The Art of The Comeback
By Jamey Lutz
Few things stir the emotions of sports fans like a great comeback. When virtually all rational hope has evaporated, something truly remarkable begins to emerge from the ethos. Storybook comebacks don’t happen all that often in the sports world, but when they do, it becomes the stuff of legend that gets passed down from generation to generation. As the momentum shifts, what was seemingly impossible becomes plausible, and what was plausible becomes undeniable truth.
How about the Boston Red Sox, the once proud organization that until 2004 had endured a championship drought spanning nearly a century? After losing the first three games in the AL Championship series against the hated New York Yankees, the Red Sox appeared destined to fall short once again. However, with the crack of a bat the momentum pendulum began to swing in their favor, and the Red Sox staged an unprecedented comeback, winning four straight games to become the first professional baseball team to ever erase a 0-3 playoff deficit. The Red Sox would go on to win the World Series and end the 86-year-old “curse of the Bambino.”
Like it or not, championship level sports demand the crowning of a single winner, with everyone else vying for second fiddle.Unless you are an eternal optimist and take solace in “moral victories”, a win-win scenario is simply not an acceptable outcome.
But how about comebacks in the world of customer experience? When things go south for customers who feel your organization has failed to deliver on their service covenant, is a win-win outcome even possible? In the vast majority of service recovery cases, the answer is a resounding “yes”!
Just because recovery is possible, however, does not mean it’s easy – especially if we view disgruntled customers as an opponent to declare victory over. Here are three key strategies to help your team master the game of service recovery. If executed properly they will help repair broken service relationships and create a shared sense of victory for your effected customers, employees andorganization.
As service guru Chip Bell astutely writes, “Empowerment is not about unlimited license. It’s about responsible freedom.” Consider the legendary Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, where employees are afforded up to $2,000 per incident to resolve customer service breakdowns. Likewise, online shoe and clothing retailer Zappos has built a cult-like following based largely on unleashing their service agents to resolve customer issues in unique and innovative ways.Yes, both organizations do a great job of hiring people with bubbly personalities and a passion to help customers improve their lives. But they also invest heavily in the nuts and bolts of service recovery, training employees to properly use empowerment as a tool not just to appease but to emotionally surprise and delight. Just as a championship level football coach grants their quarterback “responsible freedom” to make the right decision in the heat of battle, we must constantly equip our corporate athletes to do the same when dealing with upset customers.
Remind your employees not to take the customer’s wrath personally, even when it seems the blame is being placed squarely on their shoulders. Regardless of who is really at fault, the customer is inevitably upset at the problem. You or your front line staff just happen to be the physical embodiment of the broken service covenant! Like a highly trained sports team refuses to be incited by the opposition’s mind games, we must be disciplined enough to not take the bait. Remember – it’s all about the customer, but we are the leader when it comes to service recovery. And it is our collective responsibility to courageously guide our customers to higher ground by repairing the broken relationship.
Create Customer Certainty
In the sports realm, it is incumbent on the coaching staff to foster certainty throughout the team that no matter how bleak things might appear at any given moment, a comeback is never out of reach.Certainty breeds confidence, and confidence breeds momentum. As leaders, we have a responsibility to reinforce tactics that lead to service certainty. Service warriors effectively leverage their words, voice tone and facial expressions to create customer certainty and bring the broken relationship back into the light. When we work to build certainty with our emotionally wounded customers, we give them confidence that we’ll do whatever is necessary to make them whole.
College football fans will never forget a recent amazing comeback from the gridiron featuring the vaunted Alabama Crimson Tide versus the Clemson Tigers in the 2017 National Championship game. The underdog Tigers played from behind most of the contest, and found themselves down by 3 with two minutes left on the clock. In an epic final drive, Clemson scored the winning touchdown pass with just one second remaining. Talk about an instant classic! Comebacks are summarized by the caption that accompanies the familiar cartoon below… never ever give up!”
