Early in my career, I was lucky enough to attend Manchester Business School's Service Excellence Study Tour. The tour visited the best service companies in the USA, many of which had received the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.
What I learnt from this experience is that great service doesn’t happen by accident. It’s by design. But the design isn't systems and processes – it’s people and culture. Great service organisations focus on recruiting the right people and building a culture that empowers colleagues to support each other to be the best they can be.
To quote Richard Branson, "If you look after your staff, they will look after your customers. It’s as simple as that." And I remember chatting with my team before we launched. They tested me on this very question. Thankfully, I got the answer right!
We built this into our ‘beliefs’. You won't see these in our marketing or stuck on the office wall, but you will see them if you try to join us – look under Recruitment on our website. Two in particular drive our focus on service: ‘A promise must be kept’ and ‘You earn trust by showing trust’. These are as relevant between colleagues and teams as they are with advisers and customers.
It makes good business sense. We know that when an adviser recommends Guardian to their clients, they’re trusting us to be there should the worst happen. It’s their reputation on the line. So we believe in working with advisers as part of the team – where we’re all focused on getting great cover for their clients as quickly and effortlessly as we can.
So I’m immensely proud of what my team has achieved in such a short space of time. As a new business, we’ve built our entire proposition over the last 2 years and have focused a lot of effort on team and culture. Our systems and processes are still developing, but we have a language focused around supporting each other. When a colleague or team is under pressure, they’re ‘the team that needs the most help’ and everyone feels empowered to rally round and offer their support.
This culture cuts across our entire business – everyone mucks in regardless of function or status. When issues crop up, colleagues pull together to find a solution. Having no silos means decision making can be fast and focused on achieving the outcome for the situation in hand. This works much better than having a standardised process.
We have literally thousands of interactions (phone calls, web chats and emails) every month. Every one unique. And every one needing a quick response. To do this, we have to trust our teams and colleagues to make the right judgement ‘in the moment’. The investment in our culture helps make sure everyone has the same ultimate goal and can make their own judgement about what needs to be done… without management interference.
Do we make mistakes? Yes. Is there more to be done? Absolutely. So what do we need to do to get there? Keep listening to our colleagues, advisers and customers.
Which brings me to my favourite belief: ‘Good enough is never enough’.