Thursday, April 17, 2014

Exceptional Customer Care—The Mystery Ingredient

I recently sold a vacation home and selected Allied to move furniture from Florida to Tennessee. They were a class act. I will not go into everything that made the organization stand out. I will just focus on the driver and his helper. We were not present when they picked up the furniture, but we met the truck when it arrived at the storage facility we had selected to house the items until needed. Throughout the unloading process, my wife and I were struck by the courtesy (politeness) both men showed to each other. Of course they were nice to us—the customer—but why to each other?

I have always talked about common courtesy as a job requirement in any organization.
Common Courtesy
Customers accept nothing less. If they do not get it, then when they have an alternative, and eventually they will, they will take it. However, this was different. It was common courtesy kicked up a notch—it was “kindness.” Both men showed kindness and concern toward each other and to us. It was something more than just common courtesy.

I decided to do a little research and it lead to a book by Ed Horrell, The Kindness Revolution: The Company-Wide Culture Shift That Inspires Phenomenal Customer Service. Lydia Ramsey, a business etiquette expert, writing about Horrell’s book said:
“From the rampant indifference that we all encounter on a daily basis, he recommends that companies, large and small, switch to an attitude of kindness. He's not suggesting that the boss simply tell everyone “to be nice.” He states that kindness starts at the top and penetrates every level of the organization. When everyone within a company treats everyone else with courtesy, respect and compassion, that attitude automatically gets passed on to the customers.”
Tom Peters, a writer on business management practices, states flatly that there are only two ways for an organization to achieve long-term durable success. One has to have exceptional customer care and practice constant innovation.

It may well be that “kindness” is the mystery ingredient. I recall the first planning session that I held with the new Juris team. The startup company at that time had only nine employees. When asked what kind of company they wanted us to be, the answer was “We want to be a company that likes its customers and is liked by them.”

How does one achieve exceptional customer care, common courtesy, kindness, and customers who like you? As a leader, you have to practice it yourself. You have to verbalize it and reinforce it through constant communication. It has to be a performance standard. It has to be a “core belief”—a fixed unshakeable point on the moral compass of the organization.

I was not surprised when, upon completing the unloading job and shaking hands with us, the driver said, “When they ask you how we did, I hope you can give us five stars.” That is right; the company measures and rewards performance.

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Tom Collins’ books include his book on leadership, The Language of Excellence, and his mystery novels including Mark Rollins’ New Career, Mark Rollins and the Rainmaker, Mark Rollins and the Puppeteer and the newest mystery, The Claret Murders. For signed copies, go to the author’s online store. unsigned print and ebook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online bookstores. For an audio editon of The Claret Murders go to The ebook edition for the iPad is available through Apple iTunes’ iBookstore.

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