As a service leader, how effective are your employees in the art of the comeback? What percentage of the time would previously disgruntled customers say that your team resolved their problem as well as restored their faith in your brand? Make a commitment starting today to clear the path for consistently amazing service comebacks. Your customers will thank you for it, and everyone will win!
Service Unleashed: Storm Warning
By Jamey Lutz
The Biblical parable of the wise and foolish builders illustrates the importance of constructing one’s life from the ground up by starting with a firm foundation. The wise man built his house on rock; the foolish man built his on sand. When the winds blew (or the wolf in the similar story of the three little pigs), the house built on rock stood while the one built on sand, while it might have looked fine on the outside, inevitably crumbled.
The parable has profound implications for each of us on a personal level. It also speaks volumes to the companies we own, manage, and work for on a daily basis. Logic would follow that organizations (and the people who make them up) conducting themselves with high integrity and character are best positioned to withstand the impending storms of competition, shrinking margins and ever-rising customer expectations. Such noble platitudes do not automatically guarantee our beloved organizations will survive, much less thrive, over the long haul.
The nature of capitalism dictates that profits are the life-blood of corporate growth and sustainability. Former Secretary of Commerce Charles Sawyer aptly noted that “Profit is the ignition system of our economic engine.” The recipe for constructing an enterprise that is truly built to last would thus seem to be an aggregate of highly principled and highly profitable business practices.
In his groundbreaking book, The Ultimate Question, Fred Reichheld explores the concept of “bad profits.” Bad profits are accrued at the expense of customer relationships. Whenever a customer feels manipulated, misled, mistrusted or ignored as part of the product/service experience, resulting profits are bad... bad from both the customer’s point of view and for the organization itself. Such profits may temporarily pad your corporate balance sheet, but over time they can cause irreparable harm.
You don’t have to look far to discover examples of companies generating bad profits. The recent United Airlines debacle in which a paying customer was summarily dragged from a plane after refusing to yield his seat to a United employee immediately comes to mind. The airline industry’s long-standing practice of intentionally overbooking flights has now cost United dearly. Bad profits at Wells Fargo extended into the realm of illegal activities in 2016 when bank employees secretly created millions of unauthorized bank and credit card accounts without their customers’ knowledge.
Other more subtle examples of bad profits are rampant. Ever try to decipher the vaguely itemized charges on your cell or cable bill? How about the use of “convenience fees” required to make certain types of on-line purchases? Or what should we make of various retailers that invoke a “restocking fee” for items we legitimately choose to return? Last but not least, what about unhelpful or even unethical sales people that try to push us into a purchase that is clearly not in our best interest?
Just because bad profits don’t show up on your general ledger doesn’t mean they aren’t a real and present danger. Left unaddressed, they will alienate your customers and demoralize your employees. Their tolerance by leaders signals an implied acceptance to those they lead. They also ultimately result in lost market share and the erosion of your brand (i.e. foundation). Here are two simple steps to follow as you seek to ensure your organization remains ground on a rock foundation.
1. Identify the Enemy
Start by asking yourself: “Are the products and services we provide actually perceived by customers as value added?” “Do my customers feel like our business practices are designed to do something for them or to do something to them?” Your honest answer to these questions will go a long way in vetting out potential areas of concern.
You’ll also want to explore these questions with your internal team. Don’t limit your investigation to those in a leadership capacity, but also gather insights from front line personnel who interact with customers on a daily basis.
And don’t forget to gather input directly from your customers. Leveraging multiple listening posts is recommended, to include traditional survey tools, customer focus groups and personal interviews. Depending on your industry, much of the information you seek may already be contained via social media. Regardless of methodology, the key is to make it easy and non-threatening for your customers to vent.
2. Be Mission Focused Versus Profit Focused
As an organizational leader, you are responsible for modeling the way for your team. It’s one thing to be able to succinctly articulate your company’s core values, but personally demonstrating these competencies through your daily actions and communications will motivate your employees to do the same. Make sure your overall mission speaks to things like putting the customer first and improving the lives of your customers. Set the tone by eliminating any current business practices that undermine customer relationships. Celebrate employees who help make a difference in this area.
