Great Customer Service, A Matter Of Culture

T. Scott Gross
October 11, 2011 — 1,632 views  
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Positively Outrageous Service is my name for customer service that is surprising and involving.  A step beyond good service, Positively Outrageous Service makes the customer say "Wow!" 

POS is the service story you can't wait to tell. 

The question of the day is, "how do you create a corporate culture where POS is more than a series of isolated events?"

Since the principles of Positively Outrageous Service were first enumerated, ("discovered" is far too important a word to describe the moment), it has become obvious that there must be other principles of management that explain how a few companies have managed to make POS something more than the slogan of the month.

These principles are:

  • ·        Passion-charisma
  • ·        Flexibility
  • ·        Risk-taking
  • ·        Servant-Leadership

In the past few months, I have met hundreds of managers. Most are no different than the average corporate jock which, I believe, explains why their companies do little to stand out among their competition.  Fortunately, there are a few bright exceptions. 

My favorite examples are, Kirk Lawrie of Richmond Savings in Vancouver, B.C.; Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines headquartered in Dallas; Paul Menuier of Signature Flight Support headquartered in Orlando; and Bob Davis of the Lone Star Ice Company in San Antonio.  

These men are leaders of a different stripe.  Each has the passion-charisma, willingness to risk, flexibility and servant-leadership style that is required to put Positively Outrageous Service into action.

It seems natural that a POS organization would require a dynamic, charismatic leadership style dictated by the sometimes border-line bizarre nature of Positively Outrageous Service.       

But, in fact, charisma is only an outward expression of an inwardly felt passion.       

The truly great service leaders may be charismatic but foremost, they are passionate about serving their customers.  They understand that the business they are about has less to do with product than it does about their justification for taking up space on the planet.  

POS leaders are, above all, interested in making the world a better place and the fact that they sell financial instruments, transportation services or ice cold six-packs is only incidental.      

POS leaders are not always charismatic in the spirit of televangelists but they are eloquent out of passion.

There are no POS organizations that are not flexible.  Organizations that are rules driven cannot by definition serve as a hospitable environment for Positively Outrageous Service.  Acceptable service, perhaps.  Good service, possibly.  But Positively Outrageous Service, never.  

This is because POS is an affair of the heart and cannot be mandated.  It must be given freely.  And freedom is anathema to a rules-driven organization.

Likewise, organizations where POS finds a welcome home, encourage, perhaps, even thrive on risk.  One definition of mental health is "the ability to take intelligent risk."  Think about it.  An organism unwilling to take a calculated risk lies paralyzed with fear. 

Positively Outrageous Service is definitely a risky business.  It requires management to stay relatively hands off, turning the most valuable asset, the customer, into the hands of the employees without burdensome rules that discourage problem solving and creativity.

God forbid that in a world where jobs have been "dummied down" to make them so idiot-proof that only idiots can do them, someone would actually encourage rampant decision-making!

Finally, the home to Positively Outrageous Service is also home to the corporate world's greatest servant leaders, individuals who really care about the people who serve their customers.  Servant leaders are dedicated to serving the servers.  They understand the term "support staff" and believe that serving those who serve is, for them, the highest calling.

The four leaders mentioned above are certainly not the only leaders in the world who are creating corporate service cultures.  They aren't the only leaders who regard customer service as more than a litany of slogans and posters.  But they are great examples of service leadership worthy of our admiration and emulation.  

There will always be examples of Positively Outrageous Service, those random acts of exaggerated attention to customer care.  But until there are more leaders, fewer managers and bean-counters, POS will remain the exception rather than the rule.


Copyright (Reprint Terms)

Copyright© 2002, T. Scott Gross. All right reserved. For information contact FrogPond at email [email protected].

T. Scott Gross

T. Scott Gross is a master at removing mystery. His ability to communicate complex ideas simply comes from years of hands-on training, primarily in the hospitality industry. When not speaking at conferences and conventions, Scott handles the day-to-day operations of one of the nation's most unique service training companies. Scott is best known for his high energy platform skills. His gentle humor keeps audiences laughing while they learn handfuls of practical ideas. Whether speaking to a corporation or national association, Scott is a storyteller extraordinaire, comfortable with audiences of any size. He is most at home with professionals who have high customer contact. Scott has helped some of America's best-run organizations design video-based training programs, intended mostly for employees with direct customer contact. He has discovered how to be the low cost provider of quality video training and marketing programs. Scott has turned his skills as a script writer and platform performer into six fun-to-read books: " "Positively Outrageous Service - New & Easy Ways to Win Customers for Life", "How to Get What You Want from Almost Anybody", "Positively Outrageous Service and Showmanship - Industrial Strength Fun Makes Sales Sizzle"; "Leading Your Positively Outrageous Service Team"; "Pocket POS" and his latest, "OUTRAGEOUS: Guilt-Free Selling - Unforgettable Service."