In my blog post “People leave leaders – the uncomfortable truth” I discussed how changing business culture and my leadership style were two contributing factors to increased business results and overall success. In this journey, there was another significant milestone that made business easier, more enjoyable and more profitable – consistency of service.
Our company had a large banking client who had high expectations, rarely used recruiters and was quite vocal about his frustration with the turnover of Consultants in the recruitment industry. When we finally won an opportunity to recruit, he developed a relationship with one of the more experienced Consultants on my team.
When she got pregnant and was preparing for maternity leave, I knew her replacement on this account was critical to get right or I would risk losing them. The new account manager was introduced and not long after, there was another new assignment for her to work on. At the same time, this client was on the board of another organisation and was dealing with another one of our Consultants on that opportunity. In the space of several months, he had exposure to three Consultants, plus his existing relationship with me. I’ll never forget the day he called me to give me some feedback. I remember thinking “oh no, what’s gone wrong, he doesn’t like that he is dealing with so many different Consultants”. It was the opposite. He was ringing to tell me how impressed he was with the consistency of our process, our approach, our service and methodology. He said regardless of whether he was dealing with Tom, Dick, Harry or myself it was the same. We had the same vision, the same way of doing things and a real consistency of service delivery.
This was no accident. We filtered this “sameness” through the organisation from the vision and values, to dress code, to being on time, how we answered our phone, our report writing and how we presented at meetings. We wanted every interaction with our company to represent and reinforce what we stood for. It was a highlight for me to see this being recognised by an external customer who had noticed and was experiencing the benefits.
It wasn’t a walk in the park to get to this point. It took discipline, persistence and holding people accountable to uphold these standards. Often new Consultants who joined us from other firms didn’t like ‘our way’ and would try to “buck the system”, take a short cut or revert to their old habits. As a leader, it was tempting to let these behaviours go, especially when they were producing results. Ignoring it never worked. It always backfired. It always turned ugly and became more difficult for me, the team and the Consultant in question.
I remember going out on a client visit with a new, but industry experienced Consultant to observe our service in action. We got in the car and I asked about the organisation, who we were seeing, what the history was etc. She knew nothing. There was no preparation, no research or knowledge. Gulp! It pretty much went down hill from there including no street directory or directions to get there, making us late, no apology to the client, no setting of the agenda, no use of our presentation folder and no closure or follow-up. Everything from her training and induction had been thrown out the window. She liked to do it her way and couldn’t see the problem. Doing it her own way wasn’t going to work in our culture. There were two choices – embrace the proven strategies that deliver results and consistency of client service or conclude we weren’t right for each other.
Harsh? Too blunt? Not flexible enough? You could certainly argue that revenue and results from an experienced recruiter is not something to walk away from so quickly. But what’s the long-term impact? What are the consequences for the brand, culture, team approach, reputation and ultimately the client experience? It was a risk I wasn’t prepared to take. We parted ways and I learnt a very important lesson to stick to what you know works, be consistent in every detail and don’t apologise for reinforcing processes that deliver. Your team members are either on the bus, or they’re not.
Deliver consistently to your customers and you will enjoy consistent success.