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Business Week's Customer Service Champions...

I recently read an article in Business Week about "champions" in customer service. I always enjoy these articles because they provide great insights into customer service innovators and leaders. I also think that you can pick up cool ideas from these organizations. (Click here to read a listing of Business Week’s top 50 customer service champions.)

One particular item in the list of champions caught my attention. It was about True Value Hardware (number 25 on the list). The article said, "Because half of its customers are women, this hardware retailer is remodeling many of its stores to be more female-friendly. Among the changes: moving gardening items to the front of the store and offering a wider selection of paint and bath fixtures. Average transaction size has increased by double digits in the remodeled stores." This reminded me of what Tom Peters has said over and over again - that women are the competitive advantage for businesses in the new millennium.

Tom has been speaking about this for over a decade and, unfortunately, most business leaders have largely ignored his message. Of course, there does seem to be a few exceptions - and True Value is one of them. When you look at Tom’s writings, you’ll see this message comes up a lot. Tom will often mention a note he received in 2000 from Shelley Rae Norbeck. In the note, she said, "I make 1/3rd more money than my husband does. I have as much financial 'pull' in the relationship as he does. I’d say this is also true of most of my women friends. Someone should wake up, smell the coffee and kiss our asses long enough to sell us something! We have money to spend and nobody wants it!" Tom can be particularly funny when he speaks about this often ignored marketing opportunity!

We’ve also had the opportunity to visit (and film profiles) of several other "champions" that were mentioned in the Business Week article. For example, USAA (#1 on the list), Whole Foods Market (#33 ), and Southwest Airlines (#17) are all featured in our program The Excellence Files. It is interesting because these companies have remained leaders for over a decade. Their secret? In a word, it is people. All these companies invest a great deal of time and energy hiring great people. They constantly develop, motivate and train their employees. The result? Outstanding Customer Service! If you’d like to see our profile of USAA, click here.

Posted under Customer Service, Tom Peters by Stewart on Feb 27, 2008 | Comments: 0 | Post a comment»

Do "Work" and "Love" go together?

Love Your Customers Picture

I have been thinking about love recently. And not because it’s Valentine’s Day. It’s because we hear people saying the word love more often in the context of work. In the past, if you used words like love at work people would think you were... well, crazy. I first encountered it when I interviewed Herb Kelleher from Southwest Airlines, he said, "We would rather be a company motivated by love than by fear." Love? It seemed pretty unconventional. But you can’t argue with success.

According to author and Harvard Business School professor John Kotter, of the top 50 airlines in the world, Southwest has been the most successful in both market and financial terms over the last 25 years. It is an impressive record - and one that, according to its founder, is in large part due to... love. Love permeates everything Southwest does. The company is headquartered at Love Field in Dallas. They use a heart in their logo. And they passionately put employees first. They do this because they believe that satisfied, motivated, and energetic employees will deliver outstanding customer service and productivity.

The word love is still somewhat rare in the corporate world, but we are hearing both the word "love" and other non-traditional words more and more. We encountered these non-traditional words when we spoke with Kip Tindell and Garrett Boone, the founders of The Container Store for our PBS special "Re-imagine! Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age." We also found it at the HealthWorks Kids Museum. It seems that people who are real innovators and leaders speak in ways that are non-traditional. Most recently, we found this when we went to film at the company Life is good.

Life is good is an apparel company started by two brothers, Bert and John Jacobs. Optimism is the driving force behind this company. The founders firmly believe that you can have fun while running a successful and thriving business. The brothers are motivaed by the the expression "Do what you like. Like what you do." In fact, you see this slogan on a lot of their cloting - and on banners all over the company. And it seems to reflect the sentiment of the people who work at the company, too. When we went to speak with employees we found that they passionately believe they can spread their optimistic message to customers and their vendors. If you want to see some video on Life is good, click here.

So, why are people using this new language to describe the world of work? Maybe it is because executives and managers are finally paying attention to the people side of business. The iconoclasts like Herb Kelleher have always understood that motivated and energized people can make the critical difference with customers. But other managers and executives might finally understand this important lesson as well. That is one of the reasons we were so excited with our new release "Love Your Customers." This program is hosted by John O’Hurley. You may be familiar with him from his performance in Seinfeld (as the cataloger J. Peterman) or from his appearance on "Dancing with the Stars." John uses his signature sense of humor to show that Love can really be used in customer service as well. This new release has fun with the word love, but the message is consistent. You can bring love into customer service. This is particularly relevant when the economy slows down and business gets a little more difficult. Don’t you want customers to rave about you and your company to their friends? Don’t you want them to say, "I LOVE that place!"? If they really love you and your service, then they will remain loyal when times are tough. The result? You can thrive in the good time and even do well when the economy slows down.

So, give LOVE a try...

Posted under Customer Service, Miscellaneous Thoughts, John O’Hurley, John Kotter, Tom Peters by Stewart on Feb 14, 2008 | Comments: 0 | Post a comment»

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