Any post which starts with a lesson from one of my favorite films is sure to be full of thoughtful insights. Any post by Chip Bell pretty much meets the Excellent Customer Service Thinking standard, whether he mentions a favorite film or not.
Chip’s latest book is Kaleidoscope – click the image to the left to learn more.
Chip is one of my most trusted sources of solid and engaging leadership thinking … enjoy the following slice, which provides my claim nicely:
Lawrence of Arabia won the academy award in 1962 for best picture. Given the current conflicts in the Middle East, I recently watched the four-hour movie to learn more about the cultural history of the area. Lieutenant T.E. Lawrence (played by best actor winner Peter O’Toole) was a British intelligence officer assigned to investigate the revolt of the Arabs against the Turks during World War I. He embraced the culture and dress of the Arabs and organized a guerrilla army that for two years raided the Turks with surprise attacks.
In the early part of the movie, a poor Bedouin guide is hired to escort Lawrence across the desert to meet with Prince Faisal (played by Alec Guinness), the leader of the Arab revolt. (Faisal would ultimately become King of Syria and King of Iraq pushing for unity between the Sunni and Shiite Muslims). It was customary then for desert guides to be paid at the end of their assignment. Instead, at the beginning of their journey, Lawrence gave his military pistol to the guide—a gift of great value and pleasure for any Bedouin.
What followed was a powerful example of “serving it forward.” The guide instantly gave Lawrence some of his food, provisions better suited to desert survival than the military rations Lawrence carried. The guide then assumed a mentoring role revealing valuable desert survival secrets. The timing of Lawrence’s unorthodox gift completely changed the dynamic of the relationship, with the Bedouin transforming him from “compliant servant” into “resourceful partner.”
Customer service is a reciprocal act. Customers exchange money, time and effort for goods and services. There are unwritten norms about how this mutual undertaking is performed. Customers are expected to communicate their needs; service providers are expected to indicate whether they can meet those needs. There are generally stated or implied expectations around speed, quality, cost, and so forth. Both parties assume a modicum of respect; both assume the exchange will employ a measure of fair play.
Rosa’s Fresh Pizza in Philadelphia started getting a lot of publicity after their decision to sell single slices of pizza for a dollar. But it didn’t have to do with the price of the slice; it was about a customer-suggested idea for how to fund pizza for the homeless. It works like this: when customers buy pizza for themselves they put a dollar in a container, write a message on a Post-it note and stick it on the wall. Any homeless person can come into the store, take a Post-it note off the wall and get a slice of pizza. Rosa’s has given away thousands of slices.
The principle of abundance is about giving more than is expected. It is a proactive attitude of engulfing a relationship with emotional plenty without concern for reciprocity. An attitude of abundance is more the belief that if we employ a giver mentality, the customer will take care of the bottom line. It is leading with an orientation of selflessness—of focusing on the customer first, not on the bottom line. “Generosity,” wrote Khalil Gibran in The Prophet, “is not giving me that which I need more than you do, but it is giving me that which you need more than I do.”
Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several national best-selling books. His newest book is the just-released Kaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles. He can be reached at chipbell.com.