HorKind 06-10-160      


The Company-Wide Culture Shift that Inspires Phenomenal Customer Service


Ed Horrell

AMACOM, 2006, 198 pp., ISBN 0-8144-7307-5


Customer service is the subject of Ed Horrell’s writing, consulting and syndicated radio show.  He has stretched a powerful concept into a book by elaborating on a few principles and showcasing several businesses that excel in customer service. 


Thesis: “…providing exceptional, compassionate customer service can happen only when you build a deep and lasting relationship with your employees.  And it is kindness, says Horrell, that most characterizes that relationship.”  (Flyleaf)


“…service levels are discussed constantly, and yet what fascinates me is that so many companies continue to be oblivious to what their customers are thinking and saying about their service!”  (Preface)


“Numerous surveys indicate that the biggest reason that companies lose customers is an attitude of ‘indifference’ on the part of one employee.” (Preface)


Companies that are passionate about customer service include L.L.Bean, Chick-fil-A, Nordstrom, Mrs. Fields, St. Jude Children’s Research Center, The Ritz-Carlton, and FedEx.


“Each of these companies is driven by a distinct, clearly visible value system that permeates the entire organization.  …these values were introduced into each company by its founder.”  “Kindness appears to be a key, if not the key, in companies that ‘own’ their customers rather than ‘renting’ them.” (Preface)


“Ownership of customers—actually having customers who are going to do business with you regardless of your location, price, or competition—comes as a result of values at the core of the company.” (Preface)


The ‘Silver Rule of Customer Service: “We should seek to communicate with others not the way we wish to be communicated with, but rather the way they wish to be communicated with.”  People like to be treated differently.  (Introduction)


“It is imperative that you determine whether or not your employees are assets or liabilities.”  Among questions to ask yourself are these:

·        “Does this employee make me proud that he or she works in my company?”

·        “Would I be pleased if I had an entire company made up of employees like this one?”

·        “Is this employee respectful around people of different races, genders, cultures, and ages?” (Introduction)


“Satisfied customers are not loyal, they are simply lingering.” (3) 


Excellent customer service can be physically sensed, like the aroma of fresh bread, according to Tom Peters. (3)  This aroma represents values such as dignity, respect, courtesy and kindness.  “These values are a part of their culture, engrained in the company.” (4)


“The way you treat your employees will be the way they treat your customers.  I have found this to be a universal truth; it never fails.” (4)


“First of all, and perhaps most important, the companies that own their customers know what it is that their customers want!”  Most companies think they know what their customers want and act on that assumption without ever asking (or listening to) the customers! (4-5)


“Great customer service comes only as the result of great customer knowledge.”  Customer desires are not determined in the boardroom!  (7)


“Listen to what your customers and saying and give them what they want.” (8)


Four levels of customer service: dissatisfaction, apathy (lack of dissatisfaction but not satisfaction either), satisfaction, loyalty. (8-9)


“Success via values and focus on service should be a never-ending quest.  The ‘best’ do not cease in their efforts.” (10)


What do the finest customer service companies do differently?  They are nice.  “Indifference is the service killer.”  (14-5) 


Some of the things the author desires as a customer:

“I don’t want to be ignored.”

“I don’t want to have trouble getting someone to talk to, either on the phone or in person.”

“I don’t want to be left on hold for long periods of time.”

“I don’t want to constantly have to ask the other person what he or she said.” (21)


“When people think of you, you want them to genuinely want to do business, spend time with you, and help you.  You want your customers, clients, coworkers, colleagues, even competitors, to think and speak highly of you to others.  The way to do this is very simple: Make living your life with absolute integrity and kindness your first priority…..”  (25, quoting Don’t Worry, Make Money by Richard Carlson)


Steps to a customer service orientation in your company:

1.      “Make sure your corporate mission is clear to every employee.”

2.      “Identify how every job in your company supports your mission.”

3.      “Communicate the importance of each job to the person who does that job.” (46-7)


“One of the first things I learned about Chick-fil-A is the concern that the operators have for their employees.”  They feel that the way to help the store is to help the employee first. Chick-fil-A mentors the people it hires. (53-4) 


“The values at the top of an organization must be visible and in action within the organization.  Words mean nothing; actions are the measuring stick of values.” (59)


“Satisfied customers will always spread the word.” (62)


The motto of the Ritz-Carlton: “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.”  “Their challenge is to remember constantly to lift themselves up to the level at which they have placed their customers!  We serve Ladies and Gentlemen; let us act like Ladies and Gentlemen.” At the Ritz-Carlton, “you might not get perfection, but you will get respect.” (63)


“We don’t hire, we select.”  “I can’t teach people to be warm, genuine, friendly and kind.  So we identify those talents in the individuals we hire…” (68, quoting Bruce Seigel, area marketing director with The Ritz-Carlson)


“Each Nordstrom employee receives the employee handbook.  It consists of one page….”  Nordstrom has no jingle, slogan, or logo.  It simply has a reputation for world-class service. (83)


“Empowerment means making each of them [employees] feel that he or she is important to your team, and giving them roles in which they have some freedom to operate; to make decisions on their own that are consistent with advancing your corporate values.  It means giving your employees the power to do their jobs.” (86)


John Nordstrom had a simple philosophy: “Listen to the customer.  Provide them with what they want.  Appreciate the fact they came to your store, and do everything within your power to ensure that they’re satisfied when they leave.” (89, from the Nordstrom web site)


FedEx core values: (95)

Respect—Treat each person with dignity and respect.

Integrity—Be worthy of trust.

Service—Serve others.

Excellence—Relentlessly strive to exceed expectations.

Communication—Understand and be understood.”


At the Baddour Center, operated by people with mild or moderate mental retardation, “Every employee I visited spoke with pride of his or her work….”  “To a person, they would tell me their name and describe with great pride what they did and how it fit into the big scheme of getting these important packages out to ‘our customers.’”  (102-3)


The secret to owning your customers is to treat them with kindness in every transaction that takes place.”  (108, italics are the author’s.)


“Whatever it is that your customer contact people are doing, have them add kindness to each contact.”  “All employees must practice this with all customers.  There are no exceptions to this rule.  None.”  “Kindness attracts customers.  People prefer to do business with people who are nice to them.” (108)


This does not mean timidity or passivity.  There is a time for being assertive.  (109)


“The blind spot involves the concept that each of us has behavior we display that we are not aware of…”  For example, some people are so intent on their thoughts or activities that they fail to notice people.  They reflect indifference. (109)


“If the core values are trust, honesty, kindness, diversity, dignity, and respect, then this group will attract other leaders with those same values.  They will transcend those values to the treatment of employees, who will likewise transfer those same values to customers.” (112)  “Basically, every layer of a company is a reflection of the previous layer’s value system.” (113)


“Simply stated, most employees will treat your customers the way they are treated themselves.”  “The best companies I discovered during my quest were successful in creating a culture of kindness within itself, which filtered its way down throughout the firm.” (118)


“Here is a litmus test for any company: Observe the behavior of the senior management.” (119)


“The best salespeople are ‘other conscious.’  They don’t do things to people; they do things for people after they have learned something about those people.” (119)


“You probably don’t have an idea of how much very small signals mean to employees….  Small signals say a lot.” (126) 


“You’ll find that employees will take a special pride of ownership of business practices if they are given an opportunity to participate in the process.  It is surprising to me how rarely companies take advantage of the knowledge of their frontline employees to help in improving the process of serving their customers.” (128)




* * * * * *