The aviation industry has a long history of doing business on an international stage. Passengers, flight crews, and the people who work within the industry are from every corner of the earth. On any given day, an airport located in what might be considered even the remotest of locations will play host to international government officials who are flying with international flight crews who work for a multinational corporation. It is, in fact, an assumption and expectation that those who work within aviation demonstrate an appreciation for and sensitivity to the cultural differences found among the passengers who populate the industry. But while employees and managers within aviation have an almost natural, implicit awareness of culture by virtue of the diverse constituency they serve, it is critical to highlight another culture—what is known as organizational culture.
In today’s competitive arena, organizational culture is not just a topic for company executives. Organizational culture influences every division and department, every executive and every employee. To understand why, we simply need to ask “What is organizational culture?” To better answer this question, think about an international customer who recently used your airport services. The customer came from another country which probably has different values, beliefs, and ways of communicating than what we are used to. In the same way, organizational culture is the unique blend of values and beliefs that define an organization. It is also the way we interact with one another, how we speak, and the attitudes and feelings we have about our company. In this light, it is easy to see how different companies have different organizational cultures. But let’s take this a step further. If something called organizational culture really exists, is it possible that something called service culture exists?
Service culture is very real. Service culture is more specific than organizational culture, because everything goes back to customer service. Instead of talking about values and beliefs in general, we must talk about our values and beliefs about customer service. How, specifically, do we provide service to our customers and to each other? How to we communicate with customers and act around them? All of these things define service culture. Those companies, from executive to employee, that embrace the idea of service culture and work to improve it are the model organizations of our time. Next week, we will fill in the service culture puzzle more completely and provide four dimensions that can profile any organization and the service it provides.