Where Does the Next Customer Service Superstar Come From?

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Here are two questions for you. 1) Where does an employee receive the necessary skill set to become a customer service superstar? 2) How can we identify the needed traits of a potentially great service provider?
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I was thinking back to my daughter’s high school awards ceremony. She, as well as over 100 other students, were being recognized for their athletic and academic achievements.

As each award or scholarship was announced the winning student’s skills of good sportsmanship, teamwork, confidence, humility, focus, and academics (just to name a few) were loudly stated over the microphone.

There we sat, as parents, basking in the glow of our child’s accomplishments, with a smile on our face and a camera in our hands. It was a proud day for us parents.



Listening to the announcer point out the student’s skills, I realized that these skills will serve them well as they prepare for college and life ahead.

As owners and managers of our business, have we done the same for the members of our team? I sure hope so.

But too many times we rush a new employee to the “front lines” ill-equipped “for battle”. The customer is a determined foe. They want what they want, as they should. They expect service, as they should. They want convenience, as they should. And, they appreciate when they’re made to feel special.

Do you need a superstar employee to make this happen? No.

But, just like in high school, you need a nurturing and positive environment that expects the best from each employee to make it happen.

Example: Remember the San Francisco 49ers football team with the great Joe Montana at quarterback? Oh, how I loved watching that team play. As a winner of four Super Bowls, Joe was one of the best when his team was down a few points and they had less than 2:00 minutes to play. As he calmly sat in the pocket surveying the field you “just knew” he would make a comeback and direct his team to the end zone and a highlight victory.

Then, when Joe neared the end of his tenure, the thoughts were, “Who would take his spot as the quarterback?” “Who could be as good as him?” “What are we going to do?”

Then, they looked on the bench and saw Steve Young. A lefty quarterback who spent more time watching Montana from the sidelines than being on the field himself. But he paid attention.

He learned the plays, he asked questions, and he evaluated Montana’s actions and the results. Steve was a good student.

When he had the opportunity to become the 49ers’ starting quarterback he excelled in ways “nobody” expected. He too was a superstar and took the team to another Super Bowl championship with a record-setting 6 touchdown passes. His skill set was different than Montana’s as well as his approach to the offense. But the players were able to adapt. They were professionals and welcomed the opportunity to work with another leader who had the same desire to succeed as their previous one.



  • Does your business have a “Steve Young” who is patiently waiting for an opportunity to shine?
  • Do you develop leaders with a similar drive to be the best?
  • Is your business culture such that potential superstars are willing to stay with you and work diligently while waiting for that opportunity? Or do they jump at the first chance for a promotion or other leadership role with another company as soon as it appears?

Your next superstar may be right under your nose. All you have to do is to provide an atmosphere for him/her to develop into the leader your business needs.

Here is a previous post where you can watch my video and learn the “8 Remarkable Traits of Leadership”.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Steve: it’s a travesty that executives sometimes don’t recognize the talent residing within their own companies. Those who do possess a rare skill. But too often, customer service organizations suffer from wanting ‘superstars’ to cover for internal weaknesses, process breakdowns, cultural problems, and other systemic flaws that companies should take care of, but don’t have the will – or skill – to solve. Sales organizations suffer from the same issue. “Where do we get our next superstar?” It’s a frequent refrain.

    In my experience, companies that are successful in service execution aren’t saturated with superstars, but rather with capable, motivated, honest individuals. Look inside most organizations, and you will see them carrying the weight of service and revenue delivery. Cultivate superstars, but don’t depend on them to mask other problems that must be fixed.

  2. HI Andrew,
    I agree with your take and have also seen the negativity spread from a so-called “superstar” when he/she believes the business can’t run without them. A great business is great because of the combined actions of the entire team, including that from even the weakest members. Great organizations find ways to cultivate superstars, and those not too super. Thanks

  3. Andy: excellent point. In some cases the ‘superstars’ are the bandaids on issues the company won’t fix.

    Many years ago, I worked with a business where a customer service manager was always running around and saving the day. Problems where orders weren’t delivered on time, configuration problems, billing, … you name it.

    I asked the company owners/execs why so many problems. They didn’t know, but were very impressed with their ‘fixer.’

    I did some research and found that the root cause of 80% of the problems were bad info and poor processes. Simple things like wrong price info for sales reps (which resulted in bad quotes).

    Anyway, after implementing some simple changes and tools, the problems went away. And so did the requirement for a superstar fixer.

  4. HI Bob,
    Your story reminds me of a company I once worked for where the boss would always come to the rescue of his lowly team when they “couldn’t get the job done”. It’s amazing that his resolution was quite similar to those recommendations the lowly team always asked to implement but were prevented from doing so by the boss “fixer”.

  5. This brings up some interesting issues. In my first full-time job, my boss often reminded me that nobody in the company should consider him/herself indispensable. Looking back, his point of view was intended to keep egos in check, including his.

    Other than wanting to overcome problems that could and should be repaired through better-designed processes and improved information, seeking extraordinary talent isn’t wrong. But in a tight labor market such as now, it’s a seller’s market. For most companies, top customer-service talent isn’t just sitting there, waiting in the wings, hoping to get hired. Companies that depend on extraordinary talent must be prepared to offer congruent salaries, benefits, and other incentives.

    Fortunately, information technology has ‘democratized’ the ability for companies to execute effective customer service. Distributed information allows companies to outsource operations, and to hire contract workers able to work anywhere in the world. AI has substantially reduced the tedium that separated ‘superstar’ performance from everyone else. And predictive analytics, and data-driven insights have brought to the center of the ability bell curve the once-tacit knowledge that just a short while ago, only the extraordinary possessed. I think that’s good for customer service operations, it’s good for customers, and in the main, it’s good for employees.

    But every ‘solution’ brings new problems. While IT has delivered stronger support tools, it also serves to reduce the skills needed to execute. Through technology, we’ve reduced the “hiring bar” for service employees, and in the process, we’ve also reduced the base wage needed to hire and retain them. This issue is manifest in the growing income disparity that’s now part of our daily discourse.

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