Management Articles


Your BOLD Service Mentality
Make service your top priority

By: Jody Urquhart

Author of “All Work & No SAY," Jody Urquhart,, speaks at meetings and conventions on How to Build a Passionate & Commiteed Workplace. To book Jody to speak at your next meeting email her at

How compassionate are your systems to the needs of your customers and staff? Let me give you an example: on my birthday I got the worst sweater I have ever seen. The color was hideous. Fortunately it was purchased at my favorite store. I have never had to return something to this store before, but assumed it wouldn’t be a problem

The very polite lady behind the counter, who knows I am a regular customer, explained there was nothing she could do because I didn’t have a receipt. Big deal, I thought, I spend so much money here and they can’t even make this one exception? The sales person did everything she could, which was pretty much nothing. I felt helpless, she felt helpless and suddenly I was a victim of an uncompassionate system that didn’t respond to the needs of the situation, the customer or staff. I always thought the store’s motto—Customer Service is Our Priority—was true. Until now. How can customer service be a priority when the system is so inflexible? It like saying here is what we call good service—if you don’t like it too bad. It’s service by the store’s terms, not the customer’s.

A Compassionate System
What is a compassionate system? One that is flexible enough to respond to the needs of the situation and everyone involved (both staff and customer). A system that creates an environment where employees are empowered to use their judgment to make decisions, responding to customers instead of reacting with set policies.

Training for this kind of service isn’t just a one-shot experience. It is a mentality that starts with the company as a whole. Because people provide service, this usually means empowering employees to make more decisions, define service in their own terms and take ownership of their own service standards.

Do you currently have policies that do not serve customers or staff? These likely serve the company as a whole, but do they affect the relationship between service people and customer? Re-examine them asking, “How does this policy help our employees do their jobs or our customers get what they want?” Does it help you build a positive, helpful service mentality? If not, consider why you have it in the first place and weather the policy be changed or made more flexible based on the situation.

Encourage employees to use their judgment to help customers and give them lots of room to do so. It may help to provide examples of how people have used their judgment to make a sale, satisfy an irate customer, upsell, etc. The easiest way to create a compassionate system is to do it situation by situation.

Reinforcing Service Mentality
A service mentality begins with a compassionate system and a clear vision. A vision is a picture of the future that produces passion, worded in a clear and inspiring way. It should describe the key market you are in, the basic service you provide and what distinguishes you from your competition. Most importantly it should have meaning to customers and employees. There is no use having a vision if employees don’t know what it is or how it affects their job. I suggest regularly reinforcing the vision to keep it alive. Do this by reminding people how their job keeps the corporate vision going and helps the company meet its commitment to customers.

The most important part of the vision is the feeling it evokes. Find examples of areas where this feeling comes through in service and celebrate them. Reinforce that feeling with regular meetings, newsletters and other communications celebrating what your company is doing and why. Bring out the feelings in people and situations. Remind employees how their specific job contributes to the company, the customer and the community. People tend to appreciate their work more when they see how much they are contributing to others.

Service should be at the core of everything. Your vision reminds people of the reason they are doing what they do. If it is central to the business it will inspire people. How would employees respond if someone asked, “What does your company do?” Would they respond, “We produce _________”? If service is at the heart of the your business, it should come through loud and clear. Listen to the difference: “We help our customers be more successful by ________.” Have every service employee answer this question in his or her own way.

Get to the Heart of Service
Answer the question,” Why are we doing this,” for every problem, opportunity, policy or procedure. Start with questions like how will we do this? When you understand why, the how usually falls into place. Have ongoing open conversations with employees about service. How can you make it a core part of your business? Does it drive the business and everything you do? As a group, discuss what good service is like. See if employees can find examples of excellent service in action.

Final Thoughts
People keep the service mentality alive, so create a system that is flexible to them. Have a clear and compelling vision that inspires. Finally, keep reinforcing this vision. Your bold service mentality will shine through.

© Copyright 2001 Jody Urquhart

Other Articles by Jody Urquhart

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