We all talk about outstanding customer service, and many of us even claim to deliver it, but do we really? Too much of what we call customer service is really an attempt to mollify a customer after we’ve screwed up in some way . . . a restaurant may give a customer a free dessert after botching the customer’s order, or an airline might offer free tickets to a passenger whose luggage it lost. But real customer service is much more than offering atonement for poor service. It’s more than just treating people fairly because they expect that. Real customer service is the distinctly human experience of people helping people in a way that creates a “feel good” moment, not only for the person being helped, but also for the person providing the help. Unfortunately, even with cash incentives and other perks, it’s tough to mandate good customer service. If your people don’t genuinely want to provide a high level of customer service, their attempts at it will come off as phony and insincere. For a thought on how to solve this dilemma, please continue reading below.
“Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, ‘What’s in it for me?'”
~ Brian Tracy, author and motivational speaker
If you’re looking for a customer service role model, there are quite a few of them to choose from. Zappos, the online retailer, has been built on a platform of great customer service. Nordstrom, the bricks and mortar retailer, also has an enviable record of customer service. Ritz-Carlton Hotels are legendary for their consistently high levels of customer service.
Steve Wynn is a billionaire developer of hotels and casinos in Las Vegas. Mirage and Bellagio are two of his properties. He recently stepped down as CEO of his company due to a rash sexual impropriety allegations. However, if you can look past his personal failures, he does have a valuable customer service lesson to teach which he has described as “the most profound business lesson I have ever learned.”
Wynn wanted his employees to deliver a high level of customer service, but recognized that he could not impose that level of customer service through a complex web of corporate policies, incentives, or punishments. Instead, he looked for a way to inspire his employees to want to provide extraordinary customer service as a means to finding personal fulfillment in their work. What he came up with was a system called “storytelling.”
At all of Wynn’s properties, before each shift begins, teams of eight to twelve employees meet with their supervisor . . . maids meet with their Housekeeping manager, dealers meet with their Pit Boss, kitchen workers with their Chef, and so on. At these meetings, each supervisor asks who has a customer service story to tell that occurred the previous day. Some of the stories are fairly routine, but others are examples of employees going to extraordinary lengths to help a guest solve a problem. All the stories are published on the Wynn intranet and are also printed and posted in all employee areas of the hotel. As a result, employees want their stories published. They enjoy the recognition they get when their story is posted, and they also enjoy the sense of fulfillment and the “feel good” moment they experience when they deliver outstanding customer service. In Wynn’s words, the storytelling system is ”pristine, it is simple, it is profoundly effective, and it has changed the history of my enterprise.” In short, the storytelling system is a “win” for everyone.
- At little or no cost, and with little or no management intervention, the hotel gets a workforce that is committed to providing great customer service.
- The hotel also gets loyal guests who are well-served and who will promote the hotel via word-of-mouth.
- And Wynn employees arrive at work each day looking for those customer service opportunities that will result in a story posted on the wall.
Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics once said, “I have learned to imagine an invisible sign around each person’s neck that says, ‘Make me feel important!'” If being heroic in the eyes of a customer doesn’t make an employee feel important, there’s probably little else that will.