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Random observations from a week’s worth of traveling across America:

Most business organizations profess a commitment to understanding and delivering first class service to their customers.  This implies a level of service is more than just being polite, helpful or customer-centric.  

Most companies that make these claims are guilty of misleading statements. First-class customer service is indeed rare.

Exceptional service on the sales floor, in the first-class cabin on a long fight, from your bank, or the most sophisticated medical center, can be undone  — the brand damaged — by the small details that go unnoticed or executed without care.  These seemingly insignificant miscues include: 

  • A dirty, smelly public bathroom near the dining room of a state-of-the art hospital
  • A financial decision not to serve first class passengers a meal because the flight time is 10 minutes under the airline’s three-hour threshold for meal service
  • An airline squeezes the leg room in first class so they cram in another row of seats in coach; there is more leg room in an exit row in coach class
  • The broken desk chair in a famous New York luxury hotel room that is reported to the management three times but never repaired
  • The very profitable “money-center” bank which accepts your deposit from a tripple “A” rated insurance company drawn on a larger money center bank but does not give you access to your funds for up to 15 days even though the transaction will electronically clear at midnight on the date of deposit

Great service is more than doing the obvious things right.  It is simply not a catchy advertising slogan or an employee customer experience improvement campaign.  It is about getting the small, seemingly insignificant details of what we do, perfectly.  It is about the thousand moments of truth that happen every day and every time –  at the end of the day, when shifts are changing, when workers are tired, when airline executives make a calculated financial decision not to serve meals because they can get away with it with a captive travelers with few choices, or when management is just not paying attention.

Great companies deliver exceptional service because it runs deep in their DNA, a passion to do the right thing for their customers, not just when it is convenient or they feel like it. 

Sadly, truly great customer service is rare today because it is not in the DNA of most organizations  When that is the case, we can only look to the CEO.  Most things DNA within a company, most especially customer service, originates in the heart and the mind of the person at the top, not some expensive pre-packaged consulting product.

© 2011 John Gregory Self

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