By Willis Amach

“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better”—Jeff Bezos

Whenever you walk into the premises of any given organization or interact with their customer facing staff for business transaction, you get or form a mental impression of their efficiency or lack of it thereof, their friendliness or indifference, their professionalism or lack of it thereof, their superior or mediocre customer experience among other aspects of their business operations that either endear you to them or leave a bad taste so to speak about their overall business etiquette. In an era where products and services have been commoditized, what shall differentiate or set apart one business from another in the same industry is the intangible human aspects of doing business, the organizational culture.

Culture of Excellence defined

Organization culture is the unwritten code of conduct, norms and traditions that inform how the company employees conduct business with their customers and relate with each other. It is a set of key values, assumptions, understandings and norms that is shared by members of an organization and is taught to new members as the correct and accepted code of conduct. The organizational culture is the identity and soul of the business. At its most basic, culture is a pattern of shared assumptions and beliefs about how things are done in an organization. Culture goes beyond the official corporate philosophies that are displayed on the office walls and company websites.

Whereas it is hard to define organization culture in practice, the same is readily discernible in the attitudes, language, actions and inactions of the company staff as they interact with one other and as well as their customers. It is readily discernible in the conduct of customer facing staff as they engage their customers, in courteous speech or lack of it thereof, in keeping promises to the customers or otherwise, in follow up of client queries and issues or absence of the same, and generally how company employees make customers feel in dealing with the company.

Culture exists in two levels: The observable and the non-observable.

Observable aspects of culture are external and are readily noticeable through observation. These aspects include the visible artifacts, physical symbols, organization ceremonies as well as the office layout. They give the first impression to both the customers and new employees on what the organization values or holds dear in its business conduct.

The Non-observable aspects of culture on the other hand are the deeply embedded values that members may not be conscious or aware of. These non-observable underlying assumptions are the true essence of a culture. The non-observable aspects of culture are not readily pronounced but on the other hand are the salient features that dictate how the employees interact among themselves as well with the external customers.

Culture is the Soul and Identity of the Business

Since organizational culture is the soul and identity of the business, it should be the core concern of every business leader. This is very important because the internal interaction among the employees and the external interaction of the company with the customers and other stakeholders ultimately give the company its trajectory in terms of growth and its profitability. Every business leader who is concerned about the health (financial and social health) should deliberately inculcate and grow a culture of excellence.

Culture of excellence is a conspiracy to excel

Culture of excellence is a way of thinking and working with a commitment to excellence, it can be described as a conspiracy to excel or an organization-wide way of thinking and working that leads to a sense of ‘aliveness’ in everyone in the organization. Culture of excellence is fundamentally a philosophy, a way of being, marked by a spirit of commitment to excellence in the fulfillment of the organization’s vision and mission*. It is a commitment that requires ongoing invention and creativity as opposed to a set of rules to be followed rigorously by the members of an organization. On the contrary, a culture of excellence is a choice, derived and manifested as a commitment to go beyond the ordinary.

In a culture of excellence, the contribution of each individual is recognized and appreciated, and every member displays a willingness to step outside their comfort zones. Individual egos and selfish interests are sacrificed on the altar of the common good and posterity. The entire organization is set on a mindset of striving rather than settling, and enjoys rather than endure the journey being cognizant of the fact that excellence is a way of being rather than a destination.

Why Foster a Culture of Excellence?

You are probably concerned why your company does not seem too register sustainable superior performance despite putting in place your winning team and the right business strategies, I submit to you that the missing link between your aspiration of leading a great team with superior business performance and a lasting legacy on the one hand and your lukewarm performing team can be described in one word CULTURE and more specifically, organizational culture of excellence and superior customer experience. Culture is the one thing that if you get right then you no longer have to be worried about the business performance of your various units and the organization as a whole.

Fostering a culture of excellence allows an organization to be forward looking and anticipating, rather than reacting. When you build a culture of excellence, you create organizational capacity and a structure that empowers, focuses and engages employees2. Your employees are the face of your company and as such they interact with your customers on a daily basis. When they are empowered, focused and engaged, they will naturally give their best in service offering to your customers. You create the environment for offering superior customer experience as the culture puts the customer at the centre of your business strategies, decisions and actions; this in turn creates a legion of evangelical customers who are more delighted to ‘convert’ many more customers to join their company.

By focusing and prioritizing the creation of a culture of excellence, you are unlocking the full potential of your organization and are accessing real growth.

About the author

Willis Amach is a former career banker, author, life coach and inspirational speaker based in Bungoma County Kenya. He is an Alumni of Kenyatta University—School of Business and Daystar University—Institute of Leadership and Professional Development.

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