Management Articles


Ethics from the Inside out: Value-based Customer Service

By: Dr. Marilyn Manning

Marilyn Manning, Ph.D., CMC, CSP, and CEO and founder of The Consulting Team, LLC, is an international author, speaker, and consultant. She specializes in interactive speeches, workshops, and consulting in the areas of Leadership, Teamwork, Conflict Mediation, Executive Coaching, Meeting Facilitation, Strategic Planning, and Communication. 94% of Dr. Manning’s work is repeat business. For more information about Dr. Manning and The Consulting Team, LLC go to her website at or contact, 650-965-3663.

Service begins at home

Service is not just a smile or pleasant tone of voice. Authentic service is ethical, value based and practiced all the time. Our values may include integrity, accountability, quality, collaboration and teamwork. A value may be defined as "that which is important to someone and which affects the way a person acts." We base our behaviors daily choices, and hopefully, our strategic plans on standards and principles which arise from our personally held values. We look for this in our leaders, on our teams, and with each other. It’s surprising how often we share the same values, but never discuss them.

Try this: either use a facilitator or do it yourself. Take a few minutes and ask others on your team: “What values do you think we live by in this environment? Or what values should we live by?” If you can get some consensus on 2-3 values, you are on your way to higher levels of service. If, for example, your team chooses integrity as a top value, it becomes easier to be straight with the customer and each other. It becomes the expected norm. Shared values can provide consistency, community, and focus both internally and externally for our teams and organizations.

How agreements help the bottom line

Our leaders, managers, teams and organizations could benefit from developing a behavioral protocol, or a code of behavior or ethics based on agreed upon values. You may try this on your own, or have a facilitated off-site meeting to really dig into the issues. A code or protocol helps establish positive conduct between staff, clients and stakeholders. It provides criteria for strategy, actions and policies. A code gives us principles by which we make decisions. It provides questions such as: "Does this decision reflect my highest level of integrity? Am I taking responsibility for professional excellence?" Let’s take the value of integrity. Do all leaders and employees accurately represent your services and products? Does everyone take responsibility to carefully assess the customer’s needs before suggesting a solution? No matter how much we want the business, we should put the customer first by making sure that our offering matches his or her needs. But, what about the sticky situations? What if you can meet most of the requirements, but do not match all of the needs? Being honest up front by mentioning your limitations, would be the ethical choice that builds trust with your customers, co-workers and leadership and it minimizes misunderstandings and conflict.

My way or the highway

It can be very challenging and discouraging to support someone else’s ideas, especially when we think our way is the best. There’s a lot of emphasis on being a good team player for top leaders, managers and front line folks. Can we use values and a protocol to make teams and leaders work better? Look for ways to capitalize on the good aspects of teamwork, and minimize some of the downside. The values of collaboration and teamwork can impact internal and external service positively. Teamwork means sharing knowledge and inspiration with each other and treating all people with courtesy and dignity. It means honoring others' original work and giving appropriate credit. People who feel supported are more likely to deliver good service. This doesn’t mean avoid conflict, but rather to find constructive ways for people to disagree, to be heard, and to resolve their differences. Why not include “respect” in your protocol or code of ethics. True service comes from being respectful and honoring the diversity of each individual. Teamwork and service means being sensitive to others. Are we modeling respectful attitudes and language? Is our humor appropriate? Is our language culturally sensitive? Again, this can be a fruitful facilitated discussion at an off-site meeting or during an extended meeting where there’s plenty of time to hear from everyone.

Customers, employees and leaders benefit from the practice of high ethical standards. Ethical decisions are based on deep personal and organizational values. An active protocol or code of ethics can remind us to behave from the highest place of integrity, responsibility and excellence. Let’s celebrate the dignity within as we honor the dignity in one another.

© Copyright 2008, Dr. Marilyn Manning

Other Articles by Dr. Marilyn Manning

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. ManagerWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. ManagerWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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