An oasis is a haven, a place of shelter, a sanctuary. A place where all that’s been swirling around you is forgotten or put aside while you are there. It’s a place of respite and recharging. And it’s or those reasons that you would go back to it again and again for the break, for the haven.
So coming out of this trip was the thought of something beyond exceptional customer service, something akin to an oasis experience. And that this would be the goal every time because in any service business you’re only as good as your last support call or service contact. It’s a tough world out there and customers are brutal. One bad call in years of service and your name is mud probably forever.
In my head, meandering out of the many thoughts was some structure to this thing. The oasis strategy was about, in my business – because that’s all I was viewing it as – would be about, an exceptional service experience. Every time. Beyond exceptional, creating something which was genuinely unexpected and delightful. An experience which was, of itself, a sanctuary.
And then I realised that before I could concentrate too much on that I had to think about the people who would be expected to focus on delivering this – ensuring that they, themselves, were having an oasis experience working for the company. I realised that if they were not then how could they come close to delivering it for others. This is something you cannot manufacture or even teach in many respects. This has to come from the heart and it had to come from the employees first before they could give it to others.
And I guess that’s what I connected with the song because songs are emotional and this oasis thing was emotion – certainly emotion is at the heart of it.
I always thought I provided a good environment in which people could develop their skills and earn a living. But this oasis thing demanded that the bar was lifted to a new height. I had to make sure that the employees achieved an on going experience which was exceptional and which would motivate them like nothing else could. Not because I wanted them to work harder or longer but because I wanted them to give something to our customers which was exceptional and which was of them.
I reckon this is where many customer services and business philosophies fall down. They take the conveyor belt approach. Say these words, cock your head this way, smile and move to the next customer. That’s not customer service. That’s acting and anyone can do it if they are trained well enough. Monkeys even. And I don’t employ monkeys. What those training programs miss out is the magic, the song, which makes for the customer service experience which brings people back again and again. Just like it had brought me back again.
So the next step was to being oasis to the employees. Not just once but in an on going way such that they get it and embrace it as their own. For themselves, for their partners and for our customers. It’s a task much harder that you could imagine. There is no roadmap, no easy way. It’s not something you’d hear a highly paid guru from the US out in Australia talking about because you cannot teach this in 90 minutes. You have to live it in the little things and big things. And while you’re on that road you learn plenty.
The oasis strategy in terms of employees and management means more trust, more respect, a workplace under the control of those who work there and policies, as much as possible, set by them. Such that they make day to day decisions as if this were their business.
Jack Stack wrote in the 1990s about Open Book Management where employers are encouraged to share financial data bout their businesses with employees as a lure toward empowerment. Oasis goes people that. Oasis is open source company – where the employee / customer relationship drives everything but how is, in most cases, set by the employees.
Heaven’s holdin’ a half-moon
Shinin’ just for us
Let’s slip off to a sand dune, real soon
And kick up a little dust
It’s personal, between you and I. Win win.