Nathan Joyes | Tuesday, June 25. 2013
Interprise Software has always had a strong commitment to excellence. Having launched just two years after the genesis of ecommerce, I might have suggested that we have a legacy of excellence. That was before I was asked to present an Award of Excellence at the Canadian Franchise Association’s Gala Dinner in April.
As a co-sponsor of the event, along with Scotia Bank, it was an honour to make this presentation in front of a record number of franchise professionals in attendance. But the real honour, of course, went to the recipient of the award, Home Instead Senior Care. Speaking of a legacy of excellence, this company has been providing the highest quality in-home care to seniors for 19 years!
It was a magical night for Home Instead. Not only did they win the top prize in their category, but they went on to win the 2013 overall grand prize for excellence in franchising. That was not before Cora Tsouflidous, the single mother and founder of Cora's breakfast chain, won the CFA Lifetime Achievement Award for 26 years of excellence.
All of the sudden I was not as inclined to brag about our 16 years of excellence in ecommerce. I won’t be expecting a lifetime achievement award anytime soon, but I thought I would share the principles that we have used at Interprise Software to develop a legacy… or at least a tradition of excellence:
- The customer is NOT always right. In fact, I would have to question our value-add if the customer always knew more about our area of expertise. Let’s be honest here, nobody is always right. Perhaps it is not as catchy, but a better service mantra may be, ‘the customer always deserves respect.’ We need to respect the value that they bring to the relationship, but we also need to respect the individual as a person. We rarely have the whole picture figured out and I have found that when I make a conscious choice to respect others, I begin to better understand their point of view, which helps me provide a better solution.
- We’re number 2. Let’s face it, sometimes the objectives of our customers are in direct odds with our own. In this age of ‘looking out for number one’, I will go out on a limb and suggest that our goal should be to meet the needs of the customer first. Some may view this as irresponsible and not in the best interest of our shareholders. Of course there are reasonable limits, but I have always found that the long-term benefits of favouring the needs of our customers over our own outweigh the costs at hand.
- Integrity is low hanging fruit. Do you ever wonder about that one thing you can do to completely blow the customer away with your awesomeness? Perhaps we need to look no further than our integrity, which I define as doing what we said we would do. That’s an easy place to start and it’s amazing the credibility you will gain by returning that call when you said you would, or forwarding that info when you get back to the office like you promised. That’s different from forwarding it the next day, or when they ask for it again, by the way. I know that things don’t always work out the way we planned, but I find that people are quite understanding if you deal with things proactively. We all prefer to be informed of changes in the plan, rather than hearing the excuses after the fact. And if you find that you constantly have to advise others about changes in plans, it may be time to deal with unreasonable expectations.
- Go the extra 1.6 kilometers. While the last point was more about under-promising, going the extra mile is about over-delivering. It’s not rocket science, but people really appreciate when you do more than is required. It doesn’t have to be something huge, but try to make it the norm to deliver a little more than others are expecting.
- Let’s be Honest. If ‘thou shalt not lie’ is not good enough for you, consider that most people are a lot more transparent than they realize. How many times do you hear people speak and are quite certain that they are stretching the truth? I once called a colleague to follow-up on several questions I had emailed him about a week prior. He told me that he never received my email, but then went on to address all my questions in the order they were listed in my email, indicating that he not only received my email but was looking at it as we spoke. I couldn’t help but wonder what else he was lying to me about. How much better it would have been for him to be honest and simply apologize for the delay in getting back to me.
- The golden rule is still golden. I don’t think that treating others the way you want to be treated ever grows old. In fact, doing so pretty much sums up the points above. It’s especially great when we do that for no other motivation than simply because it is the right thing to do. How do we know our motives are pure? Think of the way you interact with the pizza delivery guy, the person at the toll booth, or the receptionist at an office you are visiting. In other words, consider the way you interact with those from whom you have nothing to gain… and when nobody is watching.
- Sweat the Big Stuff. The corollary to the common phrase, ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ also bears some attention. Whether it was the dot com bust, the recession, or other sweeping industry changes, I’ve noticed that times of prosperity are often a predictor of tough times to come. Through seasons of scrambling to catch up, I’ve learned the hard way that when it’s smooth sailing, that’s the best time to start thinking more about the big picture and begin to adapt for what’s ahead. If you are not constantly innovating, smooth sailing is really just the calm before the storm.
I hope you enjoyed these principles of excellence, but this is not an exhaustive list. Why not share one of your principles of excellence in the comments below…