Give it some teeth

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My question this week is – do the claims you make have teeth?


This week, I want to continue on from my topic of last week and talk a bit more about the words that we use – but on a slightly different slant from last week’s blog.


My question this week is – do the claims you make have teeth?


Culture, values and goals are great, and making sure you understand them and are authentic in choosing them, is an important step in delivering on what you say. But we are all human and unfortunately sometimes that means we need to put things in place to remind us of our intentions.


I’m not talking about dire consequences for employees, or major change initiatives, or big sweeping agendas. Sometimes the most powerful actions first appear to be quite small.


Take as an example Granite Rock, a US quarry company serving the construction industry. It sets a goal for the company to provide “total customer satisfaction.” Nothing much revolutionary about that, but what did set this goal apart was the small mechanism the company put in place to show when it was falling short.


On every invoice a line appeared that read: If you are not satisfied for any reason, don’t pay us for it. Simply scratch out the line item, write a brief note about the problem, and return a copy of this invoice along with your check for the balance.” They called it “short-pay”.

Think about this for a minute. There was no fail-safe of “contact us and we will discuss”, no “submit in writing to receive a refund”, just “tell us what we did wrong and pay us what our service was worth”!


This simple action had a three-fold effect. Putting it on every invoice sent a clear message to everyone in the company – we are serious about this and if we fail it will cost us in real terms. No employee morale building or customer service training initiative would make a better statement.


Second, it created a sure fire way to highlight when the organisation failed to deliver, keeping a light shining on the goal at all times.


And last, it demonstrated to the customers, more than any marketing slogan possibly could, that it was serious about “total customer service.”


Short-pay is not for everyone; it very specifically worked in the context of Granite Rock’s goals. But the moral of the story is that we all have claims we make, goals we set and have every intention of keeping, but then we fail to go that last step and give them teeth.


Read more about this idea in the Jim Collin’s article Catalytic Mechanisms.


See you next week.



Alignment is Michel’s passion. Through her work with Brandology here in Australia, and Brand Alignment Group in the United States, she helps organisations align who they are, with what they do and say to build more authentic and sustainable brands.



To read more Michel Hogan blogs, click here.



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