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.