Entries Tagged as 'Recommended Resources'

Guest Post – Leading Innovative Service, by Chip Bell

Customer service and business expert Chip Bell has long been an influence on my work. His many books and articles reflect a true understanding of what makes businesses and their customers tick. And I’m fortunate that we have become friends. I’m thrilled that he has a new book coming out February 14 – Kaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service that Sparkles. I’ve had a chance to read a sample, and can’t wait until the full book arrives (I’ve pre-ordered it at Amazon – http://amzn.to/2iY81Tw.) My favorite line in the book so far is, “Good is the key to customer retention, but unique is the secret to customer advocacy.

While waiting for the book be available on February 14, Chip offered to write a guest post for my blog. I think you’ll enjoy it and find it to be valuable.

Leading Innovative ServiceScreen Shot 2017-01-21 at 4.19.51 PM

By Chip R. Bell

Value-added has been the service solution for many service exemplars–take what the customer expects and add a little more. Nordstrom sales clerk escorts you to another department far from their own. Southwest Airlines gives you free peanuts with slapstick humor. Airlines upgrade frequent flyers; hotels put loyal guests on the fancy-floor concierge level. And Rosie’s Diner refills your ice tea glass without you being charged.

But value added extras have gotten a lot more expensive. That free snack on a flight is now eight dollars and service charges are standard fare on most bills.   Pursuing the extras can also send a very mixed message. What do employees think when told to “wow” customers in the morning and informed of staff cutbacks and expense reductions in the afternoon? Challenging financial times call for a new approach: value-unique service.Value-unique is different than value-added. Ask customers what would be value-added and they focus on taking the expected to a higher-level…meaning “they gave me more than I anticipated.” But, value-unique is not about addition, it’s about an imaginative creation. When service people are asked to give more, they think to themselves, “I am already doing the best I can.” But, if asked to pleasantly surprise more customers, they feel less like worker bees and more like fireflies. And, when employees get to create, not just perform, they feel prized.

But, how do leaders foster customer service that takes customers breath away? What is it that leads employees to think “value-unique,” not just the familiar, too-expensive “value added?”

Project Realness

Innovative service leaders know they get from employees the attitude they project. Employees do not watch the leader’s mouth; they watch the leader’s moves. As all leaders move in the floodlight of employee observation, their actions can telegraph either optimism or gloom; excitement or despair. Great leaders know that an animated attitude is contagious.   When we are around happy, upbeat people, it is much easier for us to join in the spirit––especially if the invitation to join is coming from someone who clearly prefers we enroll. An unbridled spirit has a magnetic power on both customers and employees.

Protect Customers

Tasks are important; rules are essential. But, revenue comes from customers. Innovative service leaders encourage and empower employees to put customers first; not procedures. This is not about deliberately violating a safety decree or putting the organization at risk. Archie’s manager Osman Shaw is quick to say: “Archie loves customers. We get more letters about him than anyone else. So, we encourage Archie to ‘do Archie.’ I wish I had a dozen more like him.”

Provide Trust

Innovative service happens when there is an atmosphere of trust–where people are considerate and supportive. If people are given license to criticize colleagues behind their back, the setting turns to one of suspicion. If manipulative or unfair behavior is tolerated, the climate turns to one of protection. It requires leaders disciplined enough to model thoughtfulness and hold others accountable for the same.

Preserve Integrity

Innovative service leaders are grounded and laced in complete, total, wall-to-wall, no-exceptions integrity. They stand on integrity; they are constructed of integrity, they reek of integrity. Such leaders do not do half-assed integrity–as Tom Peters says, “There is no such thing as a minor lapse of integrity.” They show their nobility when they courageously tell the truth, relentlessly do what they say they will do, and gallantly turn their backs on all shady actions. They know they send signals through their character—a word rooted in the concept of engraved.

Challenging times require a departure from “the way we’ve always done things.” Customer expectations are not waning. Expectations are increasing as economically challenged customers demand increased value for their diminishing funds. As organizations scramble to shore up value, the time is ripe for service with inventiveness, not just service with generosity. It calls for leaders who ensure the ingredients they add to their leadership recipe are those that advance service innovation.


Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several best-selling books. His newest book is Kaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles. He can be reached at chipbell.com.




When an Employee Just Isn’t Cutting It

badappleOne of the most challenging situations that faces any leader is having to deal with a wrong fit employee. Leaders should, of course, give the employee a chance to improve through coaching, additional training, etc. But when those remedies don’t work, we have to let the wrong fit employee go. I find that too many leaders avoid the situation far too long, causing frustration for customers and for other employees.

Delay tactics are often justified with statements like, “Opinions about performance issues are sometimes too subjective to take such drastic action.” Management guru Mark Sanborn addresses the issue in a blog post titled, “7 Clues You’ve Got the Wrong Person on Your Team.” I especially like clue #1. While a certain amount of subjectivity might still be involved in such difficult people decisions, Mark’s list sure helps clarify the situation.

Be Good FOR Your Customer

Have you ever come across a statement or a question that absolutely spun your head around, making you look at things in a brand new way?

It happened to me yesterday. I was reading a blog post by outstanding customer service speaker and writer, Shep Hyken, in which he wrote:

“Don’t just be good TO the customer. Be good FOR the customer.”

My mind was reeling as I thought of the importance of that statement. Being good TO the customer is certainly important, and implies the application of sound customer service principles. Being good FOR the customer, however, takes the interaction way, way up the value chain. Being good FOR the customer takes thought and it requires treating the customer as an individual.

Here’s the link to Shep’s post – check it out: “Be good for your customer.”

Something to think about: Put a sign next to your phone, in your briefcase, in your office or cubicle, next to the cash register, etc. asking, “How can I be good FOR this customer?”

How to Provide Excellent Customer Service – 4 Tips For Employers to Improve Customer Service

I came across the following blog post today. It offers good reminders to leaders who want to improve the level of customer service in their organizations.

1. Commit to High Standards and Communicate Them to Employees

2. Maintain Proper Employee Attitude

3. Keep Your Level of Customer Service Consistent

4. Use Teamwork to Implement Your Customer Service Policy

Check out the article at: How to Provide Excellent Customer Service – 4 Tips For Employers to Improve Customer Service.

What Goes Around Comes Around in Employee Relations

My guest blogger today is Don Tanner of Tanner Friedman, a strategic communications firm. Be sure to visit their site, and especially click on the OUR TURN tab to check out some terrific ideas in each of the three categories, Blog, Perspectives, and News.

Don’s article below is a perfect compliment to my recent post, The Frontline Equals the Bottom Line. I love Don’s line about how leaders sometimes “fire poison tipped arrows directly at their own people.” Sad but true.

I hope you enjoy this thought-provoking article!

What Goes Around Comes Around in Employee Relations – by Don Tanner

How do you treat your employees? Do you guide and mentor and set them up for success, or, do you badger and belittle and set them up for failure?

I am continually amazed by stories I hear. How about the boss that does not provide a roadmap for future growth (”Keep on doing what you’re doing”) and then chides the employee when certain un-communicated milestones are not met in their mind. Or, the superior that gives “all or nothing” ultimatums rather than guiding and encouraging the colleague towards success in reaching particular goals.

Such individuals-in-charge seem to operate out of fear and ego. Don’t they realize that they are stifling and paralyzing their greatest resource for sustained and future success – their employees? Sadly, no. And when times get tough, rather than rallying the troops and circling the wagons, they fire poison tipped arrows directly at their own people.

The biggest barrier to change for such individuals, in my experience, is their past successes. “My way works so why not keep doing it” seems to be their motto. What they don’t realize (and find out in time) is that treating people badly always comes back to haunt you. It may take 5 years, it may take 20 years but your reputation (cemented by all of the former employees you treated poorly) will soon precede you and the death knell for your company becomes only a matter of time.

As the 80’s “hair band” Ratt so famously sang: “‘Round and ‘Round.”