What type of organization do you want to be known for... one that is ultimately compromised by the pursuit of short-term profits, or one that stands strong through the storm by always putting your customers first?
Business must be run at a profit, else it will die. But when anyone tries to run a business solely for profit, then also the business must die, for it no longer has a reason for existence.
– Henry Ford
Ritz-Carlton Practices for Building a World-Class Service Culture
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company has long demonstrated an organizational culture based on strong customer service. It received the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award twice. And it has also earned hotel industry recognition for top customer satisfaction. So when an organization wants to learn how to build and sustain a culture with a strong customer focus and results reflecting service excellence, The Ritz-Carlton is a good source of best practices.
To learn about and share such practices, I recently talked to Jamey Lutz, area performance improvement manager for The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. Lutz was director of quality at a Ritz property in Florida when the company received its second Baldrige Award in 1999. In that position, Lutz supervised all property-related quality and customer service initiatives. He also directed hotel training and preparation in advance of the company’s selection as a Baldrige Award recipient that year.
As Lutz explained, The Ritz-Carlton culture is built on a framework of high standards that were established from the company’s outset. “All of our success was built on a very simple framework—the Gold Standards. The Gold Standards encompass The Ritz-Carlton motto (“Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen”); three essential service steps (give a warm welcome, anticipate guest needs, and provide a fond farewell); a credo statement outlining the hotel’s commitment to its guests; and the Employee Promise, a statement expressing the hotel’s commitment to its employees.
Twelve Service Values constitute a final component of the Gold Standards. Those values are conveyed in statements such as “I build strong relationships and create Ritz-Carlton guests for life” and “I own and immediately resolve guest problems.” Lutz stressed that the Gold Standards have continually been “reinforced and enlivened in the company.”
The company reinforces them through such frequent and regular events as daily 15- to 20-minute hotel line-ups consisting of all Ritz-Carlton employees around the world.
Besides discussing logistical issues during the line-ups, Lutz explained, the employees review one of the Service Values and “enliven” other components of the Gold Standards through discussion and role playing.
Other practices for reinforcing the company’s core values and standards include mandating that the Credo Card be included as part of employee uniforms.
“We can never allow our core values to be compromised. They are the basics outlining what we stand for,” said Lutz. “If you don’t have the basics down—those minimum standards that you are continuously striving to perfect, you’re never going to realize the long-term goals and aspirations of your company.”
Lutz shared the following tips for other organizations to build and sustain a culture of excellent customer service:
1. Shoot for the heart: Lutz explained that The Ritz-Carlton prioritizes the selection and recruitment of “world-class ladies and gentlemen” (in keeping with its motto). “You can teach someone the technical skills for a position or a role, but you can’t train them to have a sincere, caring attitude for others. Particularly for customer-facing roles and frontline positions, we’re looking for someone with a service mentality. “If you don’t have that genuine desire to serve, it’s not going to come across as authentic, and our guests will know it.”
2. Train and develop employees to be able to sustain high standards for service: For example, the company provides extensive training around the three steps of service outlined in the Gold Standards, said Lutz.
3. Implement rewards and recognition programs for employees to sustain the expected performance in relation to service components: Lutz advises building rewards and recognition components to address the types of customer service behaviors that your organization seeks to have your employees demonstrate.
If a Ritz-Carlton employee is observed doing something well, he or she can receive a First-Class Card as a form of kudos and recognition. Such cards also give employees opportunities to win perks such as a free dinner or movie ticket through regular drawings. At a higher level, The Ritz-Carlton’s “Five Star” award program provides sizeable cash rewards for those who demonstrate internal or external service excellence on multiple occasions.
4. Use the Baldrige Excellence Framework for ongoing improvement: Beyond the basic cultural framework provided by the Gold Standards, the Baldrige Excellence Framework “gives us a blueprint for ongoing success,” said Lutz. “Baldrige provides a framework to get to a higher level of organizational performance.”
