At Your Service

Throughout the course of a recently completed 18 day trip to India, Vietnam, and China, I (Robert) had a unique opportunity to visit/meet with a dozen different companies and their leaders, and also observe their cultures…what struck me above all else was their concept of customer service. To be sure, they had distinct differences in their history, business practices, and appreciation of the relative worth of individuals versus society as a whole.  But they shared, and demonstrated, a level of customer service that was exceptional. They went to great lengths to insure we felt appreciated and valued…whether we decided to do business with them or not.

These three countries have made tremendous progress in recent years in the global competitive marketplace, and we have come to believe some of that progress is because they are committed to a superior level of customer service. We can learn from their best practices in this regard. All of us have experienced the exceptional in personal and professional relationships when we felt truly valued. These are the people we want to be around, do business with, and have on our teams. Unfortunately, these experiences are more often the exception than the norm. All too often, customer service is an afterthought. We may print bold statements about our dedication to customer service, but many companies don’t translate their slogans into actual outstanding customer service.

As we have talked about before, Level Five Leaders set the azimuth for their teams, to include setting the bar for outstanding customer service through personal example and daily, repeated reinforcement. As the time honored saying goes, “people do what the boss checks.” We would add “and what the boss does by walking the talk.” If you are indeed committed to superior customer service, your team knows you’re going to live it, and check on them to make sure they are living it too. Check at least two levels down — your best leaders won’t feel threatened by it; rather, they will feel empowered. You are reinforcing their leadership, and making them feel valued. And you are demonstrating that customer service is more than just a slogan on the wall.

What are the best tools for measuring your level of customer service? One proven technique is to ask your customers how they feel about your performance. Pick up the phone and call one customer each day. Don’t delegate this task to others — do it yourself. Ask what he or she thinks is the one element of your product or service that could be done better. Share the answers with your team, then go do something to improve that aspect of your product or service, and give the customer feedback on what you’re doing. Your customers will become even more loyal to you for asking for input and taking action, and they will tell others. Good news spreads quickly. People tell others when they feel valued.

Try the personal customer daily contact plan for a few weeks and see what happens. We believe you’ll be really pleased with the results — profit growing results. And your team will be proud of your customer service leadership and emulate your example. If the fastest growing developing countries can do this to a level others notice, it’s clear the greatest Nation on earth can do it even better.
Finally, we’d like to announce the publication of our new book: Cows in the Living Room: Developing an Effective Strategic Plan and Sustaining It, is now available on  It will provide you with a practical blueprint for strategic planning and follow-through which will translate right to the bottom line.