I start with an admission (I would have called it a confession, but fictional detective/wordsmith Nero Wolfe would have chastised me for not choosing the correct word). Here’s the admission: I’m not a handyman. Not at all. My wife owns the tools, and won’t let me touch them. I don’t blame her…
So, anyway, I had to go to Home Depot and Lowe’s over the holidays. We have just moved into a new house, and we needed stuff. We still need more stuff – but that’s another column.
Anyway, I have an observation. Home Depot needs a new culture. One that begins, and ends, and overflows, with customer service. Why? There wasn’t any. Lowe’s, on the other hand, acted like they had seen other men like me (the non-handyman types), and they were ready to please, to help, with patience, and genuine helpfulness. It struck me that they have cultivated a customer-service culture that permeates their entire organization.
Guess which one I will be going back to.
I thought of all this as I read this review, Wake Up and Smell the Zeitgeist: Sensitivity to cultural shifts may not be common at most corporations—but it’s an art that can be learned by Heather Green, at the Business Week web site: Chief Culture Officer: How to Create a Living, Breathing Corporation by Grant McCracken. The book focuses on “reading the culture.” Here’s an excerpt from the review:
McCracken argues that corporations need to focus on “reading” what’s happening in the culture around them—a task at which Jobs and Stewart excel. Otherwise, companies will suffer the consequences…
McCracken’s how-tos include the development of soft skills people often don’t appreciate, such as the skill of noticing.
While McCracken’s book is full of managers who read culture well, it’s obviously not easy to develop the keen receptors of a Jobs or a Martha Stewart. But maybe that’s asking too much. The book makes a compelling case that companies will reap rewards just by working toward more cultural sensitivity. Those inclined to try will get plenty of inspiration and insight from McCracken.
I think that one thing true within our culture is this: we don’t like hassles. (I got this from the Frank Luntz book, What Americans Really Want… Really, and wrote about it here). To me, Home Depot was a hassle, and Lowe’s was hassle-free. Hassle-free — now that is reading the culture!