Consciously striving to create a positive corporate culture may sound like a fluffy, expensive frill. But it brings hard-nosed, impossible-to-knock-off results. Ask Southwest Airlines: A host of low-cost, short-haul competitors (Remember United’s “Ted” brand? What, you don’t?) Those copycats are gone now: Southwest’s culture–a culture that’s impossible for any quickie competitor to cynically emulate–has proven an insurmountable advantage.
Or Isadore Sharp’s Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. Currently (as usual), they are ranked in the top five companies in any industry for service, after having innovated, persevered, and largely thrived through many different eras and trends of hospitality. Here, above all else, is what Sharp credits Four Seasons’ long-term success to–and why he feels he can sleep soundly at night without fear of knockoffs:
Over the years, we’ve initiated many new ideas that have been copied and are now the norm in the industry. But the one idea that our customers value the most cannot be copied: the consistent quality of our exceptional service. That service is based on a corporate culture…
Notably, it’s in tough times that you most need to rely on your corporate culture. In times of smooth sailing, a focus on culture may not seem necessary: it’s not so crucial in good times that employees offer their best, most creative and heartfelt efforts, take care of each other, keep customer interests front and center: A rising metaphor, as it were, lifts all boats. But, as Ray Davis of Umpqua Bank in the western U.S. (another perennially top-rated company for customer service) puts it, when the seas get choppy, “a strong culture…is a matter of survival.”
And there is no doubt that rapid technological change is churning up the seas for most every organization on the planet.
By Micah Solomon – keynote speaker, customer service speaker, customer service consultant, and #1 bestselling author of “Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization.” Visit with Micah at http://customerserviceguru.com. Or, click here for your own free chapter of Micah Solomon’s #1 customer service bestseller, Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization (American Management Association/ AMACOM)
Isadore Sharp:Four Seasons: The Story of a Business Philosophy, Viking
Ray Davis with Alan Shrader: Leading For Growth, Jossey-Bass