Posted by: drewdice | December 8, 2010

3rd world = 1st rate

Service with a smile – always
Seeking to serve customers – first and foremost
Seamless and effortless upselling – a thing of beauty that generates the desire for customers to spend more money

Sound like a “destination” you would like for your organization? It does exist. I’ve seen it (not in my dreams, either).

There must have been one heck of a company (country) wide meeting; or a compelling video/email/mission and vision statement delivery. I bet it was like no other ever delivered. And a pointed, streamlined incentive program designed to drive performance and service to consistent and high levels.

Actually, where this happened was not a specific business. It was a country – the Philippines. JoAnn and I recently visited her family there (Cebu City). We visited a couple of the islands over a 2 week period of time – soaking up the culture and history, seeing (or, meeting, for me) extended family members, leading a presentation on International Business at the University of San Carlos, getting a sense for the business climate in the area, and interacting with as many people as possible.

One of our family’s friends who has lived there for 7 years was expressing how much he enjoys living there, and that every now and again he is reminded that he is living in a “3rd world country”. I’ve got news for you: as far as the Philippines may have to go in further developing the country, they seem to be light years ahead in a few areas – one being service and sales.

Being that one of my focal areas for the past 20 years or so has been building high performing and profitable sales organizations, my radar is always up, looking for examples of places where people and companies do it right (and wrong). You’ve heard me talk about 5 critical elements of successfully landing a strategy (and growing a business):

– Strategic Intent
– Vanguard Leadership (and alignment)
– Process Integrity
– People Readiness
– Organizational Context

In the Philippines, they seem to have these things nailed. Let me give you some examples, and my hope is that you can reflect on these things to see if they live and breathe in your company – is the focus there, do these things show up every day, do your people “get it”, do the leaders enable this type of mentality and behavior (you get the point):

Front line performers on talk in the positive – even when they are telling you what isn’t “allowed”. At Shangri-La in Mactan, JoAnn and I were in the lobby, waiting for her parents to meet us for lunch. We were sitting on a low ledge that bordered a sitting area (imagine that the ledge was the top border of a sunken sitting area). Instead of telling us that we couldn’t sit on the ledge, or to please get down, one of the front line folks said to us “why don’t you come sit in this area, where you will be much more comfortable?” When I asked him if we weren’t supposed to sit on the ledge, and if they wanted us out of that area, he responded “this area is so much more comfortable, I think you will much prefer relaxing here”. Seem like no big deal? I’ll tell you, from the customer’s vantage point, I loved hearing that he was focused on our comfort, not telling us to get off the ledge – it doesn’t matter that I knew he didn’t want us on that ledge. What mattered was his focus on keeping our mindset in a positive place. I saw this repeated again and again, even in the face of upset and angry customers. Front line performers never lost their cool and always kept the focus on pleasing guests and customers

Creative suggestive selling – I’m not talking about going to the Post Office and having the staff person ask if you want stamps, money orders or anything else in a tone that says “I really don’t care if you buy anything else, but I have to ask you this before we complete the transaction”. I’m talking about engaging interactions, always in polite and courteous fashion, always with a genuine (or, at least it appears that way) smile and body language. This happened repeatedly – in restaurants, in clothing stores, at Fitness First health club, on the scenic tours we took. Everyone drank the same kool aid, and I’ve got to tell you, what resonated most for us was that the people really gave a darn that we were happy as their primary focus, and the sales came later – we bought, repeatedly – came back to some of the same businesses, we purchased in bigger quantities, we referred others to some of the establishments – everything that a business leader wants from customers – all in a natural, comfortable environment. No, we didn’t buy from everyone, and you know what? We got no attitude. We got smiles, genuine “thank yous”, and a feeling like it was ok that we didn’t purchase.

Maybe it is because folks in the Philippines (at least that we met) have not yet acquired a sense of entitlement (I hope it never happens), but I’d rather think that they just “get it” – serve others, graciously, humbly and always without ego, and you will get what you desire, and then some. It seems to be baked into the culture and fabric of the country (again, from what we experienced), and the lessons can and should be applied to your organizations. Go back to the 5 critical elements of driving successful strategies and organizations and you, too, can create an organizational Shangri-La.

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