Most companies have a set of ‘values’. These are intended to be the ‘essence’ of the organisation, the ‘DNA’ or its ‘manifesto’. For some companies, their values are merely a set of words on a wall, for others, they come to life in what the organisation does, at all levels, from leadership to frontline staff. They become the glue for harnessing the organisation with a common cause and a clear framework for its mindset, behaviour, decision-making and the processes that are put in place.
According to a study of more than 1,000 companies in the ‘Great Places to Work’ database there is a strong correlation between financial performance and the degree to which employees believe their company’s values are being practised. Yet, another study from Reward Gateway has shown that only “23% of employees feel completely informed about the values of the organisation they work for.” There’s clearly a benefit to ensuring that company values are adopted in day-to-day behaviour, but it isn’t happening everywhere.
Values at Zappos
Zappos is a well-publicised organisation that openly shares its company values. Anyone who’s engaged with Zappos will have seen or felt the embodiment of these values in their interactions with Zappos employees.
Zappos developed their company values by surveying their employees back in 2005.
“Besides being distinctive, these beliefs create a framework for Zappos’ actions. These values guide everything we do, including how we interact with our employees, how we interact with our customers and community, and how we interact with our vendors and business partners. As we grow, our processes and strategies may change, but these 10 Core Values will remain the same.”
Zappos take their core values seriously. Performance reviews are 50% based on core values and culture fit. They have many ways of bringing their values to the fore; these are fun and unique. For example, adult stress relieving colouring sheets (see image).
Zappos is a great example of how company values impact the way that they treat their customers, the customer experience and how that experience is delivered. Some examples of the Zappo’s value ‘Deliver WoW through service’ that you may have read about are: Zappos sent flowers to a lady who’d ordered six pairs of shoes due to her feet being damaged by harsh medical treatments. They sent a free pair of shoes to a best man who had turned up to a wedding shoeless. Thirty Zappos employees personally delivered nearly 1,900 gift boxes to a town, reportedly, with a high penetration of customers loyal to Zappos. It’s no surprise that 75% of Zappos purchases come from returning customers and 43% of new customers came to them via word of mouth.
Mobilising employees around company values is important for any business. Unfortunately, when it comes to operationalising company values externally, with customers and through the customer experience, we see companies like Zappos in the minority.
Company values can be the ‘North Star’ for guiding the Customer Experience
Often company values are conceived within the HR function with little input from the customer. They make sense and work well for employees, but their relevance beyond the internal walls of the organisation is sometimes less clear. Company values can equally be a guide for the Customer Experience as well as that of employees.
Do your company values align with delivering a great customer experience? How do they apply as a guide for engaging with customers and the type of experience that they expect?
I personally like this example from H&M for two main reasons. First, their set of values are not a set of ‘generic’ words such as ‘Integrity’, ‘Boldness’, ‘Honesty’. Second, it is fairly easy to see how these values (below) translate to the outside world and their customers in the day-to-day actions that H&M takes, the decisions that they make and the impact that they have on the customer experience.
The H&M website states: “Individually our values may seem obvious. But put them together and our unique company culture is born. Our values are part of who we are, what we stand for and how we act.”
I’m going to share the whole published list of values and descriptions and add my comments about why they’re important.
We are one team
Our great colleagues make the difference. It’s when we share our skills, knowledge and experience we become one team. We encourage and help each other to achieve our goals, while always having our customers’ and company’s best interest in mind.
Silo-based working and practice is one of the biggest barriers to customer experience, so this first value speaks directly to that.
We believe in people
With belief and trust in the people around you, anything is possible. That’s why we build our workplace on trust, respect, inclusiveness and integrity. Together we can do great things.
Delivering a consistent end-to-end customer experience is not easy. It needs to be owned by the whole organisation and needs a high degree of collaboration and communication. One of the biggest failures is not delivering on promises made to customers.
The day we stop acting like entrepreneurs, we’ll be just another fashion company. Our success is built on creativity, innovation and the excitement of making immediate impact. We’re still competing for every single customer’s heart, and we work hard to continue to be their first choice. Every day. Everywhere.
Customer Experiences are there to be successfully managed, but they are also there to be innovated.
We’re extremely proud of what we’ve accomplished, but we’re still far from perfect. We never stop, we never settle, we redefine our limits and stretch our expectations as we do business and interact with the world around us. It’s the small everyday improvements that make the big difference.
The best customer experiences are where company’s not only look at easing pain and frustration but are always on the look out to make things better for customers.
Being cost-conscious is about keeping an eye on expenses and making smart, sustainable choices even in the small, every-day things. The best way to invest in the future is to take good care of our people, our products, our customers and our planet.
This translates in the experience in several ways, for example, providing the best value, being transparent and authentic.
Straightforward and open-minded
We value diversity in people and ideas, as much as in personal style. Having an open mind about people and the world around you brings positive energy and creates an inclusive and welcoming workplace. Conversations lead to great things. That’s why we encourage everyone to give and accept feedback, and always speak to each other directly and not behind people’s backs.
Customer listening and feedback is critical and dovetails well with this value.
Keep it simple
The smartest solution to any challenge is often a simple one. So, use your common sense. Trust your colleagues’ good judgment. Don’t over-analyse, or complicate things with bureaucracy or hierarchy. It will slow down our speed.
Customers want convenience and simplicity. Experiences don’t need to be over-engineered. Technology is making it easy for customers to engage with organisations with ease and simplicity.
These values are a guide for their experience design, a filter for improvement initiatives, a framework for connecting ‘backstage’ and ‘frontstage’ processes and even for customer experience governance.
Ensure that company values are relevant to the customer
We encourage companies to align their company values to support the customer experience, through ‘customer outcomes’. These are the benefits that the customer wants from the customer experience and their relationship with you.
This template can be helpful to think this through and unpick what values mean, not only for the organisation and employees, but for customers.
Bake values into day-to-day customer experience delivery
But don’t stop there. It’s no good theorising about how important or relevant company values are to customers, now you need to begin to translate those values into actions and behaviours as part of daily ritual or routine. Sound difficult? Well it needn’t be.
Company values must be reinforced consistently and continuously at every point of the customer journey and by all levels of the organisation with leadership, living values by example. Core values help focus employees on how to operate in relation to customers on a day-to-day basis.
One of the ways to do this is by translating values into actionable statements (not just one-word descriptors), determining their relevance to customers, establishing a plan to ‘bake’ them into customer experience delivery and then measuring the impact that this has. Organisations who take this approach are in the minority, they unsurprisingly are those with better customer and employee experiences. Virgin Airlines is one example that comes to mind.
Communicating company values clearly and rewarding desired behaviours help create a more productive, happier, and engaged workforce. Organisations with more engaged employees deliver better customer experiences. Organisations where values are practiced, see greater financial benefits. It’s a win-win all round.
Smiling companies, happy customers.