HE AFFIRMED THAT THE BENEFIT OF USING THE BALDRIGE FRAMEWORK IS MORE FUNDAMENTAL THAN BEING RECOGNIZED FOR WINNING THE PRESTIGIOUS NATIONAL AWARD. A KEY BENEFIT IS THAT AN ORGANIZATION “ESTABLISHES A BASELINE OF WHERE YOU ARE AS A COMPANY,” HE SAID. THE FEEDBACK THAT THE RITZ-CARLTON GOT THE FIRST TIME IT APPLIED FOR THE BALDRIGE AWARD WAS ESSENTIAL TO BUILDING ITS UNDERSTANDING OF ITS PERFORMANCE, HE ADDED.
LUTZ ALSO OFFERED THE INSIGHT THAT AN ORGANIZATION’S QUEST TO BUILD A CULTURE OF EXCELLENCE IN CUSTOMER SERVICE IS “A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT.” “YOU CAN’T BUILD A WORLD-CLASS CULTURE OVERNIGHT,” SAID LUTZ. “IT HAS TO BE BUILT AND REINFORCED FROM THE HIGHEST LEVELS OF THE ORGANIZATION. IT’S AN ONGOING, UNRELENTING COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE, AND IT NEVER ENDS.”
Purpose derived from employee surveys helped transform Atlantic Capital Bank
By Jessica Saunders – Managing Editor, Atlanta Business Chronicle
Oct 9, 2020, 6:59am EDT
When Atlantic Capital Bank sought to further transform and operationalize its culture, the first step was reaching out to its employees.
In an effort led by consultant Lisa McLeod of McLeod & More and Atlantic Capital Senior Vice President Performance Excellence Jamey Lutz, the bank gauged the overall sentiment and mindset of its workforce to identify how they thought Atlantic Capital was different from its competitors and why people should care, according to Lutz. Team member interviews, focus groups and surveys led to the conclusion the bank's differentiating purpose is that it fuels prosperity.
The Atlantic Capital HR team is a finalist for the Leading Transformational Change & Culture award in Atlanta Business Chronicle's 2020 HR Excellence Awards in partnership with SHRM-Atlanta.
Atlantic Capital Bank launched and continued to deploy its organizational culture/purpose in 2019, which was the most important accomplishment for the PR team, Lutz told Atlanta Business Chronicle in an email. "We believe this culture work is critical because it provides every employee with an understanding of their impact in fueling the prosperity of our clients and one another. Teammates see the value of their work and find meaning in making a difference," he wrote.
The concept of fueling prosperity was taken beyond the slogan level by action steps that reinforced and institutionalized this purpose and the values of creativity, expertise, teamwork, humility and confidence, including a company-wide meeting, design and distribution of bank "purpose maps," along with baseball caps and water bottles. Team members were able to nominate colleagues for special efforts they made for customers in a recognition program. A nominating committee reviewed all submissions quarterly, with grand prize winners receiving a desk obelisk and a cash award, according to Lutz's HR Excellence award nomination. Videos were made of employee submitted examples of the prosperity purpose and shared on the corporate intranet site.
McLeod conducted training workshops and sessions on the purpose and values for the sales team and all support staff.
The bank received best workplace awards from the Atlanta Journal Constitution and American Banker in 2019. It's formed an employee engagement committee and developed an action plan to make improvements based on employee feedback from the awards surveys, he said. Its financial results for 2019 were positive.
The pandemic has affected the role of HR in numerous ways, Lutz said. "In light of increased uncertainties during this time, our employees have a greater need than ever for a sense of psychological safety. From ensuring they have the tools and resources necessary for working effectively in a remote environment, to keeping them abreast of Covid-19 related policy changes and return to work strategies, to developing creative learning and educational venues, we have taken a highly proactive stance to let our staff know they have not been forgotten," he said.
