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Service Excellence: The MOST Important Thing To Create a Service Culture!


by Dr. Bryan K. Williams, DM
July 11, 2011

I have two confessions to make. One is…I am a huge fan of Zappos.com. So much so that I am dedicating a large chunk of this article to their renowned service culture. Every time I meet someone who has shopped at Zappos.com, the reaction is always the same, “I love Zappos!”, “They are the best”, etc. For those who don’t know, Zappos.com is a successful online shoe and apparel retailer. My second confession is, as this article is being written (June 27, 2011), I have never actually shopped at Zappos.com, although I intend to whenever I get a moment. In case you are wondering why I seem to be such a staunch advocate of their brand without personally shopping their yet, the answer is simple. They understand the most important ingredient needed in order to build a world-class service culture. 

Here it is: If your goal is to create an iconic and renowned service culture in your company, then service must be The Most Important Thing Your Company Does. Now, I don’t mean that you work in a restaurant company that provides great service, or a nursing home that provides great service. I mean that, instead, you work in a great service company that operates restaurants or a great service company that runs nursing homes. The paradigm shift for those who truly understand (or “get it”) is monumental. I worked at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company from 1996-2006, and throughout most of my time there, the senior leaders were emphatic that we were, first and foremost, a “service company”.  A service company that happened to manage hotels, restaurants and spas. The same is true for Zappos.com. That mindset pervades everything about their business from how they treat their employees to how they serve their customers. It even translates to how they relate with their vendors (vendor appreciation parties and other perks)!  

So, the fundamental questions in this article are:

  • What would happen if service excellence becomes the Most Important Thing your company does?
  • How will your workforce see and feel the new emphasis on service?
  • How will your customers see and feel the new emphasis on service?
  • How would your hiring and orientation processes change?
  • How would the selection of services your company offers change?
  • How would the delivery of those services change?

Tony Hseig is the CEO of Zappos.com and in his book, “Delivering Happiness”, he recounted the exact moment that he and his team decided that service would be the Most Important Thing they would do.

He wrote, “Even though it would hurt our growth, we decided to cut most of our marketing expenses, and refocused our efforts on trying to get the customers who had already bought from us to purchase again and more frequently. Little did we know that this was actually a blessing in disguise, as it forced us to focus more on delivering better customer service. In 2003, we would decide to make customer service the focus of the company.”

Tony went on to explain, “Our philosophy has been to take most of the money we would have spent on paid advertising and invest it into customer service and the customer experience instead, letting our customers do the marketing for us through word-of-mouth”. After reading that passage, I began to wonder about how powerful it would be if  businesses truly understood the positive ramifications of that quote.

All this sounds good, but you are probably wondering how this shift can manifest itself into customer-focused service processes. Here is one of many examples from Zappos.com (also from the book, Delivering Happiness). 

"An example of us using the telephone as a branding device is what happens when a customer calls looking for a specific style of shoes in a specific size that we’re out of stock on. In those instances, every rep is trained to research at least three competitors’ websites, and if the shoe is found in stock to direct the customer to the competitor. Obviously, in those situations, we lose the sale. But we’re not trying to maximize each and every transaction. Instead, we’re trying to build a lifelong relationship with each customer, one phone call at a time.”

Hopefully, the message is resonating with you by now…the most effective way to build a service culture is to clearly make service the Most Important Thing your company does. Of course, you still have to execute your core business flawlessly whether it’s a spa, hospital, or an airline. Massages, clinical procedures, and landing airplanes still must be done with excellence. 

In the Washington DC metro area, there is a chain of grocery stores called “MOM’s Organic Market”. While their company mission is to protect and restore the environment, it is obvious that providing exceptional service is vital to their business success. We are fortunate to have a MOM’s store not far from where we live, and I try to visit at least a few times per month. Recently, I decided to visit the store to buy a brand of organic milk. It was around 8:20AM, so I assumed that the store was already open. When I arrived to the store, however, the sliding glass doors at the entrance didn’t open (gasp!). I then looked at the hours of operation on the front door and it clearly stated that the store opens at 9AM. Before I could turn to walk away, a store employee came rushing to the front door, unlocked it, opened it and gave me a big “Good Morning! Come on in.” I was a bit confused, but delighted at the same time. Then when I actually got inside, I noticed that there were at least two other shoppers already picking up groceries. Of course, I had to ask the store employee why the store opened before 9AM, and he said, “Because we try to open as early as possible to accommodate those customers who need to stop in before they go to work. By the way, please watch your step because we are still mopping and getting prepared to officially open at 9.” Wow.  

After I commented to him how impressed I was with the store’s service-centric philosophy, he went on to tell me that just yesterday, one elderly shopper forgot her credit card at the cash register. One of the store employees knew where she lived in the neighborhood and volunteered to take it to her house. Wow times two!

There is something special about taking service seriously. It is important to honor that all people crave to feel appreciated and taken care of. By declaring (not suggesting, recommending or inferring), but steadfastly declaring that service is WHAT WE DO, you are automatically separating your company from the competition. Those exceptional service companies will be the ones that will continue to increase their market share, retain their best employees and win over the hearts of their customers. Is service THE MOST important thing you do?


