Building a culture of service within an organization starts from day one, and Bobby Jenkins, owner of ABC Home & Commercial Services, Austin, Texas, believes that a company’s leadership team plays a valuable part in establishing this environment. To accomplish this, management should practice the behavior they want to see within others in the organization and treat everyone with respect, he said. “I think that being intentional on how you begin the relationship with the people that you work with really starts the culture off on the right foot,” Jenkins explained.

His three tips for creating a service-first organization are to make core values known, establish long-term relationships and engage with the local community.

CORE VALUES. Everyone at the company should be aware of the mission statement, Jenkins said. The statement should lay out the purpose of the organization. For instance, ABC’s mission is to improve the customer’s quality of life by fostering a healthy, safe, comfortable and enjoyable environment.

Jenkins said employees should also know the company’s core values. These values should answer questions, such as what does it mean to work here, and who are we as an organization? ABC’s values were established during several meetings with different people at the company. These meetings focused on how employees should interact with customers, the community and each other. “At ABC, our core values are all built around growth,” Jenkins said. “I like the things that we’ve done. We talked about growth with our relationships, growth with our involvement in the community, growth with our knowledge and expertise, growth in our business, growth in our profitability [and] growth in our funds.”

Every week, Jenkins sends a video to the entire staff about the “behavior of the week.” These correspond with the company’s 35 core values. At the end of 35 weeks, he starts over in order to reinforce the behavior, so everyone has an understanding of what is important at ABC. “We’ve taken the core values on, and we’ve translated that into what our core behavior is,” Jenkins said. “Not just what we say, but truly, what do you do? What does it mean?”

LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIPS. Jenkins stressed the importance of long-term relationships between employees. To foster these relationships with new employees, the “anteater buddy system” was put in place. More experienced workers volunteer to help new employees by being their “buddy” and their support system. “If I had to say what it is that makes ABC a little bit different, ultimately, I think everybody here understands that we’re all in the same boat,” Jenkins said. “Hopefully, we’re all rowing in the same direction, because what’s good for the company is going to be good for each of the individual people that work here.”

Likewise, advancement opportunities help build a connection to the company, he said. ABC’s advancement program details how an employee can move from one level to the next, and pay is tied to each level. “We put our money where our mouth is, because we want you moving up,” Jenkins said. “That may sound a little harsh, but I believe this: You’re either moving up, or you’re moving out. We’ve got to continually be working to get better.”

On the other hand, companies should also try to figure out what is severing relationships and causing employees to leave, Jenkins said. At ABC, exit interviews are conducted and surveys are taken when employees leave to determine what did and did not work. “I’m a big believer that we have to constantly and always be focused on how we get better,” he said. “How do we improve? And you don’t find the answers to that unless you’re asking your employees that are there or folks that leave.”

Jenkins also emphasized the value of healthy, long-lasting relationships with customers. This can be difficult when customers are not home when technicians are working. Therefore, ABC attempts to create a digital relationship rather than a face-to-face one. Customers are sent videos, pictures and a .wav file that explain what the technician did and why they did it. Technicians also look out for other household problems that ABC can help solve. For example, if tree branches are touching the roof, the technician will send pictures of that to the office. This is so the customer can be contacted and asked if they want additional services to keep the relationship going.

COMMUNITY. Jenkins says the leadership team should give back and be an active part of the community. This sets the tone for others in the company to watch and follow suit. “They see that leadership is involved in the community,” Jenkins said. “They see when they’re giving back and they’re working for that, in addition to taking great care of their customers.”

A servant’s heart is necessary when working in the service industry, he said. Employees must truly have a desire to make a positive impact on the quality of life of the customer and those in the community. “Everybody at ABC who works here knows that part of our culture really is giving back, being a servant, serving our community, doing whatever we can to help others,” Jenkins said. “And I think it’s important that all of our businesses work hard to try and build that team-building.”

FINAL THOUGHTS. Jenkins says all businesses should prioritize continual improvement and making themselves easy to do business with. “It’s all about how do we get better?” he said. “How do we build our business, and how do we make it the very best [it] possibly can be and really have a team that’s engaged and is really building careers with us and building long term?”

Editor’s Note: Information for this article was taken from Bobby Jenkins’ presentation, “Care More Than the Competition: Setting Standards for Customer Service,” at Coalmarch’s CO2 virtual conference in December 2020.