Next priorities for the bank's HR team are helping Atlantic Capital managers become more effective coaches, and identifying more opportunities for employee development, he said.
Leadership Lessons Learned from a Faithful Canine Confidante
By Jamey Lutz
Have you ever had a friend who seemed to operate on the same wavelength as you? Someone you would say truly “gets you”? During my formative years, I was fortunate to have this type of relationship in my life. The memories of our bond will remain forever etched in my mind and the leadership lessons I learned have served me well.
Champ was my canine companion, my soulmate, my BFF. A unique mix of St. Bernard and German Shepherd, he was a wonderful blend of speed, power and gentle spirit. I cried for three days when he passed away during my teen years, and I’m still emotional today as I write this article.
Champ exemplified living life to the max with unbridled passion, unlimited energy, unmitigated devotion and unrivaled courage. He approached each day as if it were his last. No fear, and no regrets.
So, what strategic business principles and leadership lessons can we, as leaders and coaches of our organizations, learn from Champ’s life? Much more than you might think.
What Would Champ Do?
Put Others Before Self
In his timeless book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, Dale Carnegie had this to say regarding the general disposition of man’s best friend:
“Did you ever stop to think that a dog is the only animal that doesn’t have to work for a living? A hen has to lay eggs, a cow has to give milk, and a canary has to sing. But a dog makes his living by giving you nothing but love.”
Champ was the ultimate warrior and companion. Weighing in at over 100 pounds with powerful jaws that could – and did, on occasion – snuff the life from unsuspecting neighborhood critters, Champ was a gentle beast with me and our family. Some of my fondest memories are of us wrestling in the front yard, and playing superheroes in the woods behind the house.
But woe to anyone or anything that was a perceived threat to our well-being. For example, Champ was convinced that Prince, the Collie who lived two doors down, was personally responsible whenever a storm occurred. Immediately following the first audible peal of thunder, Champ would track down Prince for seemingly placing us in harm’s way and punish him severely. As you can imagine, Prince never looked forward to those house calls.
What would you do if a disaster strikes your team? Would your teammates believe you’ll be there to support and defend them when a storm hits? Do they trust that you’ll put their needs above your own when their certainty is threatened?
What would you do if a disaster strikes your team?
Lead a Life of Joy and Enthusiasm
No one would have ever accused Champ of playing it safe. He did not need to be nudged outside his comfort zone. If anything, we struggled at times to reign him in.
Champ had an absolute passion for chasing cars. He found great pleasure in meticulously zig-zagging in front of every vehicle entering and exiting our neighborhood cul-de-sac. The more frustrated the driver, the more vigorously Champ pursued them.
To this day, I can distinctly hear his unrelenting bark interspersed with blaring car horns and angry adult language. Undeterred, Champ would joyfully bite their car tires, leading to more than one vehicular “puncture wound” over the years!
How about you? Would your team say you demonstrate great zeal in your leadership role while inspiring them to react the same way? Are they more enthusiastic now than they were six months ago as a result of your leadership?
Encourage a “Think Outside the Box” Mentality
Champ never displayed much of an affinity for “painting” within the proverbial lines. He was a trailblazer in every sense of the word. He didn’t like to be leashed and was known to uproot small trees when we failed to secure him to a more permanent fixture.
Unsatisfied with sleeping in his custom-made, supersized doghouse, Champ burrowed out a massive nest in an eight-foot stand of razor-sharp pampas grass located next to our driveway. When least expected, Champ would brazenly leap out of the plant in full ninja attack mode, absolutely terrifying everyone in his path!
In your leadership role, do you encourage your team to constantly explore different ways of doing business? What will you do to unleash the innovative spirit of those who look to you for guidance and direction?
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Be a Mentor
Champ fully embraced his role as loyal guardian and protector of our family. As a result, he generally seemed disinterested in befriending other neighborhood canines – with one noteworthy exception. In his later years, we were shocked to see Champ welcome an undersized and highly reserved mixed-breed Chow into his inner circle. Coco (who we eventually nicknamed “Coco Little Champ”) became Champ’s protégé and constant companion. It was odd to see the two of them together, but the big fella seemed quite content passing down his insights from a life lived full speed ahead.
