Five Keys to Creating an Uplifting Service Culture

business-people-shaking-hands1Recently I was walking through a distribution warehouse to meet a client. Hanging on the wall were safety posters instructing employees how to lift heavy boxes. Most of us have seen these posters many times. This was the first time I stopped to read one.

“Ron, are you ready to get started with the meeting?” asked the vice-president showing me around the building.

“I want to read this,” I replied. “Can I take a second?”

As you can imagine, the VP’s facial expression registered confusion over my interest in a standardized safety poster.

Soon I was seated in the boardroom with a table full of executives. The conversation focused on an obvious lack of performance that was affecting the company’s bottom line. “Mr. Kaufman,” said the chief executive. “You’re a service guru. We already have a fantastic service department. And we don’t get many customer complaints. But this is a cultural issue. Is this really something you can help with?”

Don’t Leave It to a Department

I’ve heard these types of comments for more than 20 years, in all corners of the globe and inside some of the world’s most recognized heavyweight organizations. The perception of many companies is that service is something handled by a department or a specific job title. It’s something only necessary to customer satisfaction.

“Would you mind if we talked about your safety posters?” I asked the CEO.

My seemingly odd question captured the CEO’s attention. Safety posters offer a simple, best practice to lift anything heavy, like a package, a tool—or even an entire culture. The posters instruct employees to stretch properly, position their body carefully, and use their strongest muscles. Plus, they tell employees to study and practice proper habits continuously.

When it comes to uplifting a culture—engaging people, motivating people, building loyalty, increasing performance, and creating a sustainable advantage—many companies pass by service as a solution, because somehow the concept has been improperly labeled.

I define service like this: taking action to create value for someone else. Those are powerfully simple words. So consider the impact of an uplifting service culture, a shared purpose within every aspect of your business, interaction, and transaction, from the boardroom down through the front line, where everyone focuses on creating value for someone else both internally and externally. Imagine the effect on performance, engagement, customer loyalty, employee retention, value, and competitive advantage.

“Let’s talk about the basic instructions for lifting anything,” I said to the group. “Let’s use the instructions of a safety poster to talk about building an uplifting service culture.”

1. Stretch. Yes, there are calisthenics for your culture. Stretch your mind and your old habits. Get the creativity flowing. Ask the big questions of why: Why do we need to change? Why service? Why now?

2. Position yourself. Lifting a culture requires proper positioning and support from all levels. Leadership must lead service. And everyone else must make himself or herself a service leader.

3. Use your strong muscles. The architecture of your company is akin to physiology. Muscles need flexing. Blocks need building. The building blocks of your culture, such as communication, recognition, vision, and metrics, need shaping. Analyze each block to understand which needs improvement.

4. Study. Educate your team with continuous exercise and understanding. Just because I read the safety poster once doesn’t mean I will perform properly. True education means I can perform based on the knowledge I have acquired and the practices I have learned.

5. Practice. Results really pay off here. Practice is the action of continually seeking improvement. It’s the correcting, steering, and adjusting to find continued success.

There is superhuman strength in every culture. Look at the heavyweights in the world, such as Ritz-Carlton, Nordstrom, Disney, Singapore Airlines, Southwest,, Nokia, Apple, Amazon, and Zappos. What’s their strongest muscle? It’s a culture based on service—an uplifting service culture.

Join Ron Kaufman at his Service Leadership Workshop on Tuesday, April 16th, 2013 in Dubai. Visit for more details & to register you & your team.


Source – [Ron Kaufman]


Disney Dreams Demonstrate Customer Service Excellence

tokyo-disneyland-japanDisneyland puts on an extravaganza of lights, fireworks, characters, and special effects called “Fantasmic” every evening.

In the performance, Mickey Mouse has a dream with all his friends singing and dancing with joy.

As my daughter and I watched, suddenly the dream turned into a nightmare, and many evil characters came to life with raging anger, noise and venom. Fire shot from a huge dragon’s mouth. Real flames blasted across the water.

Everyone in the audience felt the heat!

