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Principles of Service You Can Live By
by Mike McKinley

Last summer, a client asked me to be a part of a managerial group to analyze their business and develop principles of service. I have been working with this client for many, many years, and they are tremendously innovative in how they run their business. I took on the task of developing the principles of service not only to have an educational forum for their employees but also to educate their customers as to how they did business and how they were going to treat each person who came into the building.

After many, many meetings, the principles of service are now part of their everyday life. Managers carry cards with the principles of service written on them. They also have huge posters positioned around the building so that customers understand what they can expect from the business.

Many of the principles came from focus groups held with customers and with the employees. It was fun for me to be a part of this whole exercise and to see how the employees reacted to the question, “How should we treat each other and how should we treat our customers?”

The process is still ongoing. There is some fine-tuning to make certain that they implement the principles of service throughout the building. Many employees have embraced the principles; some are still cool to the idea.

It's important for businesses to understand the what, why, how, and when of their business. In this complicated business environment, it is certainly important that we not be confused about our focus or the everyday direction of our business. So many businesses get lost in the quagmire of everyday activity and forget exactly why they open the doors each morning. Hopefully these principles of service will give you direction in your business:

Offer personalized treatment.
Everyone feels good about having someone pay attention to him or her in a positive way. What has happened is that in a big store society, no one gets personalized treatment. Our parents would have left a store if its employees did not recognize them or worse, didn't know their name. The ultimate in personalized treatment is when someone helps you proactively solve problems or gives you more information to help you beyond your expectations.

Respect time.
As the old saying goes “time is money.” But in many transactions, time seems to have not entered into the consideration of the seller. How many of us have gone into the express lane of a grocery store and had to wait longer than if we had gone into a regular line? Anytime that we can speed up the transaction time for customers, it is always a plus. Make buying a memorable experience, and those customers will come back. It's been said that business has to either get fast or go broke. If a business can provide a quality experience, a quality product, and a speedier way of delivering both, business will flourish.

Provide a quality experience.
Customers have a fantastic memory. They can remember something bad that happened to them five years ago, and they can remember something good that made your business stand out from the competition. The clock on the memory bank in people's minds is always running. Everyone is always looking for some reason to come back or some reason to never come back. In this day of lessening loyalty, we must continue to work to make every experience for our customer memorable in a positive way.

Communicate clearly.
How many times have you bought the wrong thing because some salesperson did not have the knowledge to explain exactly what the product would do, to point out how it was going to help you personally, and to provide the facts of the product's longevity? In today's world, employees are not taught how to truly listen. And it's important for all business personnel to not only listen well, but also to ask questions well. Asking the right questions gets you the right answers. So many of us take answers at face value. We do not dig deeply enough into the problem and therefore we may offer the wrong solution.

Be a problem solver.
I have said for years that business is in business because of problems. So many times I have heard people say, “Oh no, here comes another customer with a problem” or “I wish those people would stop coming in with their problems.” Well, problems are what make the transaction circle go round and round. If there were no problems, there would not be any solutions to sell. Being a good problem solver and giving full attention to customers' problems brings people back again and again.

Design and implement user-friendly systems.
So many times I think that we would buy more if we could get through the rhetoric of business. So many businesses have so many rules and regulations that they actually prevent us from buying. You must stand in line, you must have the right paperwork filled out, you've got to do this, you've got to do that. If business would just guide customers through the transaction maze, I believe they would actually spend more of their money with you since you made it so easy.

The Principles of Service were developed by a group of people at Markquart Chevrolet in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Each and every employee at the business has been involved in developing these principles based on how they want the customer to feel and on how they want to work with each other.

Throughout the dealership, there are huge posters for employees and customers to read that show the principles of service that you have seen in this article. We have worked to make sure that it is not a secret what their beliefs and values are when it comes to operating the business. Periodically, I see a group of employees around the poster discussing a particular situation within the dealership. They are communicating with each other as to which of the principles to use in getting through a particular problem.

Business needs to have a clear way of how they are going to run the business. Including all their people and their customers in important decisions is a sure-fire way to ensure that employees and customers not only view themselves as being involved in the transaction, but also that employees want to continue working for the business and that customers keep wanting to come back again and again.

Michael McKinley, CSP, CPAE, is a professional speaker who builds and delivers personalized presentations on business topics for corporations and professional associations. He owns McKinley Companies, Inc., whose Thinking Publications division publishes resources for speech-language pathologists. Mike's Alive! Alive! Associates division markets his speaking and consulting services.

Copyright Michael McKinley. All Rights Reserved.

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