Guest writer Ronnie Smith met business guru Ron Kaufman in picture), speaker, consultant and author of 14 best sellers, who is in Romania for a conference he will deliver on Wednesday, October 31. Kaufman shared his views about the service culture around the world and in Romania.
Ron Kaufman is an American of Romanian ancestry who has based himself in Singapore for the past 20 years, having gone there to offer advice on how the country and its businesses could make a quick transformation from an industrial to a service culture. His great grandfather, the first member of the family to arrive in the US, was Romanian. Kaufman is now seen as a leading authority in customer service and has worked with large companies around the world.
In Romania too, where a form of negative exceptionalism often prevents people from maximizing their potential and even their effort, people can still create a vibrant service culture, said Kaufman at the meeting with the local press, just before his Bucharest conference. This can happen regardless of the general social and political culture that people find themselves in at any time, and there is no need to wait for the resolution of various conflicts in society. Certainly there are no barriers to businesses in Romania offering better services to their clients right now, Kaufman went on. “They just have to want to do it.”
Ron Kaufman explained, in fundamental terms, why service leadership and the creation of a strong, or stronger, service culture are concepts that are vital if success is to be achieved by companies, national economies and people in their working lives. A service leader can be anyone, working at any level in a company. Indeed the people who are in direct contact with a company’s customers are, by definition, leading the delivery of service for their company and their assumption of that responsibility will determine the strength of its success or failure as a business.
Kaufman prefers to think of people within a company being enabled, rather than empowered, by their line managers to think and take service-improving action. Empowerment is often a term that frightens senior managers and company owners who see themselves as rightfully having the power within their organization.
Creating panic among the upper strata of a company is certainly not conducive to good service leadership. However, if everyone is enabled and trusted to think and put forward ideas on how better service can be provided to customers, general improvement is inevitable.
Where there is a strong culture of service leadership throughout a company, employees have higher levels of satisfaction with their work and that is transmitted to their customers. In a sense the relationship between the company and its customers becomes more communal, as employees stay longer with the organization and customers return time after time because, in both cases, their experience is very positive.
In the case of public sector organizations, where Ron Kaufman acknowledged the existence of a different set of circumstances, government management and leadership was more likely to be the driver in the creation of a service culture in a resolutely ‘top-down’ environment. However, change could happen more readily if the concept of creating added value to other people’s lives was included in the general school curriculum and came to be regarded as normal behavior.
In some ways it is shocking to be discussing how we, as individuals, can think of how we can create a service culture – making our customers’ experience better – when that kind of thing used to be taught at Sunday school in the West, and through other forms of church-based teaching.
The ‘me society’ that we have created for ourselves means that we have to start from scratch in order to even think about both offering good service and openly appreciating it when we receive it, particularly in the public sector where the motivation to improve performance may not be very strong.
Multinational companies may encounter greater challenges in creating a successful service culture in their organizations if they fail to understand that it can be applied across national social and political boundaries. There is little point in, for example, a German-based multinational company trying to get all its employees, no matter where, to ‘become’ German. However, they will succeed if they can create a service culture within the organization that is nationality neutral and purely customer-focused.
In all cases and at all levels of a company’s organization, the voice of the customer must be heard loud and clear. And this is Ron Kaufman’s core secret of service culture creation and development
Fundamental business questions must be asked and answered by everyone in the company. What does the customer want? How can value be added to delivering that product or service? If the customer wants X, perhaps he would also like Y? Perhaps more customers would come more often if our store was more attractive? Maybe customers would stay longer and buy more products if we offered coffee? Customer Z isn’t happy, how can we fix that, right now…?
Let’s be very clear, companies have a very, very hard time without customers and Kaufman’s global vision of customer service culture and leadership should be shared by every business.
He’s in Romania now and there are still tickets available for his public presentation on Wednesday.
The conference in Bucharest is organized by Interactive People, a company set up by Orlando Szasz and Elena Calin. Tickets for Kaufman’s conference in Bucharest are EUR 650/person or EUR 450/person for groups of over 7 people and can be booked here.
By Ronnie Smith, Guest Writer
Ronnie Smith is Scottish and now lives in Romania, working as a professional training business consultant and communication coach. He is also a teacher of political science, a political and social commentator and a writer of fiction. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Romania Insider.com.