In today’s competitive marketplace, extending excellent
customer service is essential to the survival of any business. I
hope by now most of us understand the importance of taking care
of the customer and exceeding their expectations.
If some of you are like me, you spent your leisure time reading
books like “Raving Fans” by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles, or
“In Search of Excellence” by Tom Peters. I read these books and
took them as gospel because they offer sound principles for
creating a vision of what excellent customer service should look
I truly believe that these books and a few others really help us
to delve into the principles for taking care of the people and
maintain our customer’s loyalty.
We have great examples of companies that live by the customer
loyalty principle by constantly striving to be on the cutting
edge of services and products. Such companies that come to mind
are Starbucks, Nordstrom, The Four Seasons, and Virgin Atlantic.
These are companies who set the mark for creative and
enlightened organizations that are always finding ways to make
the customer say “wow”. Consumers brag to others about the
services they receive at these customer centered organizations
and therefore create a word of mouth buzz that creates
exponential growth and success.
As managers you have probably tried to instil certain campaigns
or slogans at your company. You made sure your employees
understood and practiced the following procedures:
- Greeting the guest with a smile and a salutation.
- Looking for the “moment of truth”, the opportunity to make an
impression on your customer with each interaction.
- Soliciting feedback from the guest or customer.
- Employee empowerment.
- Taking care of the “internal customer” (teamwork)
The list goes on, but in our organizations we have all tried to
instil the above initiatives at one time or another. If your
organization is a progressive one, then many of the above
initiatives are common practice and part of the expected norm.
By the way, have you ever walked into one of the large video
store franchises? You walk through the familiar doors in search
of the newest “Rambo” movie on the way you plan to drop off your
last rental – “P.S. – I love You” (My wife made my rent). As you
walk in the door, you are hit with “hello” from two or three
employees. Rather than be impressed by their great service you
are actually annoyed by their forced salutation. They are not
sincere and it shows. Some executive at that company decided
long ago that all of the video store employees will greet the
guest as they walk in the door despite if the employee is across
the room or not. Forget about greeting me from across the room
as I walk in the door. Instead, try not to ignore me the rest of
the time I am in the store. Say “Hello” to me when we are face
to face or passing in the aisles. Give me an opinion about a
movie that I should see or ask me if I found everything ok. The
point is that when something seems scripted or forced then it is
not going to work on the customer, instead it will cheapen the
customer experience. “Do you want to supersize that?”
Ok! We all know the importance of customer loyalty because it
costs less to get a customer to come back then to create a new
one. We all know that the customer is king because they pay our
bills and pay checks. We all know that our employees have to be
friendly and have good attitudes or the customers won’t come
back. We all know that an unsatisfied customer will tell far
more people than a happy customer. So how do we make our
employees follow these initiatives and constantly work toward
improving their services? It is easy. You, be a good leader.
Huh? “No, it’s the employees fault.” “It’s hard to find good
people now.” I say B.S. (Bogus Sandwich).
Some of us know that the philosophy of customer loyalty and
constant improvement were studied, researched and taught by the
American statistician, Dr W Edwards Deming. His teachings have
been carried out by such companies as Sony, Fuji, Toyota, Honda
and a multitude of others. In fact every year Japan still
honours the most innovative or successful company with the
Deming Award. Deming’s teachings were so simple yet they are
still some of the most powerful management philosophies today
which Deming referred to as “profound knowledge”. Some of the
points from his 14 point list from his book “Out of the Crisis”
- Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and
service, with the aim to become competitive and to stay in
business, and to provide jobs.
- Improve constantly and forever the system of production and
service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus
constantly decrease costs
- Institute training on the job
- Institute leadership. The aim of supervision should be to help
people and machines and gadgets to do a better job. Supervision
of management is in need of an overhaul, as well as supervision
of production workers
- Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the
- Break down barriers between departments. People in research,
design, sales, and production must work as a team, to foresee
problems of production and in use that may be encountered with
the product or service.
- Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement
- Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the
transformation. The transformation is everybody's job.
As you can see, the father of quality and improvement says that
quality begins in the boardroom with the leaders and managers.
This especially counts for service companies. Leaders, owners,
and manager make the rules and the procedures. They can create
the empowerment in the employee or tie their hands and have them
afraid to make a decision. They are the ones that decide how
much should be spent on training and what objectives are
important. The owners are the ones that decide if they are going
to share part of the profits with the employee and make them
feel like part of the company.
The leaders and owners are the ones that decide how they are
going to treat the employees on their interactions. Are they
going to set goals and work toward helping the employee to
achieve the goal or are they going to leave them alone and just
dump all over them when the employee does something wrong? The
leaders decide if an employee’s or customer’s idea will be
implemented or not. So you can keep blaming the line employee
for the bad customer service or you can take a deep look at the
root cause of it all, leadership and owners.
We want our people to treat our customers with warmth and
respect. How do we treat our people? We want our people to
constantly improve their work standards and output. Do we
provide the on-going training and listen to their feedback? We
want our people to be able to serve the customer to the fullest
without making them wait and go through hoops. Are they afraid
to try anything without your approval because they know if they
screw up you will be all over them? Look at yourself and see.
Your store, restaurant, factory or office is like an engine.
Then you the leader are the ignition switch. Your people are the
spark plugs, pistons and other moving parts of the engine. If
the spark (behaviour) you provide is weak or surges then the
engine will sputter. Without the oil (training, goals, feedback,
and support), then the engine will quickly burn and seize up.
The parts of the engine all have their function but without the
spark, the engine will never run. Now go take a look at
yourself, your other managers and the system itself. Can you
improve something to ignite maximum performance from your
employees and create customer loyalty? Always!
Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service by Ken
Blanchard, Sheldon Bowles, Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers.
Out of Crisis: Dr W Edwards Deming, 1982 & 1986, Out of the
crisis: quality, productivity and competitive position,
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
In Search of Excellence: by Thomas J. Peters, Tom Peters 2004 -
Business & Economics Harper Business Essentials..
About the Author
Donn Kirst is a customer loyalty and leadership trainer based
out of Las Vegas, Nevada. Donn has spent the last 16 years of
his life studying from the masters of personal development,
leadership, and customer loyalty. In addition he loves to learn
from hospitality organizations that “wow” the customers. He
currently works and trains with some of the most prestigious
customer service orientated service businesses in the world. The
mission of his training organization is to help transform
businesses through helping to shift the way people think,
believe, and act. Contact Donn at: firstname.lastname@example.org.