As it appeared in the daily nation of June 30th 2015
Many of us are thrilled when we watch a great football game or the Olympics or the Marathon or the Super bowl. We observe with awe as the sports men and women put their best foot forward. A few days ago we celebrated our national women’s volleyball team after they beat Algeria to win the African Nations Championship. The coach at an interview on NTV said that they were very well prepared physically and mentally. The same could be said of an excellent student, a distinguished staff, a great manager or successful business. Like winning, excellence is never an accident, it is intentional. It is always as a result of putting a little more effort time and again.
More than three decades ago, Tom Peters and Robert Waterman published the book “In Search of Excellence”. In the book, they shared insights on eight characteristics of what they called “excellent” companies. Despite the controversies surrounding the data used to arrive at the conclusions, I find the first two characteristics of uttermost interest. These are – a bias for action and staying close to the customer. Organizations striving for excellence in service stay close to their customers and they continuously improve their people, policies, facilities, processes, products etc. They take the right action, they keep getting better. But what exactly is excellence? Is it achievable? Pat Riley defines Excellence as the gradual result of always striving to do better. On the other hand, Dictionary.com defines excellence as the quality of being outstanding or extremely good. Excellence is about being better than yesterday and staying ahead.
At a recent conference, I shared several insights on the subject of striving for excellence in service. I started off the session by sharing inspiring stories of certain athletes. One of the stories was that of Heather Dorniden who in the 2008 big 10 indoor track championships took a flat fall but still won the 600 meters race. The other one was that of our very own Hyvon Ngetich who crawled to finish 3rd in the Austin Marathon in February this year. That was exceptional but what has it got to do with business? Like athletes, when we strive for excellence in our businesses, we win.
I believe that Striving for Excellence in Service requires that we set high service standards for ourselves and for our organizations. I received numerous emails from last week’s article on the poor state of service at Pharmacies. It seems the experiences I shared are common. Many pharmacies and several other businesses seem not to hold themselves to a high level of standard. Many live in mediocrity as far as service to the customer is concerned.
There is no doubt that our efforts to achieve excellence in service are seen during interactions with our customers. If we consistently strive every day to serve our customers better than we did yesterday, we will be on the excellence track. Excellence is not a destination, it is a journey. Excellence is not a skill we learn it is an attitude we should embrace every day. Are you striving for excellence in service?
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org/old or via twitter @kiruthulucy