About the Author
Dr. Bryan K. Williams is the Chief Service Officer of B.Williams Enterprise, and the author of Engaging Service: 22 Ways to Become a Service Superstar. Bryan’s passion is world-class customer service, and has facilitated workshops and delivered keynotes all over the world for various companies.  He speaks on a variety of topics related to service excellence, employee engagement, and organizational improvement.  As a consultant, Bryan works closely with companies to design, develop, and implement sustainable service strategies. His company’s online store includes a growing collection of customer service products that are well-suited for your training library.

 
Contact:

B. Williams Enterprise, LLC 
Website: www.bwenterprise.net
Email:  info@bwenterprise.net 
Phone: 240-401-6958 

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Also See: Service Excellence 101: How to Serve a VIP / Dr. Bryan K. Williams, DM / June 2011

The 1st Step of Service: Be Eager to Serve / Dr. Bryan K. Williams, DM / May 2011

World-Class Service: The Double-Platinum Rule 2.0 / Dr. Bryan K. Williams, DM / April 2011

Customer Problem Resolution: The 100% Principle / Dr. Bryan K. Williams, DM / March 2011

World-Class Service 102: Be memorable / Dr. Bryan K. Williams, DM / February 2011

Take your service to the next level: Only BIG WOW’s…No bow-wow’s / Dr. Bryan K. Williams, DM / February 2011

Service Excellence: Inspect What You Expect / Bryan K. Williams, D.M. / November 2010

Work Like You Own It 2.0; Energize it. Recognize it. Celebrate it. / Bryan K. Williams, D.M. / September 2010

World-Class Service 101: Know the difference between meeting and exceeding expectations / Dr. Bryan K. Williams / July 2010

Service Superstars Part 2: Treat them like they own it! / Dr. Bryan K. Williams / June 2010

Make each touchpoint memorable: Cha-Ching! / Dr. Bryan K. Williams / April 2010

Service Superstars: Work like you own it! / Bryan Williams / February 2010

Complimentary resources from Bryan K. Williams and B.Williams Enterprise! Begin 2010 with a focus on world-class service. / January 2010

Service Ambassadors: The Key to Providing World-Class Service / Bryan K. Williams / November 2009

5-Star Employees - Part 3 / Bryan K. Williams / September 2009

5-Star Employees - Part 2 / Bryan K. Williams / August 2009

5-Star Employees - Part 1/ Bryan K. Williams / July 2009

Engaging Service: 22 Ways to Become a Service Superstar / Bryan K. Williams / July 2009

Complimentary tele-seminars with Bryan K. Williams in July! / July 2009

Building a Team of Living It Employees / Bryan K. Williams / June 2009

World-Class Service: What if every employee served like a concierge? / Byran K Williams / March 2009

5 Star Leadership: What Does It Take to Be a 5-star Leader? / Byran Williams / February 2009

5 Stars vs. 4 Stars: What’s the Difference? / Byran Williams / January 2009

Complimentary training with Bryan Williams / January 2009

The 7 Principles of EngageMeTM is now available! / Bryan K. Williams / November 2008

Hiring and Engaging a World-Class Team / Bryan K. Williams / October 2008

Great Ideas for National Customer Service Week 2008 / Bryan K. Williams / September 2008

Delivering World-Class Service Part 3: Company Service Standards / Bryan K. Williams / September 2008

Delivering World-Class Service Pt. 2: Personal Service Standards / Bryan K. Williams / September 2008

Delivering World-Class Service: Function vs. Purpose / Bryan K. Williams / August 2008

Guest Problem Resolution 101: Power of the Follow-Up / Bryan K. Williams / June 2008

7 Principles to Fully Engage Your Customers – Part 2 / Bryan K. Williams / May 2008

7 Principles to Fully Engage Your Customers / Bryan K. Williams / April 2008

I Am a Service Professional™ / Bryan K. Williams / March 2008

Engage Every Customer…One Touchpoint at a Time / Bryan K. Williams / January 2008

Engaging Service Part 2: It’s All About the Culture / Bryan K. Williams / December 2007

Engaging Service Part 1: Not Just for the Chic / Bryan K. Williams / November 2007

Service Excellence: A Destination or a Journey? / Bryan K. Williams / October 2007

National Customer Service Week is Coming Soon - October 1-5, 2007 / September 2007

National Customer Service Week is Coming Soon - October 1-5, 2007 / September 2007

Engage Me…the Voice of Your Customer www.engagemenow.com / September 2007

Customer Engagement: Where do we begin? / Byran K Williams / August 2007

Engage Me…the Voice of Your Customer / www.engagemenow.com / August 2007

B. Williams Enterprise, LLC Launches Engage Me…  the Voice of Your Customer / August 2007

To Engage…Listen to the Voice of Your Customer / Byran K Williams / August 2007

To Engage the Guest, You Must Engage Those Who Directly Serve the Guest / Byran K Williams / July 2007

Three Service Rules: The Golden Rule, Platinum Rule, and Double Platinum Rule/ Byran K Williams / June 2007

The Greatest Bellman I Ever Met… / Bryan K. Williams / April 2006

Sorry to Say…But Some People Should Not be Serving Other Human Beings / Bryan K Williams / October 2006
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