At the age of 13, I went to a Christian Summer Camp with my best friend, Chris. Two weeks of us (along with a couple hundred other underage psychopaths) nestled together in cabins to wreak havoc during the day, have fun, and learn the word of God. Apart from the beatings, whippings, drownings, psychological torture, and inappropriate romantic activity with counselors (not joking on any counts), one aspect of this ritualistic endeavor was the bonfire at the end of the night where we’d get together, exhausted from the day’s events, and sing “Kumbaya”. After all we had been through, both positive and negative, it was a relatively joyous experience.
You can bring this same feeling to your organization. No, not all of the horrible events that transpired that are seared into my memory, some good, some bad. Some hilarious, some sad. I’m talking about Kumbaya. That feeling of togetherness and unity serving a common purpose, even when other things around you seem out-of-place or wrong… Kumbaya helps you see the cooperation that exists among people.
I won’t bore you by examining the etymology of the word “Kumbaya” with its racial and religious evocations. Nor am I using it in its more current, pejorative meaning. I’m saying Kumbaya as a good thing. In the sales industry, one dominated by lone wolves or big egos with an every-person-for-themselves mantra and eat-what-you-kill pay plans, finding a way to instill togetherness should be embraced, not shunned.
Now that I got the set-up off my chest, I want to share with you the one valuable action you can take to begin bringing a sense of Kumbaya to your store.
Share any and all reviews with your entire team.
See? Wasn’t that simple? Unlike my summer camp, I won’t whip you across the legs with a switch if you don’t listen to me. Nor will I wake you up with a bugle blaring in your ear at 6am, attempting to rupture ear drums. But it really is in your best interest to heed my advice. As an example, in most dealerships, any new review on Google or DealerRater finds its way to the eCommerce Director or the individual overseeing social media. It may find its way to the owner or general manager. Maybe. Sometimes even the individual sales representative or service writer written about in the review isn’t made privy to the kind words written about them. But they should. As a matter of fact, everyone working under that roof should see it. (Don’t worry, if they don’t, I won’t hold you underwater drowning until you go limp only to bring you topside and shake the water out of your lungs if you don’t follow my instructions, like the counselors of my Christian summer camp did to kids. Again, all true).
When you share positive customer reviews with everyone in the organization, it instills pride in where they work. They see how others view this place of business as a place of goodness. They’ll realize the services they provide are beneficial to others. When a salesperson, manager, or service writer is mentioned positively in the review, and everyone on the team sees it, it builds self-worth and respect for that individual. They carry themselves with dignity. Their value to the organization confirmed by a customer’s comments. It shouldn’t just be passed along to that one individual, or solely among that department either, but across departments. It is important for service to realize how hard sales works to appease shoppers, as it is for sales to see how much service contributes to customer satisfaction also. And it’s okay if you don’t do this… it’s not like I’ll force you and the other camping kids to line-up so all of the counselors can rat-tail you with wet towels until children begin vomiting from the pain and welts. (Yes, all of this is real.)
Good reviews help grow self-respect for the individual, acknowledgement from coworker to coworker, and admiration for the organization. But negative reviews, which do happen, can play an important role as well. There is no getting better without realizing there is room for improvement. Making sure everyone sees the occasional negative review can help open up your team’s eyes to the importance of doing things right and the purpose of each position. If there is a leak in the boat, it isn’t just the captain’s concern, it is everyone’s. When the team works together to fix that leak (read: cause of the negative review), then it is a Kumbaya moment. Everyone uniting for a common cause. Celebrating the good fortune laid upon them from hard work.
Kumbaya shouldn’t be considered a goal, but a feeling. One delivered to them in the form of daily, regular emails (or as often as reviews arrive). This is an important step to building a strong culture within your organization. Where everyone is important. Everyone has value. Every person makes an impact. Be they good or bad reviews, they have purpose. They give you the chance to celebrate each other and honor those you work with. This togetherness among your employees will lead to harmony in your company. And your customers? They’ll feel it too.
When all is said and done, regardless of the tribulations you endured (at work or my one time at a dangerously ungodly Christian summer camp), you’ll have invaluable memories to look back upon. You will realize you accomplished something great together. You didn’t just survive, but thrived. As a team. Together. That’s Kumbaya.