Posted At: November 1, 2010 11:21 AM
by Laura Rabushka
Management personnel sometimes struggle with maintaining good customer relations. Questions arise such as “how can we connect with our customers?” and “what can we provide that others can’t?”. The term “high-quality” pops up in almost every mission statement’s main focus in this new consumer-driven era. Some companies hold a noticeable upper hand when it comes to promoting high-quality through customer service.
Producing high-quality goods isn’t the only goal companies strive and compete for in today’s growing market. Services provide customers with intangible benefits, and great customer service is an example of an intangible advantage. Excellent service can be the difference between a good company image and a bad one.
Southwest Airlines offers a good example of a thriving company known for its outstanding customer service, according to Thomas A. Kochan, a researcher at the Institute for Work and Employment Research.
In his published evaluation “Rebuilding the Social Contract at Work: Lessons from Leading Cases,” Kochan said, “Southwest has used its human resources as assets for achieving and sustaining a competitive advantage.”
Southwest maintains good customer relations because the airline treats employees with respect and kind-heartedness, which translates into happy employees. If the employees think highly of the company, that attitude becomes contagious to customers.
Chris Mainz, spokesperson for Southwest Airlines, said the airline’s internal PR is central to the company’s success.
“Employees always come first at Southwest, and that’s never going to change,” Mainz said. “We have an inside-out philosophy where our employees come first, our customers come second and shareholders, third.”
Southwest’s success begins with management’s ability to identify the employees’ desire to work in a fun and loving environment. The satisfaction with and loyalty for the airline from customers are reflections of Southwest’s internal public relations.
That sounds wonderful in a world full of rainbows and butterflies, but does it really work? According to Mainz, the theory is quite successful.
“It does work!,” said Mainz. “If you give employees a great place to work and include a family-like atmosphere, naturally they are going to appreciate that and enjoy their jobs. That will translate into how they interact with their customers and customers can see that, sense it and feel it — they gravitate toward it.”
Even though Southwest’s philosophy works, it’s a stretch for some more traditionally driven companies. Other companies and corporations have adopted different ways to manage internal PR to promote good customer service effectively.
Management at McKesson, a Fortune 500 corporation that distributes pharmaceuticals, medical supplies and information technologies, promotes a friendly but professional environment for their employees according to Jessica Berens, product manager at McKesson in Atlanta.
“McKesson is a very conservative-professional corporation, but it also maintains a very friendly atmosphere,” said Berens.
Berens discussed how acquaintances employed under other corporations don’t always experience the benefit of working in a friendly atmosphere.
“There’s just no fun,” she said when remembering how her friends assessed their jobs.
McKesson also acknowledges employees’ success within the company. According to Berens, an e-mail publication titled “The Source” is distributed weekly to every employee and highlights product successes, different events, product releases and current company news.
“I think keeping employees involved is important with internal PR,” Berens commented. “The publication not only is a way to keep employees involved, but it also contributes to high morale by recognizing people and recognizing successes.”
According to Berens, the company wanted to create a stronger relationship between management and employees and strengthen trust, respect and efficiency at McKesson. Staff members and employees also build relationships professionally in the office and personally outside of the office while still maintaining a sense of professionalism.
Whether it’s strengthening internal PR through a balance of professionalism and employee-bonding or creating a fun and light-hearted atmosphere at the work-place, management continually tries to develop new ways to unite internally and translate that positive attitude into excellent customer service. Southwest and McKesson may have it figured out: If employees are happy, customers are happy and if customers are happy, that’s one less thing PR professionals have to worry about!
Have you heard any other internal PR success stories?