Art Depot Company’s Organizational Culture

Introduction

One pillar of organizational success is organizational culture. Beliefs, values, and ideologies form the bedrock for the creation of organizational cultures (Lee, 2004). Indeed, these sets of cultural building blocks determine the way employees interact with people within and outside, the organization. Since organizational culture is an important factor in organizational success, managers have tried to adopt complementary organizational cultures that support their business visions. This process is often difficult, especially during mergers. This complexity further manifests when merging organizations come from different countries (Lee, 2004).

This paper explores such a situation through an analysis of two companies, Creative Colors and Art Depot. From an improving economic environment in the US, Creative Color is involved in an ambitious merger of acquiring its regional competitor, Art Depot (Art Depot’s base is in Vancouver, Canada). As part of the company’s quest to expand its regional dominance, Creative Color, therefore, aims to acquire two retail stores under the Art Depot brand. Nonetheless, since Creative Color has already established a name for itself as a high quality and customer-centered brand, the company may experience significant challenges while trying to merge with Art Depot. This challenge manifests because Art Depot’s company strategy focuses on low-cost business, while Creative Color focuses on a customer-centered strategy. This way, there is a significant clash of business strategies and cultures.

This paper aims to explore the different types of organizational norms and values that may be present in Art Depot (before the merger) to establish the right basis for the creation of a new corporate culture that would align Art Depot’s culture with Creative Color’s. Furthermore, this paper outlines this process through the identification of organizational values and norms which employees of Art Depot may adopt while embracing the culture of high quality and personalized services at Creative Colors. Lastly, this paper safeguards the success of the same process by expecting the potential challenges that may occur while encouraging employees to embrace the new corporate culture. Therefore, this paper outlines the most appropriate strategy for helping Art Depot to transition from a low-cost strategy to a new company culture that thrives on excellent customer service.

Building Blocks of Organizational Culture

Vision, mission, values, and leadership form the main building blocks of organizational cultures. The vision outlines a clear picture of what an organization intends to be, while the mission describes what the organization intends to do to achieve the vision. The values outline the beliefs that guide employees as they work to achieve their mission. Lastly, leadership outlines the “casting of organizational visions in compelling ways, to share the stories that illustrate how an organization lives out the mission in the lives of ordinary people” (Leadership Development Group, 2013, p. 2). These building blocks guide the creation of Creative Color’s organizational culture.

Possible Initial characteristics of Art Depot Employees

Art Depot’s company culture stems from its low-cost business strategy. A low-cost business strategy mainly thrives on the idea that a low price attracts more customers and increases the market share (TMD, 2012). Such a business philosophy creates significant ramifications to employee perceptions of customer service. A common implication of this philosophy is the existence of the mentality that, by pursuing a low-cost business strategy, customers do not deserve impeccable customer service. Therefore, to such employees, a low-cost pricing strategy is enough justification for the “below average” service. Employees of Art Deport may share the same ideas.

The adoption of a low-cost business strategy may also affect the perception of employees of Art Depot because they may fail to see customers as “people,” but rather, as sources of money. Therefore, such employees may want to attract many customers without paying close attention to the quality of their services (TMD, 2012). Low-cost companies reward employees who service more customers, as opposed to valuing employees who offer the best services (TMD, 2012). Through such philosophies, employees who work in such organizations see customers as “money” as opposed to human beings. Broadly, managers of Creative Color should be wary of such dynamics when introducing a customer-sensitive culture to employees of Art Depot because Art Depot has a low-cost pricing strategy.

How to Create a Customer-Centered Culture

TMD (2012) says that creating a customer-centered culture in an organization requires a holistic approach that mirrors the input of all organizational stakeholders. Relative to this assertion, TMD (2012) says that the secret of service excellence is a “clear and consistent leadership from the top, the right culture, great people, and customer-focused systems, processes and tools” (p. 5). These attributes thrive in an environment that creates opportunities for growth.

Creating Opportunities for Professional Qualifications

Research shows that many employees are often receptive to the possibility that they may gain professional accreditation to improve their career profiles (TMD, 2012). This assertion is true for different employee functions (not only the provision of excellent customer service). Since employees have a favorable reaction to the existence of career growth opportunities, managers at Creative Colors need to exploit this opportunity by creating opportunities for new professional qualifications in the organization. For example, many types of apprenticeships and qualifications exist for the advancement of employee careers. Alongside the existence of these apprenticeship programs, managers also slowly appreciate the importance of lifetime learning in staff development (TMD, 2012). However, this process needs to occur within the framework of supportive professional bodies.

Through the above understanding, the management of Creative Colors only needs to pair employee contribution with the benefits of becoming a member of a professional organization to inculcate a culture of customer service (this goal merges with the “leadership” block of creating organizational cultures). If the managers create a recognized accreditation program at Creative Colors, they may develop and maintain standards of performance in customer service provision (TMD, 2012).

Employee Appraisal

Most customer-centered organizations value customer feedback. Since customer feedback is the best measure for benchmarking organizational performance (relative to customer service), Creative Color managers must use service quality and customer feedback as an important measure of an employee’s work experience (TMD, 2012). The need for making everyone understand the criteria used in employee appraisals can, however, not be overemphasized. Indeed, upholding honesty, integrity, and transparency in undertaking employee appraisal programs provide a crucial success factor for this initiative. When the employees understand that their appraisal largely depends on customer service feedback, they will become obsessed with understanding customer needs.

Many organizations use customer feedback for employee appraisal programs. For example, one printing firm in the US has many posters in the company saying, “Is it good enough? Ask the customer” (TMD, 2012, p. 4). The company’s management used this statement to remind employees that the company’s customers were the main judges of their services. Consequently, employees have always been alerted to understand customer needs and expectations.

