Think about a business you think is fantastic, a place you not only patronize, but evangalize for. Two things are almost invariably true about such an organization.
The first is that its service is outstanding. Things like prices, policies, and selection can distinguish a good organization from a mediocre one. But sticking out as really great is almost impossible without outstanding interactions with staff. We human beings are social creatures, and being treated well by others matters to us.
The other thing is that the quality of service is stone-cold dependable. You could call the customer service line a dozen times and each would be as productive as the next. It could be two in the morning, and the night manager would call all over the city to help you find what you need. Fire and brimstone could be raining from the sky and the college student at the cash register would give you a helping hand and a genuine smile.
Such reliability is key to nurturing truly committed constituents. Why? Because for them – for all of us, really – outstanding service is either consistent or it’s nonexistent. A car that runs without problems nine days out of ten is not 90 percent acceptable. It’s 100 percent unreliable.
You might not object to a more “typical” level of service. You might even consider yourself satisfied by it. But you wouldn’t feel any particular affinity for the organization that provided it. For organizations to distinguish themselves and create true constituent loyalty, therefore, service must be delivered first time, every time.
What does this mean for leadership and management? First of all, it requires consistency of experience to be made an organizational priority. Quality of service must be raised to a point of principle and driven down through all levels of the organization.
Constituents’ impressions of an organization of an organization are formed not through interactions with mid-level managers and career supervisors, but rather with the frontest of front-line staff. Leaders, therefore, need to embed a commitment to quality service in the organizational culture in such a way that the teenagers making $8 an hour at after-school shifts understand it, support it, and make it a reality for constituents.
Failing that, quality will be hit-or-miss and determined almost entirely by the personality and daily mood of individual employees — which is as sure a recipe for mediocrity as can be imagined.