The Victuous Cycle

Terry CainBy Terry Cain

EVERY EMPLOYEE, EVERY MINUTE, EVERY DAY…Making memorable moments for our customers…yeah, right!!!

This idea of ‘culture eating strategy for breakfast’ applies to having a consistent customer experience via a consistency in the culture. Our cultures have cycles of virtue and cycles of vicious. Which cycle are you in?

The Virtuous Cycle of service embraces the above headlines along with the attitude that goes with it. We are personable (meaning we are relationship-oriented) and we acknowledge the person on the other line, or on the end of the e-mail, or through a web event as a real person. We call them by name, we say please and thank you, and we verify that we served them the way they would like to be served and expect to be served. We do this internally and externally, creating positive vibes around the customer experience and it’s a part of our culture.

The Vicious Cycle of service is just the opposite. Exceptional service is completed only by super heroes who know how to skirt the systems with heroics, offering an attitude of service externally while often beating people up internally to do so. This cycle may seem like a “hit” initially, but in the long run it’s a “miss” because it burns people out and the culture diminishes into cynicism, a tender underbelly of company-bashing at the water cooler. Employee engagement is inconsistent and so is the customer experience. Employees are working hard at the transactional elements of their jobs, not the relationship or personal nature of doing business with people, and their attitudes show that.

Most of our businesses are somewhere in between, what I call the VICTUOUS cycle. This cycle embodies the fact that even the best cultures have great people who fail once in awhile. In the Victuous cycle of service we are called out on our bad days and we own it and we fix it. Our customers call us out for our attitudes, and we get the chance to build the relationship by providing service recovery.

Creating and sustaining a customer-centered culture is a day-to-day, minute-by-minute process. While many companies focus on maintaining a Virtuous Cycle, there’s no shame in finding peace in the Victuous Cycle. After all, being perfect is impossible and doesn’t speak to the human side of relationships.

Join Steve Church and me at the Services Leadership Institute on April 1st 2015, as we deliver an hour on customer-centered cultures, leadership, and how we can advance our cultures from wherever they are!


As vice president, Global Customer Engagement, Terry Cain manages the strategic planning and execution of Avnet’s global customer engagement, measurement, and experience. Terry’s career began in the warehouse with Avnet over 25 years ago. Growth in technology enabled Terry’s growth in product management and leadership of one of the regional sales organizations, then in corporate shared services, operational excellence, now customer engagement.

Terry studied psychology at Indiana Central College, earned a Lean Green Belt from ASU, Process Master from Hammer and Co.; Master Instructor for Prosci Change Management; and is co-creator of A Culture of Service Excellence taught at Avnet. He serves as guest faculty at the WP Carey School of Business, Eller and Kellogg Schools of Business and is on the faculty of Argyle Customer Care Forum, NG Customer Experience, Consero Customer Care, CX Fusion, Services Leadership Institute and Field Service USA. His board service includes WP Carey Center for Services Leadership Advisory Board and CPLC Parenting Arizona (prior Chairman for two years). Terry is a member of CXPA, plays golf and music and resides in Tempe, Arizona, with his wife, Rebecca, and has one adult son, Jonathan.

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To learn more about the Services Leadership Institute visit the Center for Services Leadership website.

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