What about you? Have you identified potential leaders in your organization to take under your wing and pour your energy, wisdom, and the leadership lessons you’ve learned into? Do you have a succession plan in place which allows your employees to fill in key roles as your company grows and changes?
Champ epitomized the expression “man’s best friend”. It’s hard to imagine my childhood without him by my side. But as we’ve seen, he also exhibited numerous leadership traits that we can learn from to improve ourselves and those we coach on a daily basis.
Take time today to reflect on the leadership lessons Champ taught us. Determine the specific steps you’ll implement to put these leadership lessons into practice within your organization.
Good Enough Never Is
By Jamey Lutz
Seventy percent of a customer’s loyalty today is based on how that customer is treated. A major study by McKinsey and Company found the better customers are treated, the more apt they will be to return and ardently promote your product or service to others.
Here is the challenge. Most companies know that! Yet, they fall victim to a belief their bottom line will be sustained by consistently providing customers with merely a satisfactory service experience. The rationale goes something like this: “If we can simply meet our customers’ requirements and expectations on a regular basis, they will stay with us for life.” Sadly, while this approach may serve to keep you financially afloat, it will never provide the sustainable growth necessary to differentiate you from your competition.
Today’s customers consider okay, satisfactory, pretty good, and nothing special service to be mediocre. Yesterday’s customer grade of B might not get you a C today! Why? Here are a few reasons.
When a customer does business with an organization at any point along their service journey, their cumulative encounters will result in one of three evaluations: the organization exceeded their expectations, simply met their expectations, or failed to meet their expectations. These expectations are formed over time based upon prior interactions with the company, service provided by competitors, and word of mouth from friends, family and social media.
But, perhaps the biggest factor shaping their expectations are the superior service experiences they have received from others, regardless of industry. When your customer goes to Disney World, shops at Nordstrom, or buys online from Zappos, their experiences become fodder for comparisons to you. Is your website as easy as Amazon? Is your phone answered as quickly as FedEx? Is your product as cool as a Harley? All those experiences elevate the standards for every enterprise on the planet—whether fair or not!
The Merely satisfied customers receive exactly what was expected… nothing more, nothing less. At service exemplar companies like The Ritz-Carlton, Chick-fil-A, USAA and Harley Davidson, delivering a service experience that does not exceed customer expectations is regarded as a failure. Even an Uber driver whose customer ratings fall below a 4.5 on a 5-point scale, loses his or her license to represent the Uber brand.
But wait! Isn’t our ultimate objective to always satisfy our customers and successfully meet their expectations? Not if your company is truly committed to driving business outcomes like higher customer return/retention rates, deeper relationships, larger share of wallet, and increased referrals. And, certainly not if you want to build a devoted customer base that will become avid extensions of your sales and marketing tactics.
Mere satisfaction is just not enough in today’s increasingly high-tech, high-touch world. Customers simply have too many choices to take their business elsewhere. Customer loyalty, on the other hand, is the perfect antidote to fickle consumers who will bail on you at the first minor hiccup. Focus on adding strategies that foster customer loyalty and consistently exceed their expectations. Mere satisfaction or loyalty… what will you focus on today? SSE
Customerization Unleashed: Making Service Their Way
By Jamey Lutz and Chip Bell
A newlywed couple spent the first part of their honeymoon at the Disney World Magic Kingdom, followed by another few days on a Disney cruise. On the morning of transition from hotel to ship they were told to pack and leave their bags in their theme park hotel room; someone would transport the bags to their stateroom on the cruise ship. Arriving on board they were pleasantly surprised to discover their MagicBand that opened their theme park hotel room also opened their room on board the cruise ship.
