Attitudinal Service

The phrase “fake it ‘til you make it” expresses a simple wisdom about learning. If you don’t understand the “why,” sometimes you should “just do it,” and you’ll find it makes sense. "Motion precedes emotion" is another variant.

Like most simple statements, sometimes that’s good advice—and sometimes not. The trick is in knowing when.

When it comes to customer service—it’ll only get you so far.

The customer service world, like the rest of us, is drunk on the power of metrics. We’ve got all this data, from our CRM and POS sales, it’s tempting to constantly tweak things and find out just which programs yield the tiniest bit of improvement.

But a focus on metrics all too easily gets impersonal. Worse yet—much worse—it becomes all about short-term results for the company, and not about benefits for the consumer. Talking about "improvement" invariably means talking about profitability to the provider—not the consumer.

Really great, deep, rich customer service, I think, has to come from within. Here are two great examples.

Ed Brenegar talks about Hostmanship—the Art of Making People Welcome, by Jan Gunnarson and Olle Blohm. As Brenegar puts it:

What is distinctive about Hostmanship, as compared to most books on customer service, customer experience, word-of-mouth marketing or leadership, is that this is not primarily about strategies and tactics. It is about the attitude that we bring.

Exactly. He then goes on to quote Kierkegaard. (He had me at Soren).

As the book puts it:

Hostmanship is about giving. It’s about sharing a part of yourself and your knowledge. Never forgetting that people who have contacted you are an extension of yourself. It’s about understanding that, at that moment, you are an important part of her life. Not only because you have the answer to her question. You are also the person she has chosen to turn to.
Hostmanship is an art. The host is an artist.

If you think that stuff only flies in Scandinavia, let’s bring it closer to home. You probably heard about the problem with TurboTax filings the night taxes were due. TurboTax is an Intuit product—the people who bring you Quicken.

Intuit is a bit of a legend in the service industry, and as Michelle Golden tells it, they proved why yet again.

Intuit voluntarily refunded any TurboTax credit card charges from the time period in question, and offered to pay any penalties resulting from the delay. Perhaps more importantly, they were all over the problem—fast. As in immediately. Chalk up another for classmate Scott Cook.

This doesn’t come from a manual. It comes from values, beliefs, principles, commitments.
You will not find it in how-to manuals. You cannot fake it ‘til you make in this area, because not-faking it is the essence of the matter.

Much of what’s written about customer service these days is from the perspective of the provider’s P&L. It’s true that great service produces great profit. But you can destroy the whole thing by turning profit into the goal, rather than the outcome. Do that, and you end up with neither.

Great customer service is itself the outcome of principles. Of attitudes.

It’s an attitude thing.

0 replies
  1. peter vajda
    peter vajda says:

    You write, "You will not find it in how-to manuals. You cannot fake it ‘til you make in this area, because not-faking it is the essence of the matter."

    I think this is a major point. Why? Who is operating in the space between the time one begins to fake it….and then make it? A phony. Not one’s True and Real Self.

    The fake and phony person can never connect from a place of integrity and authenticity. And, though one might think they are connecting, in fact their energy spells fake and phony and disingenuineness and this negative energy permeates the space between their self and the other(s), negating and real, honest and sincere connection.

    For me, it’s not only an attitude thing, but a heart thing as well. Fakes and phonies have closed hearts…and it shows. Going through the motions, in relationship (at work, at home or at play), from this fake place simply spells deceit…starting with self-deceit. With respect to "attitudinal service", one is neither legitimately serving one’s self or other.

  2. Bob Meighan
    Bob Meighan says:

    Great perspective on customer service! You’re right. .. if you solve for great customer service, you’ll generally achieve your internal goals (like profitability).

    I appreciate your example of TurboTax. We had no idea at the time how much it would cost to refund everyone’s money who was affected by our slowdown. Yet we all knew that we had to do it. It’s just part of our values and principles.

    What was very difficult in the TurboTax problem was meeting the expectations of some. Perhaps some view TV as reality and expect to see major problems solved and resolutions addressed in 30 minutes. Unfortunately, it took us 24-48 hours to put everything in place to "do right by our customers."  We pulled out all stops to achieve this, but for some, this was not "immediate" enough.

    Bob Meighan
    VP, TurboTax

  3. Brian Ward
    Brian Ward says:

    I would add that there is a trilogy at play here.:

    A-S-K: Attitude, Skills and Knowledge.

    When we have the three in balance, we are ‘in the zone’, to use a sporting phrase. In particular, Attitude predisposes us to use our Skills and Knowledge for the good of all…to do the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons.



    Brian Ward
    Editor – Excellence 2.0


  4. Charles H. Green
    Charles H. Green says:

    Bob, nice to know Intuit is reading!  Kudos again on the great attitude.  Re the critics who wanted it faster, sometimes even customer passion has to take a back seat to the laws of physics; waddya gonna do?

    And speaking of attitude, I think both Brian and Peter have it quite right.   Our attitudes, beliefs, values, intents, hearts all condition heavily our actions.  We too often phrase it the other way ’round, when we focus on the (also true) method of instilling new habits by action.

    A-S-K captures it quite nicely, and I also like Peter’s view that heart conditions and precedes attitude. 


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