Business Insight: To win, put your service culture first
Two nations blazed a trail that can be copied by companies, individuals.
Published: November 23, 2012 08:56PM
Updated: March 6, 2013 11:34PM
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(AP Photo/Wong Maye-E) A kinetic art structure designed for the enjoyment of visitors at Changi International Airport in Singapore is part of an effort to constantly revamp and update the facility in a bid for it to remain one of the top-ranking airports in the world.

Explain the strategies of Singapore.

During the 1990s, when manufacturing and administrative jobs were being outsourced, Singapore needed to reinvent itself. The country could see the opportunity in service-based industries such as medical, financial, legal, education, hospitality, entertainment and retail, but the nation’s human resources hadn’t developed to support these service industries. So, starting with its Changi Airport and expanding to organizations throughout the nation, including the Singapore Public Service, the city-state began providing service education to its people and officially set out to become the uplifting service capital of the world. In other words, they made taking action to create value for others their No. 1 goal. This national effort has become increasingly successful through the years. And because Singapore is a microcosm of the world, what works there can work in your company, your organization, your career and your life.

And Mauritius?

Before the global recession, Mauritius was a popular vacation destination for Europeans. In recent years, though, it has struggled to compete for the reduced number of tourists coming out of Europe. So, one of the nation’s largest hospitality companies, LUX*Resorts (at the time named Naiade Resorts), decided to take on a gargantuan task — to contribute to the national culture with a powerful dose of uplifting service. Mauritians are naturally hospitable people — so much so that cruise companies regularly recruit them to work on their ships. But the competition in global tourism is intense, with the Maldives, Seychelles, Bali and many other locations offering sun and sandy beaches. The nation and the people of Mauritius needed to set themselves apart, to express their service brand and culture to the rest of the world. Mauritius’ LUX Resorts kicked things off. The company changed its name and transformed its culture through service education programs. Then, the national airline — where Mauritius reaches out to the rest of the world — followed suit with a similar program called “Stepping UP Together.” The ultimate goal is and continues to be to build and protect the national “brand” of high-quality hospitality.

How can companies integrate these practices?

Companies should look ahead in these key areas:

Leadership alignment • Your leadership members must understand why “uplifting” service is key to the future and what will be required of them as leaders on this rewarding and demanding journey.

Service culture steering committee • Create a committee that will gather support, schedule activities, review results, and make revisions to the company’s road map.

Actionable service education • This common application of fundamental service principles is essential for building a strong service culture. Your service education leaders should be carefully selected for their understanding, attitude and orientation to new action.

System and process integration • Review each process involving customers and service providers. Embed fundamental service principles into the practices of daily work.

How can businesses up their game?

This is not an option, it is a necessity. The key is to identify what your customers value, and to take new action to increase that value. If your customers want faster service, find ways to be faster. If your customers want more flexibility, find ways to offer more choice. And so on. You can and should “up your game” internally, too. So for example, if your employees want growth opportunities, find ways to make their work more challenging and educational. Uplifting service is a powerful driver of engagement, loyalty and trust. It’s the only aspect of business that fuels and feeds the spirit of every person to create a sustainable advantage, a continuous improvement, and a constant uplifting of people’s performance, passion and potential.

Dawn House

Ron Kaufman, author