Positively Outrageous Service

I just read the following blog post

http://docphil.wordpress.com/2009/11/04/positively-outrageous/

about one of my favorite business texts Positively Outrageous Service and while I found the premise intriguing, I find myself with a bit of a different perspective.  The post’s author states:

“I’ve been reading ‘Positively Outrageous Service‘ for the last few days and every time I read a few pages, it leaves me feeling angry.
Why?… largely because of my recent experiences with customer service representatives. Not merely poor customer service, but a thoroughly uncaring and rule-bound experience.”

I can certainly relate to the author’s views on the diminishing quality of customer service in business these days.  And, when he goes on to lament that the basic solution to the problem is for organizations to empower their employees to actually serve customers, again I have no argument.  However, in all of this rhetoric, I see a distinctly silver lining for those of us on the front lines of being direct service providers, particularly as consultants.

Many years prior to becoming an organizational development and training consultant, I worked first as a retail sales person (selling women’s shoes) and then retail manager.  Without sounding too much of a braggart, i would say that I was pretty good at it, having won several awards each year for highest sales productivity.  The fact is though that I was not any better as a salesperson than most of the people I worked with.  I did not know my products any better, and I didn’t follow the rulebook and training the company had given me any better than they did.  Where I stood out, and where I believe we can all take a lesson from Outrageous is that I spent more time listening to my customers to hear exactly what they needed and wanted.

At its core, outstanding customer service is nothing more than another form of excellent business communications.  You must work with your customers to identify the best way to meet their needs and then do it.  This requires conversations, feedback, and, dare I say it, strategic changes in direction, as you go along.  Herein lies the opportunity.

As the other blog author points out, all around us are examples of very poor customer service.  This provides each of us with the chance to truly stand out.  Your goal, whether as a consultant or internal service provider, to give the highest quality service you possibly can, at all times.  Doing so will separate you from the crowd and elevate you in your customers’ eyes.  With seemingly little effort (because let’s face it, providing excellent customer service really does not take all that much more effort than being merely average!) we can quickly become the first choice when new work comes along.  Communication is the key.  In the long run, we can all be successful by listening to our customers, figuring out what they really want and need, and working with them to ensure that they achieve their goals.  When the customers’ goals align with our own, we all can get what we want.

I think the following quote from Alice MacDougal nicely sums up what I think we most need to remember when thinking about the level of customer service we offer to our customers:

“In business you get what you want by giving other people what they want.”

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