As it appeared in the daily nation of March 3rd 2015
I recall as a young professional listening to the then KCB Managing Director Terry Davidson walk us through the KCB story at a leadership forum a decade ago. Davidson was talking about the transformation that was happening in the bank. One of my key takeouts was that there was a sense of urgency. This was not because Davidson and his Deputy Martin Odour were following Dr Kotter’s 8 step Change management process whose first step is to create a sense of urgency. Not exactly, the bank was then in dire need of change for survival. These memories were evoked during last week’s announcement of the bank’s 2014 results. There is no doubt that the bank like many other organizations has made considerable progress and is up to this day still evolving.
Leading change means taking charge of the change process and coming out strong. It is not a clear-cut process and managers who have led change know that it is not for the faint hearted. There is a variety of organizational change. Those leading change must know how to manage expected resistance irrespective of the type of change. In some cases the reasons for resistance are valid e.g. loss of jobs due to use of technology while in most cases the reasons are not justifiable. Change agents that prepare well enough and employ a mix of strategies to counter the negative forces that cause resistance to positive change succeed.
For service transformation to be fully realised a fundamental change in organisational culture is needed. Leading service change is a journey requiring concerted efforts with a final destination of embedding service excellence in the culture. In the case of KCB, customer service and culture were only some of the areas that the transformation focused on. In fact there were other more pressing issues such as profitability, retrenchments, technology and restructuring to a functional approach. Despite this, KCB made an early realization that a renewed focus on the customer needed to be part of the culture change process. Many other organizations in Kenya have gone through similar phases of change.
To succeed in customer service change staff involvement is critical and so is constant communication and seamless coordination of the change process. In addition, defining core values in behaviour terms help guide desired behaviour. Customer service change is relatively simple to understand and can be used as an overriding change initiative. It is easy to get staff to care about customers because satisfied customers guarantee their job security. Also other business aspects such as technology and performance management can be linked to a customer service change initiative. Looking back to the KCB story the change process that has yielded impressive results was multifaceted; it even included such major aspects as management relationship with the board.
Do you need to change how you serve your internal and external customers? Are customers leaving to the competition? Are they spending less than they should? Are they dissatisfied? Are revenues, profits and jobs at risk as a result? Do not wait any longer! If there is no sense of urgency, create it as a first step and start off on a journey to embed service excellence in your culture. It is worth every effort!
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer and can be reached on email@example.com/old or via twitter @kiruthulucy