A Couple Service Tenets


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If I collect these momentary flashes of inspiration in to lists of Service Tenets, who knows, maybe someday I’ll have a good list worth compiling. Here are two to start.

Service Culture Tenet: Everyone serves each other first.

I started my professional career as a training manager for Wal-Mart logistics. Back in those days, Sam’s philosophies were still very much alive and well. My job was to train new supervisors and managers in the distribution centers, and whatever else, of course. There are a few memories I have of that job that have helped shape my philosophy of service interactions. The interesting part and point of this post is that those experiences were provided me by the leadership of the Company at the time.

I don’t remember how or why I ended up there, but a group of fellow training managers and I were at Sam and Helen Walton’s modest home in Bentonville for some sort of event. There were only seven or eight of us, but when we got there, I remember Helen greeting us and welcoming us to their home – we were of course wearing our badges, and as she greeted each of us individually for the first time, it came to my turn and she welcomed me and asked “How are things in Porterville?” My base site was in Porterville CA. She had taken the time to learn where each of us was from in advance. Wow.

Then she offered us homemade chocolate chip cookies.

It’s not rocket science or unique to my beliefs, but in my opinion, to have a company that is successful in serving customers, the leadership and everyone else MUST see serving their fellow employees as just part of the way they interact. When Lee Scott was just a Director in the logistics division at Wal-Mart, we were sitting waiting for an airplane at the Porterville airport. He told me “If you ever need anything, be sure to give me a call.” To this day, I believe I could still call him. He’s the CEO now. Go figure.

Service Culture Tenet: Everyone, without exception, serves the customer. REALLY serves the customer.

A few years ago in another part of my career and another Company, we trained EVERY salaried employee to either answer phones or work in the distribution center, and during the heavy times, it didn’t matter who you were or what you did as “your job” – if there were calls in queue or a backlog of packages to ship, everyone helped out. Period. Everyone either interacted directly with customers or their merchandise. It was extremely eye opening from both a training perspective and customer interaction perspective – incredibly valuable on both fronts.

When I left that Company, I was able to implement a similar seasonal “SWAT Team” of non-sales employees from finance, marketing, etc. in the next place I called my professional home. We later renamed that group of volunteers to the “Spirit Team” because of the paramilitary innuendo in SWAT, but I’m not sure the second name was really any better… at least not without issuing someone a team mascot suit and everyone else pompoms. In that Company, we did a wicked amount of business over the Holiday Season and always needed more agents in our contact centers. The cool part? Aside from the implicit value of direct customer interaction, that team contributed over a million dollars to the Company’s sales the first season it was implemented.

So here is my question to you:

When was the last time you spoke in person to a customer of your Company when they were in one of your sites, stores, clinics, or on the line with a customer?

If the answer is never, or not within the last quarter, I would suggest to you that true customer service is really not a priority in your business…

Gus Strand
Service Matters
I'm a lifelong service practitioner and customer evangelist. I've spent the last 20 years in a career in corporate L&D and credit my service focus to a grandfather that had an "old school" small town hardware store. You know the type - worn wood floors, china and Osterizers in the front window, a pipe threader out back and everything - including hot coffee - in between. I've a DNA-level service and learning focus with experience in companies that defined service in ways that other companies strive for: Wal-Mart in Sam's day, Coldwater Creek, Harry & David, Dell and more.


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