Road Signs For Success – September 24, 2008

By Kay Caldwell

Everywhere I spend money I look for one thing — legendary customer service. I worked in Customer Relations in Southwest Airlines for many years where good customer service is a way of life. As a result, I consider myself an expert on “outrageous” service. When it comes to customer service I’m reminded of the line from the Church’s Chicken television commercial, “I know what good is.” It makes me smile, because if you know what good is, mediocre just doesn’t do it for you anymore. Although I rarely write letters, every now and then I’ll take a moment to pen a note to a place of business to praise legendary customer service or point out unacceptable customer service.

I started experiencing poor service at a bank I have been loyal to for over 17 years. Since I know several officers there, I felt comfortable in writing them a letter detailing my complaints. I mailed the letter to an officer who I know is big on customer service and whose branch is customer friendly. In my letter to him, I outlined the specifics of some of my less than acceptable customer service experiences over the last six months. I asked him to share my letter with his team and think about taking a look at the causes of their customer service problem in their organization. This bank has been a family bank with a great reputation for over 100 years in this particular community. In the letter I indicated that in this day and time, if you do not offer good service you might as well lock your doors and go home. After a few days, the officer called me personally to apologize for what had happened. He, too, had seen some things slipping and realized that it was time to address them. He assured me he would share my letter with the other leaders. Even though I never mentioned that I work with companies needing help in moving their customer service in a different direction, I received a call about a month later from the bank’s Vice President of Human Resources. She turned out to be an old friend and had heard through mutual friends about my customer service seminars. The bank ended up hiring me to help them transform their customer service.

I believe that Customer Service is really about “infinity” in the sense that it should reflect “immeasurable greatness.” How exciting to live during a time where you can choose to create your own experience. If you choose to show greatness, you can. When people talk about remarkable individuals, you normally hear them described with words such as integrity, delicacy or tact in interactions with others, accountability, and having common sense. Let’s explore these four character traits.

Integrity is the quality of being undivided; sound or complete, confident, honest and fair. Delicacy can be a style of communication. It reflects a person who is sensitive to the feelings of others; tactful in interactions and shows keenness of timely response. Accountable — hopefully, this is how people know you. You are responsible, credible and place worth and importance when dealing with your customers. Common Sense is the ability to make sound judgments. In Latin it means “common feeling of humanity.” I think of it as treating others as you want to be treated.

Outrageous Customer Service is about a commitment to a cause which transforms a promise into a reality. Ask yourself, “Where do you and your organization stand regarding the service you offer to your customers, internal and external?” We created a culture of legendary customer service at Southwest Airlines by committing ourselves to that cause. We can help transform your organization’s customer service by applying the same principles. 

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