At the worst, loudest and most angry moment, when I felt most scared and my daughter was gripping me with both her little hands, Mickey appeared center stage and squeaked loudly: “Hey! This is MY dream!”

With a spark from his magic wand he defeated the dragon and blasted the evil characters into submission.

Fear and anger died away, and a huge riverboat steamed around the bend with all the joyful Disney characters on board, waving to the crowd. Fireworks soared and the audience cheered with approval. Brighten shook me with excitement. I cried with appreciation for this magical transformation and life-enhancing performance that demonstrated customer service excellence from beginning to end.

The extravaganza calmed down and the boat sailed away. Fireworks dimmed and all lights shone brightly on Mickey Mouse, high above the crowd. In his most lovable voice he looked out over his customers and friends and said, “Pretty neat imagination, huh? Ha, ha!” And with that he was gone, lights out, the show was over. Magic! Customer service excellence in action!

Brighten and I hugged in delight.

Disney is so good at moving, making and managing emotions, I didn’t even mind the vacuum cleaner they silently attached to my wallet. It was quite full when we went into the park, and altogether empty when we left. Disney runs a magically good business and is famed for customer service excellence, too!

Key Learning Point To Create Customer Service Excellence

Hey, this is YOUR dream! Whatever fantasies, realities, nightmares or delights you may choose, they are YOURS to change, expand, continue or dissolve. With a zap and a spark of your magical imagination and determination, you can defeat the dastardly demons, and bring your favorite character (the best of you) to life. Create your own magic with customer service excellence.

Action Steps To Create Customer Service Excellence

When the heat of hard times is scaring you silly, it’s time to take a stand for the future. Grab the tools of your life and your magnificent imagination, and say out loud, “Hey! This is MY dream!” Then go for it. You can create your own magic and customer service excellence.

Make your life a masterpiece of emotion, affection, appreciation, creativity, generosity, responsibility, enthusiasm and commitment. Live a life you are proud to lead every day – and are happy to share with others. Live a life that fills you up and turns you on. Make this lifetime magic! Customer service excellence is a lesson that applies at work and at home. Take a lesson from Disney and master the art of delivering customer service excellence in your life.

Source – [Ron Kaufman]


Top 10 Signs Your Service Disappoints

Gold top 10 winnerMany executives I meet with simply can’t see the writing on the wall, assuming because they haven’t heard many complaints about their service, everything must be okay. That’s a dangerous position for the present and the future.

Wondering if I might be referring to a company like yours? Here are the top ten signs your customer service is lacking.

#10. You have only one department that handles customer service. Think about this for a moment. No one else is responsible for service? If you have only one “customer service department,” everyone else in the organization will think customer service is someone else’s job.

#9. Your service department also responds to the name “The Complaint Handling Department.” The whole idea of “handling” customer complaints is out of date. Handling is for boxes and equipment. Caring and responding is for customers.

#8. When really important clients call, you don’t trust anyone except yourself to take care of them. If you can’t trust your people with your most important customers, you haven’t given them the necessary education and tools they need to provide great service.

#7. Your service standards were drafted while listening to an eight-track cassette. Your service might have left clients smiling years ago, but now it doesn’t impress anyone. You have to make service as innovative as products, constantly improving to create new and better value. “Out of date” is not a winning position.

#6. Someone wrote a song or created a popular website to tell others about your lousy service. Complaints are one thing. But when someone takes the time to parody service, you have more than a reputation problem; you have a service problem. You need to clean up the mess.

#5. You have bigger fish to fry than service. Companies who think great service is a perk are a dying breed. Do you disagree? What are all those youngsters at Zappos, Amazon, and the Apple genius bar doing? Taking care of the customer. Still don’t believe that service counts? Here’s a company burial epithet that will soon apply: “Lost touch with customer.”

#4. Your employees compulsively follow procedure. Take a look around. How happy are your people with the company’s book of rules? How happy are your customers with their ability to flex and bend? If your employees have no freedom to make decisions on the spot, they have no empowerment to elate your customers.

