Today’s post is hosted by Chip R. Bell, noted leader, author, and customer experience advocate. Chip’s new book “Kaleidoscope – Innovative Service That Sparkles” launches this week, and is a solid companion to his previous release “Sprinkles” Chip’s ability to bring sensationally effective customer service ideas and simplify them in a way that empowers anyone to innovate their service is a true gift. “Kaleidoscope” does just that, as does his story below.
Lee Roy Clark was the grocer in my South Georgia hometown. He was my introduction to what it meant to be a “merchant”—courteous and eager to help all who came into his all-purpose store.
The business world is today rediscovering the value of service that permeated Lee Roy Clark’s very bones. This “rediscovery” is made to sound like a breakthrough–something absent from the past, newly found and terribly important. The Lee Roy Clarks of yesteryear get no credit for using methods now attributed to Zappos, Amazon, USAA, Nordstrom and Ritz-Carlton Hotels.
What happened between the 1950s version of small-town service and its present-day renaissance?
Before you chide that superior service involves much more than neighborly manners, let me add that Lee Roy Clark knew a lot about a service vision, customer-friendly processes and service recovery. He did what he did out of a solid grounding in the premise that serving implied an obvious devotion to his customers. Service to Lee Roy was about reciprocal power–his power to provide goods and services coupled with the customer’s power to keep him in business. Lee Roy acted out of a simple belief: “My customers are my neighbors.”
Lee Roy knew what his customers needed and expected. One day my father, a full-time banker AND full-time farmer, stopped in to buy a loaf of bread. “Mr. Bell,” said Lee Roy in his always polite voice, “I ordered you some of those fly strips for your pig house. Last time you were in here, you complained that the flies were about to take away your new farrowing house.” I wonder how many service organizations would stock an item based solely on data gathered through “fair weather” conversation. Lee Roy cared a lot more about service than inventory. And, when my father opted to NOT buy the yellow fly strips, Lee Roy acted neither hurt nor disappointed.
Lee Roy was also effective at recovering from a customer service breakdown. There was no need for a written “service guarantee”—Lee Roy WAS the guarantee. Instead of some version of “$3.00 off if…is late,” “You don’t owe me a thing” was his response. We need more Lee Roy’s instead of merchants who too frequently argue over a 99 cent carton of milk with a customer who, if loyal to that same store, could spend $40,000 over the average ten years they live in a given location.
My grandmother bought an ice cream churn from Lee Roy–the kind grandsons endlessly hand crank to turn thick cream into a summer eve’s delight. It was a July day when she unpacked it only to discover the crank was missing. “Lee Roy,” she complained, “you sold me a bum steer!” Lee Roy drove three miles out in the country with another churn. With him, he brought a fresh-baked apple pie and two gallons of “store bought” ice cream. Now, here is the best part: He sat out in the shade for a half hour with my grandmother quizzing her on her secrets for getting azaleas to grow big and healthy!
I suppose I’m on thin ice implying that it’s possible to simplify a very challenging issue. A few of the complex barriers to replicating Lee Roy’s brand of customer service include corporate bigness, bureaucracy, legal restrictions, diverse customer requirements, increased competition domestically and globally, and a scarcity of committed and competent employees.
Yet, I sometimes wonder if the question of customer loyalty really is simpler than we realize. Perhaps we just need to rekindle the passion to give customers the kind of devotion that guided Lee Roy Clark. It’s possible I am just a romantic, opting for nostalgia instead of accepting the cold reality of the present. But, then again, maybe not!
Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several best selling books. His newest book is the just-released Kaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles. He can be reached at chipbell.com.
Do “Suck Up”s persist in your organization?
You know, those people that would rather endear themselves to leadership by behaviors other than doing their job to the best of their ability in the greater interest of the team. They flatter the boss, promote themselves to upper management, pretend to have the best ideas, and
There are many subtle ways a “suck up” can creep into and overtake your organization.
How do you prevent, or even change, a “suck up” culture? Try the following strategies below:
- Treat all people fairly. If you’re consistent through your leadership in how you treat people, your folks will see that they won’t get extra attention by hanging all over you or creating drama to gain it. People that would tend to suck up want extra favors, attention, and any benefit in their jobs that they can garner. Giving your team equal attention and fair treatment is a great start to ensuring “suck-ups” find a dead-end.
- Give everyone the same access to resources for their job. Sometimes it’s easy for leaders to give extra resources to the people they like the most. Employees can sense this and make it into a way to leverage their working relationship for extra favors and inside information.
- Prevent “squeaky wheel gets the grease” syndrome. Employees resent those teammates that always hang around the boss or complain loudly to get extra attention and favors. The most vocal person tends to get the most attention, even if their requests aren’t urgent or important. Prioritize and qualify each person’s request on equal merits to ensure no one whines their way to your ear.
- Don’t let your ego or the ego of your leadership get stroked. “Suck-ups” know who to praise their boss and stroke his or her ego. It’s natural in those circumstances to give favor to those who make your ego feel good. Practice the example of humility by setting ego aside and don’t let other’s try to leverage your emotions and pride for their benefit.
- Promote a team culture. Having a strong team culture ensures everyone works together for mutual benefit and not personal gains per se. a strong team environment helps mitigate the opportunity for “suck-ups” to take root and makes sure that your people – and leadership – are committed to a greater cause and focus. Work at instilling a team-oriented culture that will weed out those that would manipulate their bosses.
“Suck-ups” are just leeches with two legs. Their contribution to the organization is nothing more than self-serving and very rarely contributory to the team as a whole. Purposefully cultivate an environment that does not give “suck-ups” a toehold and guard your leadership to be firm in a team approach.
Why do some people succeed, and others fail miserably?
Why do some leaders get derailed (mostly due to self-inflicted behaviors) and others succeed over the most impossible odds against them?
Why do Olympic archers hit bulls-eyes with remarkable accuracy?
Why do servers never spill a drop of your beverage as they move quickly across the restaurant?
And finally, why do so few overcome adversity, while others are overcome by adversity?
The simple answer, is they keep there eyes on the prize.
Seriously from any cliche, those that succeed don’t waver from the goal set before them. They know what lies ahead, forget what lies behind, and set aside those things that easily encumber them on their road to finishing their race well. They are goal oriented, instead of circumstance oriented.
It’s not enough to know the steps to succeed, the processes, the mindset, and even the jargon. It’s essential that you only keep focused on what really matters, what has long-lasting positive impact, and is profitable, not merely monetarily but in the impact it means for others around you as well.
Those that fail to succeed simply have taken their eyes off the ball. They did not keep the finish line ahead of them and real enough to run their race well. They allowed the pain of running and the easy way off the course to shipwreck their race.
But the great news is that if you’ve been one of those who has allowed your circumstances to pick you off course, you can start afresh … today.
Write down your goals, marinate your thinking in what is good, true, and profitable, and enjoy the hard fought journey towards that calling or goal that satisfies.
Never, ever, ever take your eyes off the prize. It’s hard work that pays huge dividends.