There’s a story—usually, a people story— behind every organization. It communicates who they are and what they stand for, and maybe why they do what they do. Unfortunately, management and marketing are often the only ones able to articulate the organization’s story and its relevant history, much less what the organization actually does, beyond, say, “provide legal services.” But what if everyone in the organization understood the story? What if everyone knew the elevator pitch on your expertise as a firm and your ambitions for client service in the marketplace? And what if those ambitions resonated so deeply in your organizational culture that a positive client experience began on that first phone call, or at the front door, or in the parking lot?
A few years ago, I attended a training session with a marketing consultant who shared a story about visiting the zoo. As he pulled into the parking lot, instead of encountering an emotionless, orange-vested person robotically pointing an orange stick toward a long row of already occupied spaces, the parking attendant greeted him with an enthusiastic, “Hello!” followed by, “Have you seen the orangutans? They are the highlight of the zoo and wildly entertaining. And our primate experts are known for their extensive work with these amazingly intelligent creatures.” Because of this tidbit of insider information, he and his kids excitedly made a bee line to the orangutan house where they were greeted by an equally enthusiastic zookeeper, the trusted subject-matter expert on all things orangutan.
What happened here? Rest assured, it was not by accident. Clearly zoo officials recognized that the client experience emanates from a positive underlying culture embraced by the entire organization.
Although I don’t know for certain, I would speculate that the zoo’s leadership was intentional in how it created a more powerful client experience. Still speculating here, but I’m guessing that you could do the same for your organization...and your clients. Here are some ideas.
One word of caution: As you define and build your firm culture, make sure you aren’t fabricating a great story that fails to resonate with your people. They might sell it for a while, but the truth has a way of seeping through the cracks, and the orangutans in your firm might just hide out in their shelters and refuse to perform.
Ultimately, it’s important to recognize that culture and client service are not mutually exclusive. As Terry “Starbucker” St. Marie points out, “Bad cultures can’t execute well. Period.” And ultimately bad execution will likely result in no business for which to build a culture.