Service Attitudes Must Align with Corporate Culture

You can’t turn on the news right now without hearing something more about the Toyota recall ordeal. A crises communications effort that at first appeared managed and responsible now has folks shaking their heads. How much did they know and when? Why is the fix process so nebulous for Toyota owners? Why wasn’t Prius included in the original recall?

All of these questions made me think about Toyota as a corporation. Headquartered in Japan, I assumed that Toyota’s corporate culture was guided by the country’s collectivistic culture—a culture in which authority figures look after the less powerful and the less powerful obey those in authority. Within this culture, taking responsibility largely means to be responsible for others and society, rather than yourself. Why, then, when Toyota’s advertising campaigns emphasize product quality and consumer loyalty and their country of origin demands taking responsibility for others, was the recall process so aversive for customers before the CEO decided to personally oversee all recall efforts?

Because their service attitudes weren’t initially in line with their corporate (or national) culture. Service standards shouldn’t change when circumstances do. If you are in the service industry, you should provide premium service all the time—and part of this premium service provision is taking full responsibility when mistakes have been made and fixing them as efficiently as possible. So, the question then becomes how can organizations hire employees whose thoughts on service align with their culture? At Optimal, part of our behavioral interview process involves asking pointed questions about service. We figure that if candidates can discuss service as an ideal then they have given it some thought; those that can share great, good, and bad service stories communicate the passion about service that our corporate culture requires.

I want to hear from you! Respond to one, all, or none of the questions below. I just want to hear your thoughts! And, if you post a response, be sure to check back for a reply!

  • Do you agree? Do you think the Toyota recall has been handled poorly because service standards were not aligned with corporate culture?
  • Do you have an example of a company in which service standards run in opposition to corporate culture? An example of a company in which the culture and service expectations are in sync?
  • How do you think organizations can best assess employee candidates for their ability to provide premium service?

Post your response!