Posted Thursday, February 10, 2005
Many years ago, I was a first year apprentice assigned the task of pressure washing a set of condensing coils on the roof of a grocery store on Capital Hill in Seattle, an upscale part of town.
It was a 90-degree day, in late August. To make matters worse, it was a Friday around 4:30 PM. I was wet, dirty, tired and I was anxious to get home, knowing full well I had at least another hour to finish up. An elderly gentleman in coveralls, and an old and worn straw hat approached me as I came down the ladder. “Watcha’ doin,’ sonny?” he asked curiously. At that moment, it would have been easy to dismiss his inquiry and say something curt or rude. After all, I was tired. However, I decided to smile and explain what and why I was doing what I was doing. His body language told me he appreciated my gesture. He then exclaimed, “That’s great, I’m glad you’re doing this. It’s important. You see, my son runs the store for me. In fact, I own the whole block. Keep up the good work!” On the drive home, it occurred to me, “You just never know!”
He didn’t look like a millionaire. It was a moment that mattered from a business perspective.
A Customer Service Moment of Truth as defined by Jan Carlzon are the hundred daily interactions that occur when we come in contact with our customers. Carlzon gained international recognition by transforming Sweden’s national airline into a successfully profitable operation. In 1981, Carlzon became president of SAS. In one year, he managed to turn a $54 million profit in an airline that had been losing $17 million a year.
How did he do it? By turning the organizational chart upside down. He preached, taught and lived the philosophy that the airline should be customer driven. Employees who dealt directly with customer were put in charge of making decisions that affected the customer. Customers responded positively and so did employees. “The only thing that matters in the new Scandinavian Airline Systems,” proclaimed Carlzon, “is a satisfied customer. We are going to be the best airline in the world, and that means putting the customer first in everything we do.”
“The purpose of business is to get and keep customers,” wrote Theodore Levitt in “The Marketing Imagination.” That phrase is brilliance and simplicity. We sometimes forget that it costs $7 to GET a new customer, but only $1 to KEEP one!
Keeping customers delighted and letting them know how valuable they are is as rain is to dry flowers. Some organizations have made outstanding Customer Service a part of their Vision, Values, Goals and Behavior. They reward and honor those internally that live these principles on a daily basis. They offer exceptional value in their own unique way and once we receive their exceptional service, we are spoiled to the point of fierce loyalty.
Organizations that come to mind are:
•Nordstrom – National Retailer of Clothes
•Starbucks – International Coffee Giant
•Les Schwab – West Coast Tire Distributor and Dealer
•SW Airlines – National Airline that continues to captures awards yearly
•Morton’s Steak House – World Class National Steak House
•Lexus – International Automobile Manufacturer
•New York Times – National Newspaper Giant
•Garth Brooks – Country Western Singer and Songwriter
•4 Seasons Hotel – National Hotel chain
•Arnold Machinery - West Coast Supplier of Machinery for Mining/Lift Truck Equipment
Yogi Berra, the great baseball philosopher once said, “You can observe a lot by watching!” How true that is. After years of reading about Customer Service, observing, studying and spending time with great people and companies with the single-minded goal of learning why they succeed, I have concluded some simple truths.
These common links bind each of the companies listed above, and seems to exist in each organization that values the customer and has committed to serving them to the best of their ability:
1)Great Service is communicated from the top of the Organization on an ongoing basis.
2)Great Service is rewarded and discussed through stories that become legendary internally.
3)Great Service is Appreciating the Customer which ultimately is everyone’s responsibility.
4)Great Service means Extra-Mile attitudes and behavior.
5)Great Service means Listening Actively to the customer on a regular basis. Focus groups, surveys and proactive feedback.
6)Great Service means becoming a Selfless Servant Leader. By able example, leaders demonstrate the behavior they want in others, often without saying a word. As the coach goes, so goes the team.
7)Great Service means high levels of Empathy.
8)Great Service means asking great questions in a moment of truth, like:
a)“What will it take to make you happy?’
b)“What would you like us to do?”
c)“You have a right to feel the way you do. How can we make it right?”
9)Great Service means subjugating personal agendas and purposefully forgetting commissions or hourly wages and focusing on being “Other-Centered.” (What does this person need most at this moment?)
10)Great Service means being flexible and willing to change to leave the customer smiling and happy.
11)Great Service means never being content with the status quo. It means continuously investing in training and growing people. It means guarding against the twin thieves of Arrogance and Complacency.
12)Great Service means treating every person your organization comes in contact with correctly, with dignity and respect. Those “Moments that Matter” will, in the long term, make or break your company.
This list certainly doesn’t represent the last word in Customer Service insights, however, is it worth considering? How does your service stack up against this list?
USA Today carried a story that headlined: “Bank gets $2 million dollar lesson.” It began when John Barrier went to Old National Bank in Spokane, WA, to cash a $100 check. When Barrier tried to get his parking slip validated to save .60 cents, a receptionist refused, saying he hadn’t conducted a transaction. “She said you have to make a deposit,” Barrier said. “I told her I’m considered a substantial depositor and she looked at like…well.” He asked to see the manager, who also refused to stamp the ticket. Barrier went to bank headquarters vowing to withdraw his $2 million-plus unless the manager apologized. No call came. “So the next day I went over and the first amount I took out was $1 million. But if you have $100 or $1 million,” he says, “I think they owe you the courtesy of stamping a ticket.”
I wonder if John Barrier was wearing a straw hat and coveralls? (Wealthy farmers in Eastern Washington often don’t dress the part!) There are many days I don’t feel like providing great service. I’d rather take a nap. But you know, you just never know, when a Moment…will Matter!
About the Author
Mark Matteson can be reached for Consulting, Seminars or Keynote Speeches on Customer Service, Sales Training, Personal Development and Change Management or a variety of other processes or curriculum tailored to your needs and culture.
Pinnacle Service Group
Raising the Bar in Organizations Nationwide
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