Value Added Packaging (VAP) has an Elite Customer Service Standard.
It’s a standard that all customer service team members agree to and sign off on as soon as they join the VAP team. (Headquartered in Ohio, VAP offers custom corrugated packaging manufacturing solutions.)
That service experience includes a 30-minute response time when dealing with customers. “It’s just respectful. For one, if we’re trying to take the pains away from our customer, if they are waiting on an answer…and we haven’t given them that answer, that’s a problem,” says Mari Wenrick, Chief Champion of Culture at VAP.
That kind of standard is one of the ways VAP shows deep respect for their customers. “Even if they don’t have an answer yet [for the customer], just say, ‘Hey, I’ll get right back to you, I’m checking into this,’” explains Mari.
So what happens if a team member is, for whatever reason, not behaving in a way that’s aligned with that service standard?
At VAP, peers step in to hold others accountable. “What’s really important is our leaders respectfully hold other team members in alignment to the values of the organization,” says Mari.
That conversation might sound like, “What have we not done here to uphold our values?” Or, “What can we do to find a solution to make sure we get re-aligned?” That kind of authentic accountability breeds a culture of mutual respect.
Here are 4 other ways that VAP intentionally fosters a culture of respect and accountability.
1. The hiring process.
Fostering expectations around accountability and respect start in the hiring process at VAP. During a thorough interview process, VAP ensures that potential team members have core characteristics that align with VAP’s core values.
Once people are on board with the company, even more of the vision and direction of the company is shared with them. “All team members then begin to have ownership in our culture because they are consistently treated with respect, care, and support. They feel valued and appreciated for what they bring to the organization, individually, and how they add value to the team as a whole.”
2. Everyday language.
“ ,” says Mari. “It has just become part of who we all are, and how we all treat each other.”
Team leaders are held accountable to what they say and how they say things, explains Mari, who says that’s a key component in fostering trust and relationships in general. One example is how they refer to each other as colleagues. Rather than using words like “manager” or “boss,” you will hear VAP team members using words such as “leader,” “coach,” “trainer,” “mentor” or “supporter.”
3. The continuous improvement process.
VAP uses continuous improvement forms throughout the organization. These are feedback forms that give people an opportunity to share their ideas to help improve the company.
“We welcome any helpful ideas, thoughts, and ways of improving from all of our team members,” says Mari. “They are the experts in their areas, and they can bring more value to other team members and to our organization through their valuable input.”
One key part of the process that’s been intentionally designed: the follow-up process once feedback or input has been shared. (In fact, follow-up activities are a part of the form itself, which is typically filled out by a separate team member.)
“It is of extreme importance that our team members know we respect and value their opinions. We want to continue to foster that positive feedback from all team members in the organization.”
Another way respect and accountability collide: when a team member shares a way to make a role, area, or process more efficient, and that idea is implemented—that person is recognized and celebrated.
In this case, individuals receive recognition as Lean Champions. They are then recognized at the VAP Culture Luncheon and within the quarterly VAP newsletter. They also receive a Lean Champion shirt and 4 hours of paid vacation time.
VAP “Niceness Notes” are an informal way to recognize team members who are caught living out company values. “These are simple notes that team members write about a team member, highlighting how they did something positive for the team, the customer, the organization, or the community,” says Mari.
Trust Begets Trust
At VAP, team members have a deep sense of pride in how they treat one another. “Being an ‘Official Team Member’ is something of value, worth, and something they are proud to be a part of,” says Mari.
Mari also recognizes the benefit that this focus has outside the company walls, too. “The way we treat our team members is the exact way they treat each other, and our customers, our community, our vendors, the potential temps who are not yet ‘Official’—and even strangers that come in the VAP door,” she says.
“Whether it be work, play, or out helping our community together, you get the feeling of respect, trust, integrity, care, love, support, appreciation, and feeling of family when we are all together.”
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