You will find it on page one of the employee handbook, plastered on corporate walls, and reflected on company and community websites. We lovingly refer to it as the company mission statement or promise. As a multifamily education trainer, who focuses a lot on the customer experience, I tend to make it a habit to familiarize myself with the mission and values statements of the companies I work with. Interestingly, I am often shocked by the number of employees who don’t even know what their company mission states, yet they are responsible for carrying it out.
Many of my blog posts are inspired by my own experiences as a customer, and this one is no exception. A few weeks ago, we were shopping at our local home improvement center. Our experiences with this particular retailer have always been very positive. The employees are helpful, friendly, and very knowledgeable and as a result we are loyal customers. Like many large corporations, they have a mission statement which includes points such as doing the right thing, respect for people, and the customer comes first. Unfortunately, during this recent visit they did not keep any of their customer promises. I couldn’t help but feel great sadness and disappointment. It felt like we were on the verge of breaking up after all these years.
Our experience was a reminder that the road to failed company missions is often paved with good intentions. Even the best fail to protect their promises at one time or another. Right? But businesses can hardly afford to lose even one customer. Ironically, in many ways, the mission statement on your wall is like the pie crust Mary Poppins refers to when she says, “Sounds like a pie crust promise, easily made and easily broken.” Yet the best ways to protect your customer promises might be easier than you think.
Here are three keys to protecting your customers from broken promises.
1. Memorize (Responsibility)
Why does your company have a mission statement? Is it simply framed artwork for the leasing office? The mission statement is the target, and it tells employees where they need to go on a daily basis. As Zig Ziglar said, “You can’t hit a target you cannot see, and you cannot see a target you do not have.” There’s a lot of noise in the leasing office that can distract employees from the important goals. Where is their goal reminder? Will they reference the new hire handbook to remind themselves, or walk over to the wall and read it? No. If your mission statement is truly a mission, then your employees should know what it says and what it really means.
It would be easy to add memorizing the mission statement to the new hire checklist. This might sound like a simple or even silly idea, but it makes complete sense when you consider the importance of it. The great thing about memorized information is that it is always with us, even when we lack the time to look it up. We have access to it 24/7, even when we are exhausted, irritated, or frustrated. We can solve problems easier when we remember our customer mission. Memorizing the mission tends to create a feeling of responsibility in every person who is tasked with carrying it out.
2. Inspect (Accountability)
Accountability is the next ingredient you can easily add to your best in class training program that will help protect the mission. A mission can only be achieved with good monitoring or inspection, and we must always inspect what we expect.
It’s time to have some fun and get creative. Have you ever watched the television show Undercover Boss? The show features the experiences of executives working undercover in their own companies. They investigate how their businesses really work and identify how they can improve. We can use this idea as a launching point to some very creative ways to protect the promises made to our customers. It would be a great exercise for a room full of apartment training and education professionals to brainstorm this, but here are a few ideas to start:
- Speed Calling- Call a few communities each day. The first person who answers the call must immediately recite the company mission statement when you ask.
- Mission Possible- Establish a contest where communities submit their best customer experience story telling how the team or a member of the team made the experience possible by following through with the company mission.
- Undercover Newbie- As part of their leasing consultant training, ask a new leasing professional to shop a community, or spend half a day working at a community other than the one where they will be employed. Provide them with the company mission statement and a few points for them to consider for evaluation (not a standard shopping report). When they return to the classroom, ask the new employees to share their positive experiences. Which employee best fulfilled the mission statement? Call that employee and congratulate them!
If every employee thought there was an undercover boss working in their office, would they behave differently? Would they do a better job of protecting customer promises?
3. Celebrate (Showcasing)
If you were to put a face on your mission statement, who would it look like? Who best exemplifies and protects the mission of your company? Who do your employees and customers brag about? Celebrate these employees by giving them the opportunity to showcase themselves.
- Interview them in a company blog post.
- Present them with a “Mission Possible” trophy which moves to a different employee each month.
- Start a quarterly “Mission Possible” brainstorming lunch group, where three monthly winners are treated to a special lunch with the multifamily leasing training director.
Showcasing employees as leaders in carrying out the company mission validates their efforts and inspires others to improve.
A great mission statement is lived out every day by everyone on the team, so much so that they become a living display of company goals rather than the plaque on the wall. To the customer, it represents why you are in business and what matters most to you. To the employee, it answers why they work for you and why what they do matters. When the days get rough in the leasing office, as they often do, it’s easy for employees to forget why they are working so hard. It is the mission statement that can bring them back to the why and inspire them all over again. In fact, a clearly communicated business mission statement can help with employee retention too. Gallup research shows a strong sense of mission drives employee retention across generations. Placing a strong focus on mission and purpose is one of the top two factors for keeping Millennials, Generation Xers and Baby Boomers at your organization.
When the people who are tasked to carry out the customer mission don’t know what it says, how can they protect it? This customer promise is the one statement they must know and always protect. It should be memorized, inspected, and celebrated.
Vice President of Training and Development
Edge2Learn / Ellis Partners in Management Solutions
Edge2Learn is an eLearning company whose focus is the Property Management Industry and specializes in property management training and multifamily education. With over 30 years of experience and a commitment to increase industry excellence, we are passionate about engaging learners to maximize benefits for both companies and employees. Aligned with a well-respected industry leader, Ellis, Partners in Management Solutions, the Edge2Learn platform provides a turnkey solution for clearly identified needs and opportunities. We prepare learners to deliver a superior customer experience and also reduce corporate liability risks and overall employee turnover.