Leadership And Customer Service

August 28, 2008

Mark Sanborn in his book entitled: You Don’t Need a Title to be a Leader talks about the correlation between leadership and customer service. Sanborn says:

Several years ago, I experienced an unfortunate breakdown in service with my insurance broker, whom I had used for many years. It was serious enough for me to escalate my complaint to one of the owners of the company. To my surprise, he expressed complete disregard for my situation. Offended, I decided to take my business elsewhere.

But I never did. What held me back was what I call “the hassle factor.” I had several policies in place that were brokered by this insurance provider, and changing policies would cause more hassle than it was worth. I figured when each policy came up for renewal, I would shop for another insurance company at that time.

As fate would have it, something happened to one of my vehicles. In order to submit a claim, I was forced to call the bro­ kerage company I had come to dislike so greatly. The customer-service rep who previously handled my account was gone, and the woman who drew my number was named Theresa.

I was polite but direct when she and I spoke. “Look,” I said, “I imagine you can tell from my records that my experiences with your firm haven’t been good. If it weren’t for the hassle of switching policies in effect, I’d take all my business elsewhere and never do business with your company again. It isn’t any­ thing personal. This is the first time you and I have spoken. But you need to know where I’m coming from.”

Theresa listened attentively and floored me with her response. “Mr. Sanborn,” she said, “I don’t know all that hap­pened to you, but I can understand that you are upset about your past dealings with us. I can’t control what happened in the past, but I assure you of this: If you continue to do business with us, I will personally assist you and make sure that nothing like that happens again.” That was several years ago. My policies came up for renewal, but I never left, thanks to the personal leadership exhibited by Theresa. In her thoughtful, direct way, Theresa increased what I call ROI: No, not her company’s “return on investment” (although she did that, too). I’m referring to Relationships, Outcomes, and Improvements.

This is why there is a correlation between leadership and customer service.

Now listen to another story this time once more from Mark Sanborn.

Sanborn says: I was famished. I had fasted for a medical procedure that was scheduled for early morning; in addition to being hungry, I was dying for my morning jump start of caffeine. Fortunately, there was a Starbucks located just around the corner from the hospi­tal, so I picked up a cappuccino to go.

There was a popular deli nearby. I knew from previous experience that the food was good, so I parked and went inside with my just-started Starbucks cappuccino. “One for breakfast,” I said to the hostess. Seeing my Starbucks cup, she rather sternly replied, “We don’t allow outside food or beverages in the restaurant. You’ll either have to down it or leave it at the counter.”

I wasn’t about to discard my three-dollar cappuccino, so I decided to take my coffee and money elsewhere.

Her curt challenge to my not-purchased-there coffee felt like a personal rebuke. I could empathize with a business owner who wanted to sell his or her own coffee, but I had already pur­chased mine elsewhere. I was more than willing to spend $10 for breakfast, but the restaurant, by requiring that I dispense of my recently purchased Starbucks cappuccino, ended up with nothing and lost me permanently as a customer.

Upset at how I was treated, I called my brother Shawn, who is a successful restaurant owner and operator. After explaining the scenario, I asked for his opinion on what had happened. He saw an easy solution: “She should have said, `We don’t allow outside food or bev­erages, so let me pour your drink into one of our cups after I seat you.’ No competitor’s coffee cup would be on the table, you would keep your beverage, and they would get to keep the money you spent on breakfast.”

Why didn’t she think about that? Because she was blindly enforcing the restaurant’s policy without much regard for the effect it had on its customers. By not choosing to lead or influ­ence the situation positively so that we both could win, she influenced negatively and lost a customer. This kind of behav­ior happens every day in business and in life: The woman who refuses to shop at a department store because she has been ignored or treated rudely. The curt waiter, the rude store manager…in each case, someone dropped the leadership ball.

One simple sentence could have earned that deli $1,500 a year-the cost of my breakfast three times a week over the next year. That would have been a pretty good return on investment.

There is a correlation between leadership and customer service. And it’s as simple as doing unto others as you want others to do to you.

This Post Has 19 Comments

  1. Arnel Palaran

    I truly agree with the importance of customer service or even simple knowledge about manners. Yes, i think it begins with the learned manners of an individual wether a rank and file sales clerk or a manager in a store.

    I had a bad experience purchasing my 3rd order of motobike from a dealer. I called up the contact number i used to call and i learned that its was the cellpone of the store manager.

    I would like to follow up if my check payment was already credited since it was issued a week ago. The answer on the other line did sound arrogant and so cold as if his daily activity was disrupted by my call. I was informed that my check was not yet deposited to their account because he was on a seminar. Oh great, i hope it was not a customer service seminar he attended to.

    And so it was really a disappointment to know that they (the bike dealer) did not attend or informed me that my rush purchase was not yet processed and when i follow up for it i did not even had a courteous response.

