What does it take to generate/deliver great service?

It is Christmas time and I want to give you, my fellow human beings and the readers of The Customer Blog, a gift.  What kind of gift?  The kind of gift, which if embraced, will give you access to great relationships – with your family, with your friends, within your community, at work, with your customers…

The gift of ‘service’: is this the greatest gift that you can give?

It is Christmas time and what I notice is that it is a time of concern – a concern with gift-giving.  And this year as I think about gift giving I am immediately taken to Sandy Hook Elementary School.  I am confronted with this question: what is the greatest gift one human being can give to another?  It occurs to me it is ‘service’.  What?   When I speak ‘service’ I am pointing at the kind of service being pointed at in the following quote:

“My notion about service is that service is actually that kind of relationship in which you have a commitment to the person. What I mean, in fact, is that for me what service is about is being committed to the other being. To who the other person is.

To the degree that you are, in fact, committed to the other person, you are only as valuable as you can deal with the other person’s stuff, their evidence, their manifestation, and that’s what’s service is about. Service is about knowing who the other person is and being able to tolerate giving space to their garbage. What most people do is is to give space to people’s quality and deal with their garbage. Actually, you should do it the other way around. Deal with who they are and give space to their garbage.

Keep interacting with them as if they were God. And every time you get garbage from them, give space to garbage and go back and interact with them as if they were God.”  Werner Erhard

Which business brands provide this kind of service?

In the business world there is one brand in particular that gets the kind of service that Werner Erhard is pointing at and illuminating.  Can you guess who it is?  It’s Zappos.  Which is why I am not at all surprised to read that Zappos Set An Insane Record For The Longest Customer Service Phone Call Ever.  How long did this phone call take?  9 hours and 37 minutes!  Here is what, in particular, caught my attention:

On July 16th I received a call from Lisa about 2 hrs. into my shift. We talked for 9 hours, 37 min. I took one bathroom break about two hours in. Kara Levy [another team member] took care of me by bringing me food and drinks. We talked about life, movies and favorite foods.”   Shaea Labus, the Zappos Customer  Loyalty Team member:

“Sometimes people just need to call and talk,” she [Shaea] said. “We don’t judge, we just want to help.”

What does it take to generate/deliver great service and make a difference?

The question that calls to me and asks for an answer is this one: what does it take to generate/deliver great service – the kind Werner is pointing at and which is being delivered by Zappos?  What is your answer?  Is it technology – the latest state of the art CRM/customer service system?  Is it CX blueprint that sets out the ‘process/script’ that the Customer Loyalty Team Members have to follow?  Is it the KPIs that Zappos’s management team have set?  Is it perhaps the people – the special people that Zappos employs?  Is it the pay/rewards that Zappos gives to its employees?

Let’s listen to a master of the human condition, one who strips away our rationalizations. What does this master have to say on the matter of service, of making a difference?

“All it takes to make a difference is the courage to stop proving I was right in being unable to make a difference… to stop assigning cause for my inability to the circumstances outside of myself …… and to see that the fear of being a failure is a lot less important than the unique opportunity I have to make a difference.” Werner Erhard

Summing up

Zappos generates/delivers great service because the Tops (starting with Tony Hsieh) are committed to delivering great service.  Great service is not something that they do.  No, great service is who they are in the world.  Did you get that?  The folks at Zappos ARE great service; their being – how they show up for themselves, each other, customers, the world at large – is great service!  Put differently, for the Zappos folks great service is not a question of doing it is a question of existence.  And, yes, existence does require a viable ‘business model’.  That is something that the folks at Zappos figured out after they formulated their commitment to being the brand  that is synonymous with great service.  And they kept tinkering and tweaking to get the business model right.

What does it take for you and me to make a difference in our showing up in the world – to our family, our friends, our community, our fellow employees, our customers?  A reconceptualization of ‘service’ along the lines set out by Werner Erhard AND the courage to stop proving that you/I are unable to make a difference. Put more simply and bluntly: you and I need to stop playing small!  Look around you and you will find that many businesses generate poor/indifferent service because the people in them – starting with the Tops – play small.

