Serving Well Is A Covenant …


“To kalidescope-by-chip-bell-02-2017serve well is to enter into a covenant with a customer that guarantees worth will be exchanged for worth and in a way that keeps central the customer’s best interests.” (pg. 35)

So says Chip Bell and I could not agree more.  In his latest book, Kaleidoscope:  Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles, Bell uses the analogy of a child’s toy, a kaleidoscope, to illustrate some solid principles of effective customer service.  As in his earlier books, Chip’s words and phrases are pithy and colorful, with many easily memorable statements that just beg to be quoted and digested by those of us who care about such things.

I see several valuable points in that sentence at the head of this post, each of which guides us beyond the common and tired sayings about customer service, while helping us aspire to a much higher level of involvement:

SERVING INVOLVES COVENANT …

I have only worked in one organization where this word was regularly invoked to describe our relationship with each other and with those we served.  That non-profit provided help and comfort to the aged, families, and people in need.

To me, covenant indicates more than a promise, more than a guarantee … Covenant is a sacred duty to honor commitments and to treat others in an honorable way as you offer services and goods to them.

Covenant is also a relatively equalized relationship between you and another

WORTH EXCHANGES FOR WORTH …

Since we are talking about a relationship here, it makes perfect sense that we consider the values involves.  Most businesses run on a transactional model:  You give me something and I give you something in return.  Nothing wrong with this, as long as each person receives what they expected to receive.

Worth is another word that pushes us toward a higher level of engagement.  Worth goes beyond the mundane or trivial.  Worth means something of real value.   I offer my dollar bill and you give me an ice cream cone … we have completed a transaction.   I give you my dollar bill, and without being asked, you add sprinkles (yes, a nod to another Bell book), a genuine smile, and a cheery “Have a great day!“, and now we are talking worth.

THE CUSTOMER’S BEST INTERESTS ARE PRIMARY …

Not “The customer is always right” because they are not, and not that the customer can ask for or do anything, but here we have a clear reminder that we are in our business to serve the customer’s best interests.

As a realtor, I sometimes serve customers who have a well-designed list of needs and wants, price range, and vision for their ideal house … then  they fell in love with a fire pit (not on the original list) and all else goes away.  Their best interests are served by helping them move beyond the emotion of the moment to reconsider all the other things they said they had to have in the house they buy and to look at their decision from the financial perspective as well.  

Adding perspective to their decision may mean losing a higher commission, but I am serving my customer’s best interests.

Look at what I gained from reading just one page of one chapter in Kaleidoscope, and you might well think “Wow, if he can do that, I could gain so many more valuable insights from reading the whole thing” … and you would be absolutely right.  

Enjoying another great book from one of my favorite authors in the Heartland ….

John

chip-bell

Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several best-selling books.  Global Gurus ranked him both in 2014 and 2015 as the #1 keynote speaker in the world on customer service.  He has appeared live on CNN, CNBC, ABC, Fox Business Network, Bloomberg TV, and NPR; and his work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Forbes, USA Today, Fast Company, Money Magazine, Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Businessweek.

Images reposted with permission

Caveat:  I received a copy of this book for review prior to publication.  I now have a great stocking stuffer for family and colleagues this Christmas.

Guest Post: Serving It Forward by Chip Bell


Kalidescope by Chip Bell 02 2017.jpgAny 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 Bell.jpg

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.

 

 

Asking “Why?” …


Snow FLowerChip Bell regularly stimulates my leadership and management thinking … as he did recently with an amusing, but thought-provoking post over at the Lead Change Group, cleverly titled “Don’t Be A Leader of Stupid Rules, which ranks as one of my favorite blog post titles of 2016 so far.  

Chip’s post addresses the all too familiar tendency in the workplace to have rules and processes which everyone follows, but few know why.

Here’s my response to Chip’s post, with a little editing for clarity and expanded reflection:

 

I was once responsible for helping employees install a standardized organizational system for both paper and electronic workflow in an organization.  As part of that, I would spend much time working with individual employees as they literally took their workspace apart, organized all items into standardized categories and reorganized how they stored data and materials.

Analyzing work processes was a big part of this changeover.   One time,  an employee struggled with what to label a work step in which she received forms from another employee and in turn, gave them to a third employee, without doing anything to the forms, such as verifying or sorting.  After much discussion, we were unable to determine why she needed to do this step, other than that familiar “I was told this was part of my job and I’ve always done it this way” statement.

Similarly to Chip’s story about Catherine The Great and the flower , I finally learned from a long-time employee that decades earlier, two women who did not like each other each had responsibility for a step in this work process.  Since they could not get along, their manager chose to assign a third employee to receive and pass on the documents.

Over the years, just like the soldiers guarding the empty spot, generations of employees were taught to follow this  “system” without any awareness of why that step existed.

Two lessons here for me: 

1)  MANAGERS CREATE PROBLEMS WHEN THEY ARE RELUCTANT TO ADDRESS PROBLEM …

This is first and foremost a failure of management.  The original manager had the authority and the opportunity to directly address the issue.

Had that original manager addressed the workplace impact of  both employee’s behavior with them, and either directed or coached the employees to work together without affecting workflow, this story would not be mine to tell to illustrate poor management practice.

2) EMPLOYEES OFTEN FOLLOW DIRECTIONS WITHOUT QUESTIONING WHY THEY SHOULD DO SO …

Sometimes leaders overestimate their impact and sometimes they underestimate it.  Many employees, especially those new to a process, a workgroup, or an organization, will simply accept whatever they perceive as “the way we do it”.   In order to fit in, they then attempt to master doing whatever it is that the system requires them to do, with little reflection on why they are doing it

Fortunately, this is changing in the modern workplace, due to the efforts of a few thoughtful and forward-thinking souls.  A valuable employee is now more often seen as the one who will say “Wait … why are we doing this?” and expect a reasonable answer.   They will comply when to do so makes sense, but will question when motivations and reasons are not clear. 

Ira Chaleff is one of the most valuable and articulate voices driving this welcome workplace and societal trend.  For a great deal more about “FOLLOWERSHIP, click the link to read my previous post on this topic. 

Related Observation:  A GOOD MANAGER KNOWS WHEN TO ASK “WHY”  …

As an operations officer (think Chief Training Officer) in the US Army Reserve, I learned quickly that simply walking up to a tank idling in the wilderness and asking the crew “What are you doing?” as innocently as possible was a good thing.

Listening to the responses to this simple query would provide me with a wealth of insight into their morale, how the training was going, and whether they understood their roles and responsibilities within the context of our mission.

Pretty good return for a simple question …

Chip’s post is a good reminder of how we need to continually analyze what we are doing, why we are doing it, and whether we should stop or change doing it:)

Trying to remember to follow my own advice in the Heartland ….

John


“Leaders without rank busy themselves with the business of mission and course, not might and conceit.”  (Chip Bell) 

Chip Bell

“When Leaders Cry” by Chip Bell is a thoughtful and clear description of authentic leadership, where trust is established by actions and empty symbols of power do not hold sway.

If you believe that leaders should be highly visible and clearly “marked“, you might just want to read this very useful little essay on what true leadership looks and sounds like.  If you wonder how to truly earn the respect of those you serve, you will find some direction here.

It strikes me that the message here is simply that real leaders are real human beings.

Enjoying yet another powerful post from the folks at Lead Change Group …

John