Balancing Safety & Service
Posted: 8/29/2016

Many of us are puzzled by the constraints that are imposed on our ability to provide good service by what seems to be a barrage of rules, regulations, laws, and safety requirements. Rules, regulations, and safety requirements have an impact on our ability to serve our customers while still maintaining a high level of safety culture. We are encouraged to believe that these rules and regulations are designed to help us. But they just seem to put up more obstacles in our path, and remove the flexibility from our products and services. At the same time, the ever-demanding customers are not in a position to understand our problem!

There is another way for us to address these difficult issues. Most importantly, we should be looking at this from the service point of view. It seems that if we just look at the safety and security concerns as customer service issues, then things may make more sense. Often times, organizations just try to quietly include these new directions into existing business and operational processes and systems; therefore, causing constraining pressures on the operations which quickly become visible to customers.

Safety is an important part of our services. Customers, undoubtedly, want to be safe and secure. Most customers will insist on it. The increasingly savvy customers of today demand safety and security as a basic and fundamental part of the overall value of our service. So, why not integrate safety and security into the service package and market and/or present it as such an offering on our menu of services. As if it has always been an important element of our seamless service.

This seamless combination of safety, security and service requires effective internal and external communication of the rules and regulations. First, and usually the easiest, step would be to let everyone know what is expected and the role they play in delivering the services. Second, and the hardest part, is to properly integrate these safety and security changes and steps into our daily work processes. Third, is to train ourselves and our internal customers/team members to understand the safety culture, and to ensure that they comprehend how it will impact their work processes. Fourth, is to develop methods to effectively communicate with our customers and manage their expectations.

1. Let Team Members Know What is Expected & Their Role In Providing the Services

Each team member should know the expectations that your company has for them. Companies that implement clearly defined, well-communicated expectations to team members will be more successful in difficult situations. Without a clearly defined mandate, many expectations go unspoken and unrealized and result in perceived service failures and misunderstandings.

2. Integrate Safety & Security Changes into Daily Processes

Management’s role in creating a safe, secure, and service,focused culture must be consistent, planned, and clarified. A ‘procedure’ is defined as a series of steps. When you have completed the steps, you have completed the procedure. This is the only guarantee of a procedure. It is unrelated to the obvious objective of the procedure.

A ‘process’, on the other hand, has principles that contribute to an objective. Everyone involved must understand and look at the contribution to the objective and use the principles to guide him/her rather than following them blindly as in a procedure. Make sure everyone on the team is clear about the ultimate objective of “customer service” when integrating safety and security regulations into your company ‘processes’.

3. Train, Train, Train Your Team To Understand The Rules & Their Impact

Build rapport with fellow workers and employees to ensure your message is getting through. Have regular training/debriefing sessions to make sure everyone is on the same page and knows the expected objectives when following the processes required for safety and security in conjunction with good service.

4. Develop Methods to Effectively Communicate With Customers and Manage Their Expectations

Team up with your customers and make them feel that you are on their side. Use all inclusive and teambuilding words like “we” and “our” by saying things like, “It is our goal to provide safety and security for you.”The customer should not be made to feel that it is his/her problem. Assure him/her that it is a mutual problem that will be resolved in a friendly, timely, and positive manner.

Communicate safety and security procedures and requirements with your customers ahead of time whenever possible so they know what to expect. Even though you try to cover all the bases with these confirmations and additional communications to the customer, there is inevitably going to be times when you will have to tell the customer “no,” especially in a maintenance environment.

One such time, I was at a maintenance shop and a customer was adamant about getting their aircraft done sooner than was necessary. This was not a situation that could be negotiated, since the repair was necessary and required more time. So it was a situation of “how to say no” to the customer. The maintenance professionals responded to the customer by not dwelling on the negative and talking about what they could not do, but by immediately moving on to actions and discussing what they could do.

This manner of dealing with the customer lets them know that you are in control of the situation and also thinking of their best interest with regard to safety. We cannot always give the customer everything they want. But when those times arise that we have to say “No,” we can say it in a way that produces the least amount of frustration, friction, or negativity for the customer. This must happen as if it had been rehearsed and well communicated among the service providing team.