Transforming Service through the radical reconceptualisation of Service

We are trapped in out-of-date limiting unhelpful concepts

In my last post I asserted that dead concepts are limiting how customer service, customer experience, customer-centricity show up.  My point was that what we see, how we see it, what we focus on, what we do and the results that show up cannot be ‘greater than’ the concept we live/act from.  I say that service sucks because our concept of service sucks.  Put differently given the existing concept of service that holds us prisoner it is enviable that service sucks.

In this post I want to put forth into the world radically new conceptualisations of service.  My intention is that these reconceptualisations will jolt you out of being prisoner to the existing conceptualisation of service that his holding your prisoner – even if you do not know that you are being held prisoner.

My intention is not only to shock you, it is also to give you openings to transform your relationship to service and thus transform the way that you and your organisation think about and act when it comes to service.  If you do that then there will be a transformation in the way that your service shows up for your customers.  Are your ready for this jolt?

Radical reconceptualisation 1: Maz Iqbal on Service

Service is a gift that one human being bestows on a fellow human being.  The fundamental basis and the desired outcome of Service is human dignity itself: honouring our shared humanity – the best of our shared humanity as in when we move-touch-inspire and elevate one another. The kind of humanity that can move us to tears of joy.

Service requires the calling forth of my humanity and putting it into the world.  And as such Service is founded on vulnerability.  My vulnerability in the sense of putting myself at risk for the sake/benefit of my fellow human being – I may be ignored as if I am an object and not  human being, I may be misinterpreted, I may be criticised, I may be rejected…  And my recognition of the vulnerability of the person I am serving: he could be out of his depth, place his trust in me to do the right thing by him; he could be in a bind and expose his vulnerability by asking me to bend the rules, to make an exception; he could be in a bind that he needs the job done and I know he will pay any sum I demand; he could be and often is vulnerable in so many ways.

Service necessitates that I be totally present in the present and to the presence of the person I am serving.  Only when such presence is present is it possible for me to be responsive to the need of the person I am serving – modulating my being, my actions, my speaking and my listening such that I show up as ‘caring’ and ‘trustworthy’ in the world of the person I am serving.

Service comes forth most easily from those of us who get joy, fulfilment, satisfaction out of reaching out and touching the lives of our fellow human beings, for the better.

It is critical to get that Service is a mode of being in the world, a certain state of consciousness, it cannot be faked: if I am in this state of being then the majority of techniques and tricks that are usually imparted through training are unnecessary; if I am not in this state of being then all the techniques and tricks will not make enough of a difference for me to show up as being caring in the world of the person I am serving.”

Radical reconceptualisation 2: Werner Erhard on Service

“My notion about service is that service is actually that kind of relationship in which you have a commitment to the person. What I mean, in fact, is that for me what service is about is being committed to the other being. To who the other person is.

To the degree that you are, in fact, committed to the other person, you are only as valuable as you can deal with the other person’s stuff, their evidence, their manifestation, and that’s what’s service is about. Service is about knowing who the other person is and being able to tolerate giving space to their garbage. What most people do is is to give space to people’s quality and deal with their garbage. Actually, you should do it the other way around. Deal with who they are and give space to their garbage.

Keep interacting with them as if they were God. And every time you get garbage from them, give space to garbage and go back and interact with them as if they were God.”

My question of you

Are you up for transforming service?  Are you up for being a leader when in the area of service and through service generating the kind of loyalty you crave?  If you are then I have provided you with two openings.  I can hear you thinking that it is not easy, it is a BIG ask.  Yes it is.

Let me share a secret with you: one of the keys to Jobs success was the ‘reality distortion field’ – not being bound by people’s existing concepts of ‘reality’ and ‘what is possibility’.  Jobs was a master of inventing, projecting, living into and from the possibilities that he created in the face of no agreement from just about everyone around him.  Do you have that kind of passion, that kind of courage?  Leadership requires both the ability to invent radical-inspiring possibilities and the passion-courage to act, to make them real.