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The 3 Ps of purpose-driven customer service (Part 1)

The Revelation ConversationLast month, I presented to a group of hotel general managers. These were the presentation’s three main objectives:

  1. Reveal the totality of employees’ job roles.
  2. Connect daily work activities to the higher purpose of the job role.
  3. Inspire greater employee engagement.

Studies confirm that learning retention evaporates quickly without reinforcement. For that reason, we’ve had two follow-up activities aimed at reinforcing these objectives in the four weeks since the presentation. And there is a third and final capstone activity scheduled for next month that I will introduce in this post.

By way of background, the audience for this activity received a 7-page article as prereading, a copy of my latest book (upon which the article was based), a 60-minute virtual presentation linked to the three objectives above, and has participated in two previous follow-up activities. So, while most of the recipients of this final activity are well-versed in the language, I’ll add some definitions here to clarify terms related to the capstone activity.

Action: The process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim.

Actions can be embedded within a process to operationalize the steps, so they occur reliably, over time, by design, rather than inconsistently, here and there, by chance. Actions are a required part of the process. Newly-hired employees receive training to improve their ability to efficiently execute actions related to their job roles.

Behavior: The way in which a person conducts oneself, especially toward others.

Behaviors are elective and cannot be mandated — only suggested, encouraged, and modeled by leadership. Job candidates are screened using predictive selection software, behavioral interview questions, and other tools to determine whether they possess traits (e.g., hospitality, teamwork, initiative, reliability, attentiveness, etc.) that are aligned with the organization’s purpose, core values, and business priorities. Ultimately, the decision to display hospitality behaviors (e.g., to smile, make eye contact, add enthusiasm to one’s voice, care, etc.) is up to the individual.

Job knowledge: The understanding of a set of responsibilities specific to a job role (e.g., hours of operation, policies, procedures, product specifications, pricing, and availability).

Job skills: The various skills and abilities used to complete a job assignment. These consist of technical skills (e.g., keyboarding, software, writing) and soft skills (e.g., self-awareness, time management, customer service).

Job functions: Any of a group of related actions (duties and tasks) performed by an employee in a particular job role.

Job essence: The reflection, through actions and behaviors, of the higher purpose of the job role.

Organizational purpose: An organization’s existential question; its reason for being.

Job purpose: The aspirational reason a job role exists.

As opposed to the what (job knowledge) and how (job skills), job purpose is the why of an employee’s job role. It is the employee’s (and work group’s) single highest priority at work, encapsulating a specific mission and purpose. A job purpose isolates an employee’s unique role-based contribution in support of the organization’s purpose.

For example, you may be tempted to say that the job purpose of a restaurant server is to take, fulfill, and process payment for patrons’ food and beverage orders. But further analysis suggests the true purpose of a server’s job role might be to surprise and delight every guest.

Of course, it’s not zero-sum: executing job functions or reflecting job purpose. It’s both. A restaurant server must take, fulfill, and process payment for patrons’ food and beverage orders. That’s a given. The differentiator is when servers are not only competent (i.e., possess adequate job knowledge and display sufficient job skills) to reliably execute job assignments, but also reflect the higher purpose of their job role (e.g., to surprise and delight every guest). This quality is demonstrated by the server who playfully banters with the group, presents an unexpected chef’s taste for the party to sample, offers expert wine pairing suggestions, and replaces a guest’s Martini glass mid-drink with a fresh, frosted one to chill the remaining beverage.

And this brings us to our capstone activity that delves into the 3 Ps of purpose-driven customer service: position, purpose, and process.

I will ask the general managers to select a single job role — or position — they oversee. Next, I will ask them to determine the purpose — the single highest priority of the job role — by reflecting on their organization’s guiding statement, whether it’s called a mission, vision, or purpose statement. They must determine the unique contribution made by the job role in support of that guiding statement, pushing past delivery and execution (e.g., take, fulfill, and process payment for patrons’ food and beverage orders) to uncover the true meaning and purpose of the job role (e.g., to surprise and delight every guest). An illustration involving airline baggage handlers is included in an earlier blog post.

Finally, I will ask them to choose a single process that impacts guest satisfaction, intent to return/repurchase, value for the price paid, or other key performance indicators. With the position, purpose, and process decided, together with those in the job role who are closest to customers and the process selected, it’s time to explore and identify purposeful actions and behaviors that can be incorporated into the process to operationalize purpose-driven customer service.

Next week, in Part 2 of this post, I will share some ideas on how to create a robust brainstorming activity that will produce fresh suggestions for how your team can consistently deliver purpose-driven customer service. This will include a template that you can use with your team to apply the above strategies.

For now, if your interest has been piqued, start by familiarizing yourself with the bolded terms and 3 Ps of purpose-driven customer service.

Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.
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