The Advantage Letter by Dave Martin
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Monday, February 15, 2010
Volume 15 | # 354
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You can't build a reputation on what you're going to do. » Henry Ford

Art and Science

A couple of nights ago, while DVR-speed-forwarding through one of the business programs I record, my eye was caught by an interview with the founder of a small pizza restaurant chain. His restaurants have been increasing sales in a very tough environment.

I was especially interested in hearing him out because I knew a small operation like his couldn’t be competing on price alone.

One of his comments that stuck with me was his belief in the “art and science” of customer service. It struck a nerve because over the years, I’ve frequently told groups that customer service and sales skills are a mix of art and science.

This owner shared that they identified a few key factors that every customer visit and encounter should include. He said that the science in his model is consistently executing on things that research has identified as customer satisfaction drivers. Folks are welcomed, addressed, and thanked in a consistent manner.

Their restaurant has strict guidelines for what the tables, floors, and restrooms will look like, etc. They have their own set of “non-negotiable” practices, if you will.

The “art” he asks of employees is in putting their own personalities into what they do. These are usually personal touches that surprise and delight customers. As importantly, it gives employees a greater sense of control and purpose in their jobs.

Importantly, this proprietor realizes that if they don’t get (what he calls) the “science” right, the art accomplishes little. Does it matter how much a waiter smiles at you if your drink glass stays empty? How impressed will you be with the cleanliness of a restaurant if your order takes forever to reach you or is wrong when it gets there?

Personal touches are only truly impressive when they accompany consistently high service levels and environments.

I smiled when the proprietor explained how simple he tried to keep his instructions to employees. He joked that his list wasn’t all that impressive.

On the contrary, I’d suggest that identifying, simplifying, communicating, and reinforcing critical behaviors for your staff is indeed an impressive feat. And by doing this, you also help assure that the personal touches team members bring to their jobs are noticed all the more by customers.

No, great customer service isn’t necessarily rocket science. It’s more of an art and science.

Take Me to Court

I was summoned to be a juror in our city’s municipal court this week. After initially thinking of ways to duck it, I figured that one afternoon wasn’t too much to ask to keep the wheels of justice turning.

After 5 hours, I was seated on a jury. We drew a speeding case. No, seriously. The dude asked for a jury trial for a speeding ticket. We found him guilty.

He’s lucky we didn’t have the option of executing him. (Hey, this is Texas.)

All in all, it was a pretty interesting civics lesson. The funniest part was when the judge read us the obligatory reasons why we may be excused from duty. When he literally asked if any of us were insane, I fought as hard as I could not to make a joke. (Rule #1: Don’t mess with a Texas judge.)

Something that had me smiling in amazement was when he explained that we would receive a $6 check in the mail for our service. That wasn’t the funny part to me. What was funny was when he pleaded with us to cash the checks.

He told us, “We know that none of you actually go to the bank anymore. So, these little checks have a tendency to get lost.” He went on to explain how much more work it was for the court to follow-up on un-cashed checks.

I sat there marveling that even judges’ instructions these days acknowledge dwindling bank branch visits.

But two things impressed me most. One was the speech the judge gave us about the importance of our jury system. I’m guessing he’d given it hundreds of times before. He was good at it.

By the time he referenced our forefathers, immigrants dreaming of our freedoms, the young men and women serving in the military around the world, etc., I was ready to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

The other thing that impressed me was that we were thanked numerous times during the day by the judge, DA, and bailiff for our time, patience, and service. Every time we began feeling a bit worn-out, their gestures perked us up and kept us engaged.

Everyone there had somewhere else they would have rather been. And the money wasn’t exactly motivating us.

But I was reminded how something as simple as someone acknowledging that your job is important and that your efforts are appreciated can spur individuals and teams on.

Would your own team fit that description this week? Or is the jury still out on that one?

Things alter for the worse spontaneously, if they be not altered for the better designedly." » Francis Bacon

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of any affiliated entities or sponsors.
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