Conscious Leadership

Getting or Giving?

Written by Charlie Efford

Can I ask you to pause and think honestly about what drives your organisation? Are you in business to make as much as you can or are you more concerned about what service you can give to others? Before you answer that question, let me give you two examples to illustrate what I mean.

I recently flew on a no frills, low cost airline from the UK to Italy. The carrier offered the cheapest flight and the times were convenient. It seemed a no-brainer to fly with them. The online booking process was simple until I got to the checkout. Then I had to navigate through an endless series of screens trying to sell me car hire, hotels, special luggage and god knows what else before I could leave the site. I was relieved when I managed not to buy something. The flight itself was on time, efficient and utterly soulless. My contract with the airline had been completely fulfilled but I hadn’t enjoyed the experience one little bit. I felt like a commodity (not a human being) whose sole purpose was to provide the airline with income. I felt they were only really interested in what they could get from me.

Contrast this experience with the service provided by a local car valeting company. The booking process was equally straightforward but there were no special offers and no attempts to sell me anything I didn’t want. He arrived on time and seemed interested to know about me and what I did for a living. He also told me what he could do and a bit about his business. He was professional and took a genuine pride in his work. More importantly, he cared that I would be happy with what he had done. The icing on the cake came when I asked if could do anything for the odour in a used car I had just bought. He offered to fumigate it and refused my attempts to pay him for the extra service. When he had finished, I was delighted with his work and took a handful of his business cards to give to my friends. Because he was focused on giving me a good service (which he did) I was really happy to help him grow his business.

The value of good customer service has been around for a long time, so what’s my point you may ask? My point is that the real difference between these two examples lies not in the customer service behaviours but in the underlying beliefs behind the two businesses.

The airline seemed to believe that good customer service was a way of getting more from me. The car valeting company believed that good customer service was an end in itself – that ensuring I was happy would bring its own rewards. The airline parted me with my money reluctantly. I was happy to pay extra to the car valeting company.

To build these values into your business takes more than sending people on a customer service course or managing them against a customer service competency. It really needs a commitment from the top that the business is there primarily to give not get.

How would you answer the question I posed now?

About the author

Charlie Efford


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