#3. Your angry customers can do business elsewhere. Really? Frustrated customers are your best opportunity to create evangelists for your company. The beautiful thing about angry customers is they will tell you exactly where you’ve gone wrong and how to improve. Take your recovery one step further and you will create a lifelong fan. Letting an angry customer leave sends the worst message to your prospects and others customers, and the best message to your competition.

#2. You think you don’t need compliments or referrals. Complacency like this deserves to go out of business. It only takes 140 characters to tweet your business up or down, and even less effort to retweet that message to thousands more avid readers.

And the #1 sign your service is inadequate: You’re looking to see if you’re on this list. Great service providers know they’re great. They focus on service. They educate their team about service. They treat service as a #1 priority for profits and growth. If you’re reading this article with any question in your mind, consider it a flashing sign instructing you to focus on surprising and delighting your customers.

Create a better service to increase brand loyalty for your company. Ron Kaufman is coming to dubai for Service Leadership Workshop on April 16th. Book with more than 5 members to get exclusive discounts

Source – [Ron Kaufman]


The Six Levels of Customer Service

405764_338908089551369_488844152_nLast month I met a client in Indonesia. We went to lunch at a nearby mall where music poured into the public area from every shop. Just as we passed one storefront, the music stopped and the shopkeeper let out a growl. I looked inside and saw something most of us have not gazed upon for years. The shopkeeper had been changing the music in his boom box and as he pulled out the old cassette, all that thin metallic tape came spilling out in a dusty mess on the floor.

Remember that? But when was the last time you saw it? Do you remember phonograph records that scratched and screeched? Or cracked CDs? Today’s music is skip-free, scratch-free, instant, mobile—and never gathers dust.

Of course, it’s easy to see how advancements in technology are constantly changing our lives. Companies that manufacture products understand they must always be introducing something new, faster, easier, or better to keep their customers engaged. If they don’t, they will be left in the dust when their customers upgrade to the next new product.

Very few companies, however, understand that service is exactly the same—it’s always changing, and your job is to stay ahead of the competition and ahead of the curve.

Here’s what I mean. To start, let’s figure out the level of your current service. Basically it fits into one of these six categories.

• Criminal service is really bad. It’s service that violates even minimum expectations, the kind of service that your customers remember never to use again, and are angry enough to call you and complain about.
• Basic service is disappointing. It’s the point of frustration that can turn into anger—but when it’s over the customer is not disappointed enough to complain. However, he will tell his friends, and will remember not to call you for that kind of service again.
• Expected service is nothing special. It’s the average, the usual, the norm. The customer might come back to you, but only if no better options exist.
• Desired service is what your customers hope for and prefer. They’ll do business with your organization again because you do things for them just the way they like it.
• Surprising service is something special, like an unexpected gift. It gives your customers more than they expected. This makes you an organization that customers enjoy and will come back to again and again.
• Unbelievable service is astonishingly fantastic. This is the level of service your customers can’t forget, the legendary treatment they will tell all their friends about.

Can you see where your service stands today? Great. Now consider this: Each level of service is just like a step in a staircase. Companies that truly understand the power of great service are continuously looking for ways to climb to the next level.

But here’s the rub: Moving up is not another step on a solid staircase; it’s like trying to climb up a down escalator. Each level is consistently sliding downward because your competitors are also working to raise their service. One day you offer surprising service, but the next day everyone in your industry is doing the same thing—oops, you just slipped down to Desired. Wait another day, and oops, you just fell to Expected. The next thing you know, you’re the cassette player of service trying to compete with the iPod. Keep your service stepping up, or find yourself lying in the dust.

How can you step up your service? Three ways. First, keep service improvement as a key focus of your business. Don’t just hit the service target; aim for one or two steps higher. Next, ask your customers what else they would like, appreciate, or value. What are you not yet doing that they would love you for if you did?

Finally, benchmark your competition and those outside your industry. What’s new in one arena soon finds its way to others.

