with us.

How can you do it?

Establish the priority of culture. Recognize how important culture is. Your team will always have one. As a leader, you are responsible for making sure it is the right one.

Evaluate the current culture. Most likely, you don’t have the option of doing a “full reset” on the culture of your team or your organization. You need to evaluate your current culture and see how it aligns with your mission. Identify the cultural elements that are worth holding onto and those that should be extruded.

Examine other cultures for best practices. How do your peers and colleagues create/shape culture? Where do they start? Leverage these resources to help you in your journey to creating and sustaining a service culture.

 

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Communicate Often

Kara Redoutey, MBA, CFRE

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

Communication can be more difficult than we realize. We have an abundance of tasks and projects and we get busy completing them, sometimes failing to communicate often enough to stakeholders. We also get busy completing tasks and checking items off our lists that we sometimes fail to give the team the details they need to complete the project efficiently. Each person on your team communicates differently and has different expectations for how they prefer to communicate and this can be taxing to maneuver with your already expanding calendar.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Communication is the key to avoiding many of the leadership mistakes we have discussed over this series. The communication of details keeps projects on time and on track to meeting customers’ expectations. People have a better understanding of projects, situations, and goals when you communicate effectively and often. Communication often saves time because of the team’s better comprehension of the project.   Communication can ease fears, stress, and can help alleviate problems before they arise.

How can you do it?

Set expectations for communication. Have conversations up front with key stakeholders and team members about how they prefer to communicate.   Ask for an agreement and commitment to continued communication and to let you know if you fail to communicate to them effectively in the future. Open dialogue is key to resolving misunderstandings when they occur and preventing them in the future.

Make communication with stakeholders a part of your task lists and check lists. This way you are always setting aside time to provide progress updates and seek input from interested parties.

Determine how your team members prefer to communicate and set aside time to communicate to them on a regular schedule. Your team will understand that even if you are busy, you have set aside this time for them on a regular basis to discuss details, ask questions, and go over projects.

 

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Say No (Sometimes) & Follow Through

Kara Redoutey, MBA, CFRE

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

For new leaders, it can be very difficult to say no. We are trying to prove ourselves. We want to earn the respect of our colleagues and our teams. We commit to tasks and projects before we confirm plausibility at times to show that we can do it all. Our drive will often spread us a bit thin and we take on too many projects simply to prove that we are capable of conquering the world. However, we all have limits and we need to learn to recognize them and respond accordingly.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Saying no to certain projects or extending the time for completion can really help to manage expectations and to plan our tasks out appropriately. We do a disservice to our teams when we take on too many projects. Taking a moment to think critically about our task lists and determine the plausibility of a project within those lists will help us to deliver on our commitments. We don’t want to become the leader who overpromises and under delivers. If you say no when you need to, say yes with clear expectations, and follow through on our commitments, we build trust within our teams, credibility with other leaders, and we meet our drive and personal needs by completing tasks and projects in a timely manner.

How can you do it?

Review your task list and your teams’ task lists regularly. If you don’t know what is on your plate and your teams’ plates, you may commit to something that is unreasonable. You must be familiar with your tasks and projects to ensure you add additional tasks and projects with care and thought.

Say no when appropriate and yes with clear expectations. It is okay to say “no” or “I can’t do that right now, but what I will be able to do is…” Always offer an alternative and explain why the project or task isn’t feasible or why it cannot be completed at this time. Outline clear expectations for when you may be able to complete the task or launch the project or what you can do to meet your customer’s need.

Do what you say you are going to do. The best way to build trust and credibility is to always do what you say you are going to do. That means you must focus on the aforementioned items and follow through on your commitments. If you are unable to meet a commitment or deadline, other leaders should understand with clear communication to them about the issue. Your commitment to follow through will build a reputation that will allow you some leeway when things don’t go as planned.

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Stop Overreacting

Kara Redoutey, MBA, CFRE

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

This has become a theme in this series, but it is an important topic to remember throughout leadership. We have all been there. A project doesn’t go smoothly. A result isn’t meeting our expectations. An event doesn’t go as originally planned. We believe we are entitled to react however we want. We often get annoyed when things don’t go our way. We sometimes choose to whine to others and aimlessly vent rather than face the issue at hand. We do all of these things because it’s easier and because we want others to know how difficult our job is and all the barriers we have to overcome. Unfortunately, none of these behaviors help solve the problem.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

We exist to lead our team to organizational goals, not to make mountains out of mole hills. Our desire for perfection is a good thing, but we have to understand that there will be bumps along the road, or mole hills for that matter. When we overreact, we create tension and stress on our teams. Our teams look to us for direction and guidance and if we are overreacting to the situation, we aren’t seeing our options clearly and we clearly aren’t guiding our teams. We have to keep ourselves calm and focused. When we do, we have a much better shot at jumping over the mole hill with our teams and reaching the goal together. Our teams will respect us more if we react in the right way and lead them to success.

How can you do it?

Take a moment of pause. We discussed this topic in a previous blog post earlier in the series. Often, all we need is a moment or two to seek clarity and a few deep breaths to see the options in front of us more clearly.

Seek your team’s input on how to solve the issue at hand, as last week’s blog post talks about. When they have a say and active involvement, the project is more successful. Hold a special team meeting to address the concerns you have about a project. You may find that your team already has everything taken care of and your reaction and worry is all for nothing.

Follow up big projects, events, and tasks with a wrap up meeting. You can talk about what worked, what didn’t, and plan for an even more successful undertaking next time.