Moreover, the printing firm also prints questionnaires and distributes them to some customers as a way of obtaining feedback regarding the company’s service. After that, they post the results for all the employees to see and analyze. Palaiologos (2011) supports this strategy by saying that when companies undertake such surveys, everyone in the organization needs to be aware of the process and the results.

Palaiologos (2011) also encourages managers to commend employees when the company receives positive results because behavioral scientists say managers always get more of the behaviors they reward. Therefore, it would be a great disservice for managers of Creative Colors to mention only areas that need improvement and refrain from mentioning areas that have registered positive results. By highlighting areas that need improvement and commending areas that have shown success, managers at Creative Colors should, after that, brainstorm with their employees on ways to improve the company’s customer services.

Explaining the Importance of Customer Service

TMD (2012) says that the failure for managers to make employees understand the importance of doing something is a great recipe for a mismatch between managers’ and employees’ expectations. Here, managers of the Creative World should demonstrate the importance of customer service to not only the company but the world as well. This way, employees may understand how their contributions, through the company, make life easier for all that are involved.

Values and Norms for the Production of High-Quality Service

Values and norms that are important in the production of high-quality service vary, depending on the location and industry where such services occur. However, a few common values and norms underlie excellent customer service. One such virtue is kindness. The importance of kindness in producing a high-quality customer service stems from the old saying, “kill them with kindness” (ABI, 2012, p. 3). Employees of Art Depot and Creative Color should, therefore, show their customers a clear channel of communication where the customers experience “organizational kindness.” Employees of Art Depot and Creative Colors also need to appreciate the importance of demonstrating kindness to their customers because excellent customer service mainly depends on this value. Therefore, they need to listen to their customers and demonstrate that customers have their undivided attention.

Demonstrating a genuine will to offer good service is also another important characteristic of employees that offer great customer service (ABI, 2012). Employees of Creative Color and Art Depot need to demonstrate the same characteristic. The employees need to show that they are genuine while caring for their customers. Indeed their attitudes make all the difference. ABI (2012) says customers who feel ignored or treated without genuine concern usually change their loyalty to other companies.

Finally, employees of Art Depot and Creative Colors need to demonstrate the willingness to do “the unexpected” as an important service trait. Research has proved that delivering more than is expected is a good way of ensuring customers notice employee efforts (ABI, 2012. For example, expecting customer needs and meeting them (before demand) is a good way of impressing the customers.

Barriers to Cultural Change

Barriers to cultural change may occur at different levels of the organization. More specifically, mergers that involve the acquisition of foreign companies may pose stronger cultural barriers because different countries have different sets of beliefs and values (TRC, 2012). Differences in cultural barriers may occur through a similar difference in beliefs and values, cultural ethnocentrism, and the incompatibility of a cultural trait with change.

Values and Beliefs

The sets of values and beliefs that drive Creative Colors may differ from the sets of beliefs and values that drive Art Depot. Such differences may stem from the differences in business cultures between America and Canada. Here, differences in beliefs and values may manifest as ethical differences, competition, or pride (TRC, 2012). For example, beliefs and values may differ across different nationalities and communities. Therefore, it is highly probable that there may be a difference between what is culturally normal within Creative Colors and what is culturally acceptable at Art Depot.

In recognition of the differences in values and beliefs between Art Depot and Creative Colors, the managers of Creative Colors should be aware of how they introduce cultural changes within the organization. More specifically, the managers should be aware of any disturbances that they may arise in the process (TRC, 2012). For example, when new management decides to eliminate a pre-existing end of the year bonus scheme, it may receive opposition from employees who may feel that they have worked hard to deserve the bonus (TRC, 2012). An ideal situation would be that the new managers replace the automatic bonus scheme with a quota bonus scheme, which still rewards the workers for the efforts they make on the organization.

Cultural Ethnocentrism

Cultural ethnocentrism occurs when one culture projects itself as the dominant and superior culture over another. Broadly, cultural ethnocentrism may relate to different issues, including race, gender, religion, and social statuses (among others). Cultural ethnocentrism may exist within the Creative Color and Art depot merger because the merger involves two cultures – the Canadian and American cultures. As Creative Color seeks to instill a culture of customer-centrism in Art Depot, employees of Art Depot may exhibit cultural ethnocentrism because they may interpret this transition as an attempt to impose American cultural dynamics on them. The best way for managers of Creative Color to avoid the possibility of cultural ethnocentrism is by involving the employees of Art Depot in the change process. The managers of Creative Color should also be aware of the language that they use in the change process because they should refrain from using language that promotes only one identity. The change should, therefore, be universal and appealing to both parties.

Conclusion

The true picture of corporate differentiation is a company’s success in customer service (Lee, 2004). However, as demonstrated through the findings of this paper, managers need to be wary of the challenges that exist in making employees appreciate the importance of providing excellent customer service. This paper demonstrates the importance of embracing cultural sensitivity and acceptable norms and values while doing so. Comprehensively, managers of Creative Color need to ensure that Art Depot employees are included in the cultural transition to minimize potential objections to the process. Moreover, the company needs to create a customer-centered culture by creating opportunities for professional advancement, using customer service as a benchmark for employee appraisal, and making the employees understand the importance of employee appraisal.

References

ABI. (2012). How to Provide Outrageously Good Customer Service. Web.

Leadership Development Group. (2013). The Building Blocks of Organizational Culture. Web.

Lee, S. (2004). Corporate culture and organizational performance. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 19(4), 340 – 359.

Palaiologos, A. (2011). Organizational justice and employee satisfaction in performance appraisal. Journal of European Industrial Training, 35(8), 826 – 840.

TMD. (2012). Create a culture of excellent customer service. Web.

TRC. (2012). Cultural Barriers to Change. Web.