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What will Drive Organizational Change Toward Service?

Posted on : 04-02-2010 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Customer Service, Social Media


Many in the social media community feel that the Customer is gaining much more control over brands, and this alone will drive change.  I do not disagree, but I feel there are a number of factors that will drive this organizational shift.  Today I heard an interview with Larry O’Donnell, COO and President of Waste Management.  He was discussing a new show premiering on CBS after the Super Bowl on Sunday called Undercover Boss.  Here is the preview for the show:

I watched the preview, and all of a sudden I was proud to have Waste Management as my trash service.  Mainly because I felt a connection to both the employees and to Larry.  I have written many times before that most of us struggle managing upward, which means most leaders do not know the reality faced by our most important assets, our front line employee.  For years we have made cuts, implemented dumb policies and procedures, yet no one ever told us of the problem.  Not due to this show, but I think many factors will cause the “boss” to want to find out more directly from the front line.

A week or so ago I heard a company’s earning announcement.  It was not good, missing on many important metrics that the investment community looks for.  I remember hearing the news reports (yes I am an investment news junkie), and thinking how the CEO must have reacted to the numbers as they were presented to him.  Most of us that have worked in management can probably tell the story.  He went to the CFO and said why are the numbers missing.  The CFO would respond with even more metrics as the cause.  This is the way the business world has been for a long time, all about the numbers.  But in this case I pictured the CEO growing more frustrated and continuing to travel down each level of the organization asking why.  Finally he gets to a service/sales person.  The person responds with every frustration they hear from Customers, including fees, poor service, etc.  All of a sudden the CEO is enlightened with the true picture.  This is one way the top levels will see the benefit of having connection directly to the Customer.  It is a key part of their advisory staff, unfortunately in many cases non-existant at this time.

I also believe there will be other leaders that will be enlightened in other ways.  The struggle with many companies is the front line does not feel empowered, but they are very passionate about the Customer and driving change.  I believe there will be many lower level employees who decide they will bring about change and take the steps to be heard by the leadership team.  This has happened before, and unfortunately not always with positive results.  Many companies speak of open door policies, but human nature takes over and it is seen by others in the work chart path that get upset by this and take action against the employee.  Even with this negative, there will be some that get the story through and make a big difference in their company and industry.

The other way change will happen is through social media.  There will be a few different aspects that will drive the change.  First is what many of us see each day, the Customer has a bull horn and is happy to use it.  Companies are listening and you will see improvements this drives.  I also believe employees (current and former) are talking in social media, and companies are listening to them.  Companies are also implementing internal social media tools, a little slower than some of us would prefer, but it is happening.  These tools will help flatten the organization and the views will be easily noted and companies will implement changes based on what they hear.  The biggest barrier in implementing these tools is not usually the senior leaders, but instead it is the middle layer of management.  This is because in many cases there weakness will be more noticeable and it will highlight needed changes.

So let’s recap the drivers toward changing organizational culture to be about service:

  1. Enlightened CEO/President or other senior leader – They will take the time to learn from the frontline what is really happening.  Thank you Larry for being a part of this show and demonstrating this benefit for other senior leaders
  2. As Seth calls it, the Linchpin – This is the “factory worker” who rises up to show the senior leaders what needs to be changed
  3. The Customer (or lack there of) – The most important number for any company is not cash flow, as many in the investment community would argue, it is actually the Customers that create the potential for that cash flow.  This economy is a big driver for change.
  4. Social Media – Your Customer and employees are talking, are you listening?  Do you like what you hear?