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You have seen these things called mission statements or vision statements. The companies tell you how good they are at customer service, how wonderful they are to their clients. Then they go on to tell you that they believe in their employees and they serve the community and they do no wrong.

The inherent problem is that none of us can go two to three days without having poor service. So what’s going on here?

As I mentioned in my past books, everyone is just giving us “lip service.” Don’t tell me you are so committed to all this wonderful customer service and then let me go away as a unsatisfied consumer. Mission statements don’t work – it is the employees that work, or in many cases, do not work.

Let’s first look at only three things that are necessary for customer service to work:

• Customer service is not what you think, but what the customer thinks. This is so simple and powerful.

Just ask the customer what they want, and not what you want to do for them. For example, if you go to a restaurant and the service or food is poor, and then the waiter stops by and says, “How is everything?” and you tell them “not so good.” They might suggest a free drink. Maybe, I don’t want a free drink, since I am in AA and have been sober for 12 years.

• Customer service is doing more for the customer than the customer expects.

If you want loyal customers, simply exceed their expectations. Imagine you took your car to the dealership for service. Upon picking up the vehicle, they washed it for you and even vacuumed the interior, and maybe put a little Armor All on the dashboard to brighten it up a little. Wouldn’t it be so nice if companies just did a little extra to show us that they really want our business.

• Remember the motto: “The customer is always right.”

Well, the customer is never right. They are mostly wrong. But they are in charge. If you say no to a customer, just say goodbye to their business now and probably forever.

Customers do not want to be told no, they just want to be taken care of from someone who cares and will also provide a competitive price.

I have seen very few mission statements that mean something and are part of the way the company does business. We now call it, “corporate culture.” The two businesses I will showcase are the exceptions to the rule and they do make a difference to how we are treated as customers.

• Ritz Carlton Hotels: Bottom line, its mission statement is “we are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” They truly empower their employees by letting them spend whatever it takes to make a guest happy. In many cases, front line staff can spend up to $2,000 and managers are allowed up to $5,000 to ensure true customer satisfaction.

• Cheryl & Company, Gourmet Foods and Gifts: This high-end cookie and gift company makes probably the best tasting cookies that I have ever had, and their mission statement is spot on. “Our mission is to be the best gourmet food and gift company ever.” Isn’t this simple enough to follow? Keep it real, keep it simple and keep it so the employees can actually become the mission statement.

That’s why one of the mottoes that Ritz Carlton uses is so brilliant: “Any employee who receives a customer complaint owns the complaint.”

My advice is to throw out the mission statement and just train your employees to do what is right for the customer.


Hal Becker is a nationally known speaker on sales and customer service. He is the author of numerous business books including two national best sellers, “Can I Have 5 Minutes Of Your Time?” and “Lip Service.” Hal’s newest book on sales is titled “Ultimate Sales Book.” He can be reached at Halbecker.com.

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