In early 2015, Google X (Google’s top secret innovation lab) secured a patent for a digital contact lens that many believe will revolutionize diabetes care. So what’s the connection between contact lenses and diabetes? Electronic sensors embedded in the contact will allow blood sugar levels to be measured from tear secretions. When blood sugar levels cross designated thresholds, a message can be sent via an app to the user notifying him/her to act immediately or contact a physician if the condition is serious.
Personalization, or as management guru Tom Peters called it, “customerization,’ is the new feature of successful customer experience outreach. Customers want it “their way” because more and more they can get it that way!
Personalization has always been a characteristic of face-to-face encounters. We enjoy it monogrammed when service providers use our name, recall our last purchase, or thank us for being a valued member of their loyalty program. And, now it is even appearing on the Internet landscape. Case in point: Unique Fragrances.
Log onto Unique Fragrances and you are given a special opportunity in five clicks to create your own signature perfume. Once you identify yourself as a male or female, you chose the character (casual, sensual, natural, glamorous, etc.), the scent (fruity, citric, fresh, extravagant, etc.), the notes (50 aromas like orchid, white tea, violet leaf, cherry blossom, etc.) with detailed descriptions and photos, the bottle (20 different styles) and finally the label (name, design and font). Talk about a gift that keeps on giving; this one is a sure winner! So, what are the two principles important to customerization?
Think Local - Act Local
Personalizing service requires time and care; it cannot be a knee-jerk or a fast-tracked response. It is unique to the customer and it must always be sincere and authentic. Customers know if your brand of service is a gimmick, an empty gesture, or a selfish ploy. When service is genuinely tailored to you, it reminds customers they are vitally present in an important service relationship. Having customers’ names on an offering or their needs embedded in it informs customers they are valued recipients, not just typical end users.
Order personalized award ribbons from the Award Company of America in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and your order comes with a thank-you note that contains the words “I am the machine operator who actually made your ribbons. I am very proud of my work. We want to give you highly personal service. If you are dissatisfied for any reason, please contact our customer service department. They will contact me and I will personally correct any problem. Thank you for your order. We look forward to receiving your next order.”
For those who aspire for a healthier and more active way of life, Fitbit emerged on the scene in 2007 with a very different approach to fitness – proliferate the market with products that make it fun, social and empowering to exercise. As one of Fitbit’s slick advertising slogans states, “Every moment matters and every bit makes a big difference. Because fitness is not just about gym time. It’s all the time.”
We have a colleague who swears by his Fitbit wristband, leveraging the device to track nearly every movement in his day, from mundane activities (e.g. walking to the mailbox) to rigorous workouts, food intake and monitoring his sleep patterns. He even has friendly competitions with other Fitbit fanatics through the electronic scoreboard option. Whether you are a devotee of this type of technology or not, the ability for users to control and customize their fitness lives has proven to be a financial game changer for Fitbit and other market competitors.
Invite Customers to Help
“Dinner on the ground” was code for participation in small towns in the South when we were growing up. While this event went with all family reunions, its most special form of community occurred after certain church services. “Dinner on the ground” was a super event for little boys to run, holler and pull ponytails pretty much unsupervised since their caretakers were occupied with set-up and cleanup. For the women, it was a time to show off a new recipe; men told tales over sweet ice tea of the one that got away. Everyone went home after eating way too much fried chicken and peach pie.
But, this “everyone brings something” event brought people closer and enabled them to feel more interdependent. It was community in its purest form. And, it was surely a sad day when someone got the bright idea of “just calling Big Al and having him bring the barbecue with all the trimmings.” Wise service providers attract customer loyalty by making the “dinner on the ground” side of service as inclusive, memorable and wholesome as a church picnic.
Community Footprints, the non-profit arm of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, recently launched Impact Experiences, a unique service program inviting group hotel guests to participate in activities that make a positive impact in area communities. To date, group guests have partnered with hotel culinary teams to prepare meals for a local hunger relief organization, as well as helping assemble backpacks with school supplies that were donated to students in impoverished locales.
