What is it that makes customer service extraordinary?
This week is Customer Service Week, a week to remind organizations of the importance of customers and the week to especially celebrate those who provide this service day in and day out.
In honor of Customer Service Week, I want to share a conversation I had with an expert in the field of customer service, Mark Sanborn. Mark is an extraordinary professional speaker, the bestselling author of numerous books on customer service and leadership, and a personal friend. His many books have inspired me and countless others to raise our own performance and deliver exceptional service.
In this brief nine-minute conversation, we talk about:
What differentiates extraordinary customer service from average service
How good recovery means everything if you miss
How to use creativity instead of capital to fix customer service problems
The danger of indifference
Overcompensating for customer service misses
How leaders can develop a customer service culture throughout an organization
My friend Mark Sanborn has advanced this idea for years. His definition of leadership is broad, one that encompasses everyone in an organization. A leader is someone who helps “people and organizations surpass themselves,” he says, adding that the test of leadership is whether “anything or anyone is better because of you.”
Mark knows leadership. In addition to his bestselling books, he is one of the most in-demand speakers on leadership, customer service and team building.
Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Mark about all things leadership. This 10 minute video interview is a great reminder of some of the most important leadership principles. We discuss the definition of leadership and two of the biggest pitfalls leaders face.
Dr. Chuck Bamford’s new book, The Strategy Mindset, is a practical guide for creating a corporate strategy. Having read more books on strategy than I can remember, I particularly like this one. As I read the book, there were times I found myself arguing with the author. At other times, I was nodding. Still at other times, I found myself with immediately actionable ideas to improve the process at my own organization. And that’s why I enjoyed the read so much.
I think the most controversial part of his book is likely the myths section, where he takes apart existing myths of corporate strategy.
“Strategy is about making decisions that will impact the company in the future.” -Chuck Bamford
First, you say that people are not a competitive advantage. You argue that almost all employees are interchangeable. Good employees are just “table stakes.” Is it not possible to have employees who, on average, are better than the competition?
It flies in the face of so many beliefs that it is just hard to accept. Employees are VERY important as the way that business delivers to customers. However, the moment that you actually believe that your employees are smarter than your competitors’ is the moment that your competitors will start beating you in the market. You have the same (or relatively the same) collection of amazing employees, capable employees, and poor employees as your competitors. All the HR processes in the world today have not changed that dynamic in companies. The employees that you have working in your company are a combination of luck (the biggest factor), HR practices, networking, and did I mention luck!
I’m not trying to be divisive here, but most of your customers do not generally care (or if they care at all, it is slight) who takes care of their business needs as long as the needs are taken care of. This does not apply to every employee in a company, just most. At every company I have ever worked with or for, there is a contingent of “franchise” employees. Those are employees who, if they left the company, would impact the success of that company quite substantially. We all know who these folks are, and if executives are smart, they take care of these employees to ensure that they stay with the organization. These “franchise” employees are not just the customer-facing employees; they reside throughout an organization.
“Employees are not your competitive advantage.” -Chuck Bamford
Second, you are not a fan of the SWOT. What’s wrong with the way most organizations use it?
SWOT is the single biggest impediment to doing real strategy that exists, and it exists because certain big consulting firms continue to use it with their clients, and it makes clients “feel good” without really having to do strategy.
SWOT was an attempt to bring some structure to the topic, and as a conceptual approach, it is still fairly robust. Unfortunately, many authors, academics, and practitioners decided that SWOT was an analysis tool and a means for a company to develop its strategy. SWOT is NOT strategy, and it is not an analysis tool.
Anyone can create a SWOT. It is grounded in your own biases and view of the world. In the end, a SWOT is simply the opinion of the person or group filling it out.
“SWOT is the single biggest impediment to doing real strategy.” -Chuck Bamford
Every business wants to develop a stellar reputation. Over time, that positive sentiment not only earns repeat business, but also eventually earns trust. Customer service is vitally important to establish and grow that trust. Every interaction with you or your brand offers the incredible opportunity to build a relationship and fortify your position.
In the social media age, your business reputation can catapult you to a beloved partner or sink you to nothing in almost no time flat.
“Are you ready for the best cab ride of your life?”
When the door slammed shut, Scott McKain wasn’t only taking a cab ride to his hotel. He was embarking on one of the greatest customer experiences he could imagine. Not only would Scott enjoy a memorable cab ride, he would exit that taxi with lessons that can make a difference in every business.
Research: 73% of customers will do business with you because of friendly employees.
The taxi driver, Taxi Terry, didn’t know that he had just picked up my friend, bestselling author, extraordinary professional speaker, and customer service expert Scott McKain. Of all the people in the world to pick up at the airport, Taxi Terry picked up a global expert in standing out, in the art of distinction. In fact, he is the Chairman of the Distinction Institute.
7 Tenets of Taxi Terry
Set high expectations and then exceed them.
Delivering what helps the customer helps you.
Customers are people, so personalize their experience.
Think logically and then act creatively and consistently.
Make the customer the star of your show.
Help your customers come back for more.
Creating joy for your customer will make your work–and life–more joyful.
That simple, enthusiastic question, directed to an exhausted traveler one night was the beginning of a customer experience that tens of thousands of people have learned from. Scott has presented the lessons he learned to audiences around the world. And the lessons are now available in a new book, one that will inspire you. 7 Tenets of Taxi Terry is sure to be one of the enduring business books that will come up in conversations everywhere (yes, even in a cab!).
“If you want your business to get better, the first step is for you to get better.” –Scott McKain