    Of course, immediately i cancelled my purchase order and look for a new dealer who can give me a better service. I even need more motor bikes in the future and that would a lost sale from them because i now transferred to a new supplier.

    Thanks for this topic. I know it will also be valuable for me for my clients.

  2. klaris

    You know sir Francis you’re such a great speaker. I’ll always wait for your part on the UKG at abs-cbn. You’re such a great adviser my teacher in marketing adores you very much because of the way you talk and express things. I’m hoping that one day you can be one of the guest speaker of our school. I know that many students will get more knowledge and will learn about you.

  3. ivy

    Very timely story as I encountered such situation like this today, I almost did the wrong thing. The good thing i was’nt the person who answered the phone. The above story tells us that a positive approach and if done with courtesy will result to a postive response. A win – win situation. God is good!

  4. L.A.D

    I agree and believe that positive attitude and learned manners of an individual are the key to a win-win situation. Like myself, most of the times encounter this kind of individual misconduct, thinking that their only a rank and file employee who is less fortunate than the officers who got more time to waste on seminars and trainings attended but never been applied. I just thinking what if we orient the rank and file employees who’s directly in contact to a client for proper conducts on dealing to a client.

    I strongly Agree that “You don’t need a title to be a Leader” , I just hoping that Mr. Mark Sanborn thru his book, management may do some trainings and seminars for their rank-n-file employees….

  5. Brian Richard Cruz

    I’ve seen him talked on TV (Umagang Kay Ganda – ABSCBN) and I truly admire his opinions on sensible matters like business, work ethics/behavior and the likes! I hope Mr. Kong could do talk in our office someday.

  6. Carol

    I had heard Sir Francis twice during the Value Summit last school year- he is really inspiring! Always on the point. God bless you, Sir Francis. Hope this can reach more people.
    Thank you!

  7. Jboy

    Customer is always right.. right?? even sometimes they are not right but you have to acknowledge and turn to their needs.. Helping them is the easy way to do this. Sir Francis i’ve read some of your books and it inspires me so much everyday i go to work. May you inspire more people and lead more people to Christ =) God bless and hope to see you again here in Cagayan de oro City..

  8. chari_mhay

    …good story…
    it would inspire a lots of businessmen,,,

  9. sernan

    love the story of theresa, sometimes company’s or businesses usually make goals and visions pointing to customer service printed and displayed on their walls. But some neglect what is written on it. Customers don’t just buy the products and services you sell, They are coming to your business or company because they have problems, that is the edge of some good companies dealing and focusing with the customers problem not just on the sales and revenue… having that extra service, providing solutions and be on top of the competition.

  10. mark go

    i think the story is very straightforward and there was almost none lesf to discuss. But the learning i got is that there is always a better way to do things and if you do not do it, someone else will.

  11. Liz

    thank you for the inspiring stories. Mr Francis Kong motivates me to be a better person, with the day to day life. hope he will continue to inspire all of us…

    i hope one day, he can be the guest speaker for our company, and share his inspiring, and motivating ideas with everyone.

  12. Lea D.R.

    I am glad i’ve read your article. i’m into financing and we deal with different people everyday. and everyday we encounter different problem scenarios.
    and with your article, i’ve learned new approach in dealing with them.

  13. Jamel

    I remember dining out with relatives at a restaurant in MOA. I ordered “bottomless” iced tea drink for myself.

    It was late and we were the remaining customers inside the place and i thought I’d get the bill early. I paid for dinner then we proceeded eating and chatting.

    Being the iced tea lover, I asked for one last refill. The reply came from the waiter, “Sir, we don’t give refills to those who have already billed out.” That left me dumbfounded.

    I never came back to the place nor I ever recommended the place to anyone.

  14. Henry

    I was canvassing for a sound system for a family function and I narrowed down my choice to two companies. Company A offers the service I need for 6k and company B for 7k. Since the difference is not that much, I already made my decision to get company B since they have better credentials than the other company.

    Being a tightwad, I figured that it wouldn’t hurt if I ask company B if they can match the price of the other company. I emailed them politely but the reply I got was “you can get their services sir so we can offer our rate to other interested client. thank you.”

    Guess who got the contract?

  15. draude

    Thank you for the ideas you’ve shared to us.

  16. Chiqui Talabis

    Hi Sir Francis! My younger has your autographed books. I luv it! That I keep on re-reading one after the other.

    By the way, am a regular viewer of Umagang Kay Ganda. I always wait on your segment, the topic you will be discussing and most especially if you are be with Sir Alex Santos.

    More power. I hope to attend on your forthcoming events/talk.


  17. Tess F.

    More than likely I would be one of those waitresses who will take the initiative to keep you as my loyal customer although my main hindrance for doing so are the management team who will fire me as soon as they find out that i go the 100miles to satisfy my customers… been there done that … as a CSR for 14yrs.

  18. Grace Hernandez

    You never fail to inspire me. Thank God for your life Sir Francis.
    May God use you to the fullest of His purpose in your life. 🙂

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