When I saw EXCEPTIONAL SERVICE, EXCEPTIONAL PROFIT (AMACOM) by Leonardo Inghilleri and Micah Solomon, I thought to myself, "Oh, no, still another book on customer service." Even the subtitle. THE SECRETS OF BUILDING A FIVE-STAR CUSTOMER SERVICE ORGANIZATION, indicated that might be the case.
But was I ever wrong! The authors immediately got me interested in finding out more through their use of success stories from such companies as The Ritz-Carlton and Lexus, as well as how the principles were applied by such online firms as Netflix and CD Baby.
In addition, they quickly got me thinking about how to make customers more loyal--with one key way being the need to provide anticipatory service vs. merely reacting to customers.
Some of their examples, though seemingly basic, blew me away--such as this one:
*To help launch their Ritz-Carlton luxury hotel brand, initially, founding President and Chief Operating Officer Horst Schulze and his team decided on a set of ideal phrases for use in conversation with customers, then trained employees to use those phrases. The frequent use of certain phrases helped unify their employees around a shared identity and contributed to a distinctive "Ritz style" that the public could easily recognize: phrases like "my pleasure," "Right away," "Certainly," and -a personal favorite-"We're fully committed tonight." (Translation: "We're booked solid, bub!" The list of words and phrases to be avoided included folks, hey, you guys, and okay.
I also loved this technique for how to preemptively unwad your staff's shorts:
* When your own employees first hear you taking the customer's side, don't expect them to be thrilled. ("Does my boss blame me? Does she actually believe that idiot's version of what happened?") You need to explain that it's often necessary to empathize with and even amplify the customer's side of the story. Explain that the customer may or may not be right in an objective sense. Regardless, you're going to be disproportionately sympathetic to the customer's viewpoint because the customer is your boss-the customer pays your paycheck, along with the paychecks of everyone in the company.
Human nature being what it is, this explanation will bear repeating. Often.
Lastly, I often wonder why more companies don't utilize this technique:
* Even in a mundane situation, this simple understanding, starting from day one, can make all the difference. Have you ever been to a shopping mall and stared, obviously bewildered at the map-while a security guard idly stands there "protecting" you, all of two feet away? Did the security guard proactively help you out with an "Anything I can help you find?" If he worked for us, he would have. At orientation, we would have started him off understanding his higher purpose: to create a great shopping experience for guests. Sure, that could include deterring and apprehending bad guys, but it also includes attending to shoppers who have that unmistakable lost look on their faces.
Even as I type the above, I realize that EXCEPTIONAL SERVICE, EXCEPTIONAL PROFIT is a book that I'm going to want to revisit. If you read it, you'll become as convinced as I am that Ingehilleri and Solomon have ideas that can be applied to virtually any company or organization--including yours.