She was the COO of a large company and this was the leadership conference for the company. I was there as a keynote speaker and her “message to the troops” came right before my closing remarks. She had been going through chemotherapy for breast cancer and was completely bald…no wig and no hat. And, she was incredibly compelling.
I asked the meeting planner what she was like as a leader. “Awesome and inspiring,” she told me. “She is so courageous and jarringly authentic. Everyone thinks she is an amazing leader. I would follow her anywhere.” As I listened to her powerful message, I thought about how great service needs to be totally real before it is attractively adorned; jarringly authentic, not just charmingly decorated.
Now, before you think I have no sense of fashion you should know that I have no issues or qualms with wigs, toupees or hair transplants. But, great service fundamentals are bottom line about meeting a core need–a basic requirement and a fundamental purpose. I like my bank teller to be fast, friendly and competent. But, I care deeply about the signals she sends that let me know she cares about the security of my funds. I expect my doctor to have a warm bedside manner and to show compassion for my aches, pains and foibles. But, when he dons a rubber glove or picks up a scalpel or syringe, I want confident, unadorned baldheaded service.
Baldheaded service is making sure the bathrooms are as sparkly as the waitress is friendly. It includes ensuring the waiting area of the hospital is as squeaky clean as the hands of the brain surgeon. It requires quality-controlling the essentials and “spell-checking” every customer touch point to guarantee every tiny detail that impacts customer confidence is perfect. And, it includes customer contact employees telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Baldheaded service is genuine and trust-building. Baldheaded service is courageous and transparent. Baldheaded service is not the flashy, sparkly stuff that creates a compelling customer story or promotes assertive advocacy. But, when we boldly remove the cover-up of clever presentation, smile-generating politeness, and aesthetic prettiness, baldheaded service is the reliable, you-can-absolutely-count-on basic bond that makes customers come back.