Every business is a service business.

We apply the tools that make service businesses stronger through better strategy, innovation, marketing and day-to-day management.

Thank you for joining the conversation.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


A partial list of Twitter friends, acquaintances and personalities I’m grateful for having had the benefit of 2010. Each enriched my experience in social media, business, marketing, leadership, and life to an extent I can only hope to ever reciprocate. I’ve listed them by their Twitter handles, but they also have blogs, businesses, speak, write and are generally present in the business and social media communities. The commentary is a rough copy of what I tweeted about them under the #100PeopleImGratefulFor hashtag.

  • @ZapposD_Rob: for evangelizing a worthy culture in a way that can be applicable to every culture.

  • @PricingRight: For having the service orientation, but also demanding the data.

  • @WPCCSL, @AliciaHatCSL: For hosting the Compete through Service Symposium and advancing the Science of Service. #ctss

  • @zappos & @bonobos: For leading your peers in joining the dialogue about your brand.

  • @mannysdeli: For the best damned sandwich I’ve ever had. (I’m a sandwich guy)

  • @tompeters: classic, but willing to evolve to the world we face today and the one we’ll face in 10, 20, 100? years.

  • @chriszane: For the living & proving the business philosophy of giving more than seems reasonable.

  • @tedcoine: For being one of the few standing at the intersection of C-Suite Avenue and Common Sense Road.

  • @WriteTheCompany: For demonstrating humanity (or lack of it) in corporate communications, making us laugh while doing it.

My deepest thanks to all this group has brought the service business community, and me personally, over the last year.

Monday, December 6, 2010

How do you show your promises?

A nice surprise from CVS this weekend. On my way to pick up a prescription for my under-the-weather wife, I noted a small note at the top identifying prescription ready time by the word, “promised”.

They could have used different verbiage to describe when they told my wife her prescription would be ready. (In fact, they could have just called it “prescription ready time”.) I’ll bet very few people even notice this text on the top of their package.

But they specifically use “promised”.

It’s both a reminder to front line employees about what they’re making and to customers about what CVS and its people are delivering.

I’ve said in this space that all businesses are service businesses. A corollary to that is that all services fundamentally are promises that are made to be fulfilled.

Making those promises explicit – as CVS does – makes the expectation clear for everyone involved, and when it is fulfilled, reinforces the performance in the eyes of the customer.

Many companies have made high art of being noncommittal on what they will deliver to customers. It’s a malady that keeps them from being exceptional. If more businesses made their commitments clear - easily identifiable for front line employees and easily measurable for customers - we wouldn’t have nearly the chasm between the service that companies have the opinion they're providing and the service customers percieve.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Service Rant: How are you doing today?

I was boarding an American Airlines plane yesterday, and as I passed the flight attendant, I offered a hello and asked how she was doing – something I do in every service encounter, and likely a hundred times a day with great friends and complete strangers.

Her response, unfortunately, was not atypical: “I’m at work, so what does that tell you?”

What does that tell me?

Actually, a lot. For starters, that you don’t like your job, and that I’m probably not going to enjoy this experience. (I didn’t.) That your leadership is doing some fundamental things wrong that, while not your fault, present themselves in the way you serve customers. That, on aggregate, your company’s experience is likely inferior to someone else’s. Maybe many “someones”.

The truth is, for front line employees performing a service experience, there is really only one response to the question, consisting of some form of, “I’m doing great, and I’m ready to perform for you.”

And because staffers’ sole purpose is to support (i.e./ serve) the line organization, it should also be the answer for anyone not in a front line service role.

Is it okay to have an off day?

Of course it is – we all do.

But who wants to hear it? Not your customers. Not the front line employee facing more customers than she can handle. Not your reports. Not the project team you lead. To ALL of these people, the answer includes “I’m ready to perform. To get this thing (whatever it is) going, to not waste everyone’s time and create an outcome we can all be proud of.”

Not convinced?

Imagine you’ve shelled out a hundred bucks or so for tickets to a Broadway show this holiday season. At the intermission of a poor performance, you make a wrong turn while looking for the restroom and end up running into the lead actor doubled over a garbage can, who, recognizing you as a patron, says, “Hey, sorry the show isn’t going so well today. I caught a bug a few days ago and I’m just not my regular self.”

Would you be disappointed? Pissed off?

Don’t think the analogy applies?

You’re probably right. The plane ticket cost more than the Broadway show, the front line service performers had a smaller audience to attend to, and a greater ability to connect directly and more tools to do so.