The benefits of this program are far reaching. The company promotes collaboration in the communities in which they serve, while participating hotel guests gain a sense of accomplishment through participation in socially responsible activities. But most importantly, the program serves to provide a vital helping hand to those in critical need.
Do your customers experience getting served as if they were your only customer? Know your customers by involving them in your business. Tailor your service offerings so your customers can tailor theirs. Your customers will thank you for it!
Addicted to Service Unleashed
By Jamey Lutz
You like to think that you’re immune to the stuff… oh yeah
It’s closer to the truth to say you can’t get enough
You know you’re gonna have to face it
You’re addicted to love
In his 1985 smash hit Addicted to Love, former English rocker Robert Palmer swoons about the roller coaster ups and downs of romance. No doubt that love (or the pursuit thereof) can entice us to do some outlandish things, both virtuous and dishonorable. For instance, my mother tells me I nearly got expelled from kindergarten after attempting to hit one of my classmates on the head with a chair. My actions were apparently justified, however, as the rival boy had just planted a big fat smooch on the lips of my 5-year-old “girlfriend!”
When we hear or say the word “addiction,” it is generally interpreted in a much more dark and sinister way. For example, we all know drug and alcohol dependencies are serious social issues that nearly always leave terrible pain and devastation in their wake. These types of addictions are no laughing matter and most often require intense intervention.
However, how about the concept of productive addictions – habits or passions that when leveraged properly can work for us and not against us? Things like exercise, prayer/worship and community service come to mind. In his book Positive Addiction, William Glasser notes the numerous benefits of good addictions, including improved self-confidence, enhanced creativity, and better overall health.
For those of us knee deep in a corporate environment, what would positive addiction look like through the lens of the customer experience? What if your organizational culture literally caused customers to become brand addicts that were so enamored with your products and services that they wouldn’teven consider the competition? Don’t laugh… there are numerous companies across multiple industries who have positively addicted customers.
Think Harley Davidson, Amazon, Apple and Ritz-Carlton to name a few. So, here are a few ideas to get your addictive juices flowing, with the goal of cultivating addicted customers who can’t imagine life without you.
First, make sure your company has a set of core values that include a clearly articulated customer covenant. The covenant should always answer the question, “What does this organization stand for, and why should my customers care?” For example, Chick-Fil-A founder Truett Cathy continuously taught his growing team that, “We should always be about more than just selling chicken. We should be a part of our customer’s lives and the communities in which we serve.” Likewise, esteemed grocery store chain Publix notes in its mission statement that it is “passionately focused on customer value.”
Next, do everything possible to ensure your core values are internalized by your people each and every day. The old adage that “culture eats strategy for lunch” certainly rings true in this case. The heart and soul of every great organization begins with a culture that employees want to get behind… a purpose and a cause worthy of unbridled addiction. Note that customer addiction is always ushered in by employee addiction.
Daily huddles are fertile ground to constantly reinforce a company’s service commitment. By enlivening these service truths time and again, they become intricately woven into your cultural DNA. Formal service training that focuses on actual behavior change (see FPG.com) is also an essential means to differentiate your service experience from the competition.
Third, thoughtfully evaluate whether service excellence is properly embedded in your team’s performance management system. If employee compensation and other forms of recognition are disproportionately focused on sales outcomes or productivity gains versus actual service execution, you might be unintentionally marginalizing the driving force for service unleashed. Make the necessary organizational adjustments to ensure your reward strategies are in alignment with your customer-based core values.
Last but certainly not least, always provide your team with the proper resources and tools required to execute your service strategy. Assuming you’ve got each of the earlier steps covered, your team should already have the will to deliver service unleashed. Arming them with sufficient knowledge, technology, empowerment and encouragement provides the way to bring your service vision to life.
So there you have it. A high-level blueprint for becoming a service provider your customers will gladly, and addictively, do business with again and again. Service unleashed is admittedly the road less traveled in business circles today. However, if you take time to study the truly world-class service paragons, you’ll discover the road less traveled is the same road that leads to extraordinary success.