Ron Kaufman is coming  for a day of Service leadership workshop in  Dubai. Book your tickets now -

Source – [Ron Kaufman]


Six Common Reasons Why ‘Customer Centricity’ Initiatives Fail

Over the many years of working with organisations to help them become ‘customer centered’, I have witnessed a number of successes as well as failures. By understanding why these well-intentioned initiatives fail and looking for common causes we are able to address them early in the planning process for future initiatives and thus increase the odds of success.

The six most common reasons for failure I have seen throughout my career are these:

1.    Past Success

“Nothing fails like success.” In a moderately successful organization, when things are running “well enough”, senior managers do not want to risk their careers by championing a new way of being. They realize that changing the culture of an organization is like changing its DNA and they simply don’t want to take that on.

Lou Gerstner, reflecting on his turnaround at IBM said, “Organizations don’t change because people don’t want to change,” and all too often those “people” are the ones at the top.

In the absence of enlightened leadership that sees new opportunities, a burning platform is needed to create the motivation to set out in a new direction. There has to be a compelling and widely understood reason for change without which people will give significant lip service backed up by woefully little real action as they just go through the motions phantom change.

2.    Uncommitted Leaders

I have never met a senior executive who says “Customers? Who needs them!?” Every leader knows how important it is to clearly identify customer segments, understands their needs and deliver solutions consistently and reliably.

Most leaders, however, do not demonstrate the level of commitment required. They are not the role models we need to see. Successful leaders, on the other hand, dive into the details and take full responsibility for creating an engaging environment where every individual is willing and able to fulfill the vision and mission of the organization.

3.    No Voice of the Customer

In this case the organization is not “hardwired” to its customers and prospects. Important service and product decisions are based on assumptions and 2nd or 3rd hand information. The few powerful metrics that have the greatest impact on the successful execution of the organization’s strategy are all too often either not measured or, if measured, not shared with all employees.

4.    Organizational Silos

In the increasingly complex environments in which we work today, no single job, department or function can succeed without significant levels of collaboration.

“Lateral listening,” and working closely with internal service partners are vital to making and keeping marketplace promises. This is the foundation of building a successful ‘customer-centered’ service culture and yet all too often inappropriate incentives drive us to withhold information and compete internally.

5.    Inadequate Education

Senior executives often get all pumped up and excited by the allure of being customer centered. They then announce to all employees that the game is now about making customers happy and that everyone should do a better job in this area.

The big mistake these executives make is to believe that improving customer service is simply a matter of announcing that there is a new game and after that it is merely an employee attitude and motivation issue.

What they fail to realize is that while mindset matters, great service needs great skillsets, too. The new service behaviors required for success definitely require thoughtful, targeted education. In most cases they are not innate or natural. Management can provide generous incentives or onerous threats to shape employee behavior but without proper training such actions will not move the customer delight needle one bit. In effect they are incentivizing people to do things they are not yet able to do. Proper training is required.

6.    “It’s not my job”

Executives and employees alike often believe that just because the organization has a customer satisfaction department or a marketing team that gathers customer data, “customer service” is taken care of and they don’t have to worry about it.

Successful organizations realize that delighting customers is every employee’s job. And when one embraces the concept of the internal customer, it is clear that everyone in the organization has at least one “real” customer who relies on him/her to provide a product or service that is vital to delighting an external customer somewhere down the line.

Which of these common reasons for failure might be lurking inside your organization? The first step to preempt them from derailing your efforts to become a customer centered organization is to recognize and admit that they might exist. The second step is to audit each of the six common reasons and determine the extent to which each of them might be an inhibiting factor for your organization. This might best be done in a group using a 5 point scale (0=not a problem, 5=major issue) to determine the degree each of the six will need corrective action. And, of course, the last step is to identify and take the corrective action.

Guest post by Richard Whiteley

Richard is the author of The Customer-Driven Company, Customer-Centered Growth, Love the Work You’re With and, most recently, The Corporate Shaman. He is a co-founder of The Forum Corporation and winner of the Instructional Systems Association Distinguished Service Award. Richard is a long-time consultant and advisor of UP! Your Service.