by Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE
When I was a new business owner I attended a management seminar, the
speaker said something that I have never forgotten. "Your business is
as good as your worst employee." What a sobering thought.
Paul Harvey said: "For a company's advertising strategy to work, it
has to be handled not only corporately but also individually." Haven't
you every walked into a hotel and felt like saying to the desk clerk
"Haven't you seen your commercials, you're supposed to be nice to me"
then walked into the restaurant and felt like deducting 15% for
putting up with the lousy service?
I was parked in the Union Square Garage in San Francisco, I asked the
young man at the counter if I could have a token to use for the ladies
room, he said "we are out", I said "that's not very good customer
service", and then staggered, cross legging to my car. A couple of
months later, same garage, different young man, I was about to give
them $16.00 of my hard earned cash, I said "could I have a token for
he ladies room please?" He said "we are out, but follow me", we walked
a few yards to the ladies room, he turned a lever and all the tokens
fell out, he gave one to me and took the rest back to the till for the
next customers. Can you imagine the first young man would not give me
good service because he would have had to walk just a few steps?
Perhaps that young man was not as lucky as I was to be brought up in
an entrepreneurial environment, that means his manager or supervisor
should let him know exactly what is expected.
I was in New York with my brother. We left a movie at 9:45 p.m. and
although we thought we should be sensible and go back to the hotel, we
were having such a good time that we thought we would squeeze in one
A Claude Van Damme film had started 10 minutes before two blocks down
the street. This was a high action film and it did not matter if we
missed the first couple of minutes. As we were racing down the street,
my brother was explaining the story line to me, we got to the counter
of the cinema exactly fifteen minutes after the film had started. We
said "we know we are late, but we want to go in, two tickets please."
The cashier said "we are out, you can't come in, I've closed the
till." I said "well put the money in the till tomorrow", "no" she
said, "once I've closed the till we can't open it." I am a firm
believer that if you don't like the first answer you get talk to
somebody else, I went to the gentlemen who was actually taking the
tickets. We said "Look we really want to see this film, we realize we
are late, put the money in the till tomorrow, let us in free or keep
the money yourselves." This was too much of a decision, he called the
manager, we went through the choices, she said "no, once you miss the
beginning of the last show, we don't let you in."
As we were walking away I turned around and said "I can tell none of
you own this business, because the number one key point in business is
that if people want to give you money, you take it." Owning the
business does not mean your name is on the door. It is an attitude
that everyone has to have to compete in challenging times. Who is
training all your employees? What is expected of them?
I was delivering some customer service seminars for telephone
operators or a large company. Their manager said "Patricia, we want
our employees to understand about good customer service, but they
don't shop in Nordstrom, they don't stay in fancy hotels, how do we
get the point across? I said "I promise you as they are all consumers
themselves they know exactly what good customer service is."
When I presented my seminar I told them some of my funny, good and bad
customer service stories. I then asked them to share some of their
experiences. I heard some fabulous and frightening tales. One women
explained that she had bought a leotard to go under her child's
halloween costume. When she got it home she found that it was a size
too small, she hadn't opened the package. She returned it to the store
the next day. The young man at the counter said, "what do you mean, you
don't even know what size your own kid is?" Then she made another
purchase, wrote a check and made the mistake of putting the next days
date on it. He threw the pen across the counter and said "will you
initial that?" in a condescending tone of voice. She went up to the
customer service department and told them the story and do you know
what they said? "That must have been Anthony." If they understood
about Anthony's behavior, why was he still waiting on customers? Why
isn't he in the shipping department until someone has time to train
him on customer service?
What we need to do is make sure everybody in our organization, large
or small know that they are part of the sales department, the service
department and the PR campaign, everybody makes a difference.
Successful author and "integrity sales trainer" Ron Willingham was
talking to the CEO and high level managers of a car company, the CEO
was saying how much we believe in customer service, we have to train
our people in good customer service. A gentlemen in the back put his
hand up and said "If we truly believed in good customer service, why
do we consistently ship cars to dealers who have very bad customer
service records?" As Ron said to me over dinner "It's not what
management says, that sets a corporate culture, it's what they let
In the early days of Crown Zellerbach Paper Company's business in the
northwest, a company truck driver was moving his load along a narrow,
twisting road. A man driving a big, impressive car slowed him up, and
it took the truck driver about twenty minutes to pass the man. When he
did, he rolled down his window and shouted, "You $*$@!#*!; you want to
take up the whole road!"...with the Zellerbach name all over the
truck! It just so happened that the man in the car was Zellerbach's
largest purchaser in the entire state, and he saw that the truck
belonged to Crown Zellerbach. He immediately contacted his purchasing
agent and said, "Cancel all orders we have with Zellerbach and never,
ever do business with them again."
At the time, the paper company was being managed by its founder, Mr.
Isadore Zellerbach, who attempted to contact his ex-client by phone
for two months in order to find out why the account had been
He had no luck. He flew up to the northwest in person. He said to his
customer, "We give you good service, prompt deliveries and great
prices. Why won't you do business with us anymore?"
The man told Mr. Zellerbach about the truck driver. At that moment,
Zellerbach realized that he had overlooked the most important aspect
of his business: everyone in his company represented Crown Zellerbach
to the outside world.
Sometimes it's difficult for us to realize that we do represent our
company every day. But a single negative contact can ruin a company's
reputation in the eyes of a customer. You do make a difference every
day in your company's ultimate success.
Sometimes we have good employees that management could take a lesson
from. Several years ago at the National Speakers Association Winter
Workshop in a hotel in Nashville the board of directors met and
afterwards six of us had adjourned to the coffee shop to continue our
deliberations. We weren't trying to be awkward, but nobody wanted
anything exactly as it was presented on the menu, no one wanted the
same as anyone else and as speakers we talked the entire time the
waitress was taking the order, she was so nice and so patient that at
the end of the meal I said "My dear, this is going to be worth your
while, these guys are big tippers." She said something that I have
never forgotten, she said "I'm not being nice for a tip, I don't care
if you don't give me a tip, I just feel that if we give you good
service, if your group comes back here another year, you'll bring your
business back to our hotel and not the competition."
Frankly, I was impressed, here was a waitress talking about our hotel.
When I got back to my office I asked my assistant to send a letter to
the manager. "Dear Sir, I am a motivational speaker and I travel
nationwide talking about good and bad service, may I congratulate on
all of your staff, especially this waitress and I related the tale. I
said "Sir, I don't know what you do to motivate your people, but keep
doing it, it works." I never received a reply, I think the manager and
the waitress should change places for a couple of weeks, she knows
more about PR than he does.
If you have a glossy brochure, explaining your services make sure
everybody reads it, print in how ever many languages it takes. If you
have a mission statement of philosophy, have it posted everywhere. Be
creative on how you explain what's expected.
Got off an airplane in Columbus, Ohio and a gentleman that had been
sitting next to me introduced me to the young man who was meeting him.
He said "John worked in Disney World for three years." I said "How old
He said "Eighteen to twenty-one." I said "Where did you work?" He said
"Lost and Found", I said "Is it true that when you first go to work in
Disney World or Disneyland, they send you through a week's training
program telling you about the philosophy and that you have to be nice
to people and what your job is?"
"Yes," he said. I said "After that first weeks training, in the three
years he worked there how often did you hear the philosophy on how you
had to treat people?"
He said "Every day". I said "Oh, come on, you're kidding." "No" he
said, it took different forms, it took different words, but he heard
it everyday. It is tough getting good help. Yes, it is, but let's be
inspired by people who want to be the best.
I was staying at the Cheyenne Mountain Conference Center and was very
impressed by all the employees. As it was one of these facilities
where your room could in fact be a long way from the lodge, bell
people stopped me to make sure I wasn't lost and to see if I needed
directions. The waiters in the restaurants were exceptionally friendly
and outgoing. I was getting ready to speak at a banquet and one of the
waiters had gone out of his way to initiate help and I commented to
him how impressed I was with all the staff. He said "I have worked in
six different hotels, and without a doubt the help is better in this
one than any other place I have worked." I said "What's the secret?"
He said "The management here treats us so much as professionals that
it is so much easier for us to do our jobs."
Dr. Ko Nishimura, President and co-CEO of Solectron, Corporation won
the Malcolm Baldrige award, 74% of his employees have English as a
second language, in one department they speak 22 different languages.
He said "They didn't necessarily try and win the award, they just used
the techniques or the criteria to strive for continuous improvement."
Naisbitt says "Tomorrow's manager must learn to supervise a work force
that is older and has more minorities and women." Even old-line CEO'S
are taking a new approach to management. General Electric Chairman
John Welch, Jr., advocates a kinder, gentler style that does not
suppress ideas or intimidate employees. In GE's annual report, Welch
promises a management technique neither autocratic nor tyrannical. He
encourages communication outside traditional channels and says
"Factory workers should be included in workplace decisions."
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Getting a "Wow!" from a customer is not only motivating for you but brings them back to buy. Read how to can get customers saying "Wow!".
Winning Customer Experiences
What makes a winning customer
experience? What makes customers come back to your business instead of going to someone else's? If your repeat business is low, what is it that you are doing to drive your customers away?
What Ever Happened to Personalized Service?
If you've ever written to a company that over-uses automation or form letters, you'll understand the feeling of teeth-gritting *frustration* with canned responses that don't even begin to answer