Clear purpose Featured

8:00pm EDT May 26, 2008

If you want to be known as a world-class customer service organization, you must have a

strong service vision that clearly communicates your company’s service culture to all of your employees.

This service vision articulates the underlying purpose of why your organization exists and offers customers something they can’t get elsewhere. The level of service you wish to provide must be established before many other aspects of your organization can take shape. The service vision influences hiring standards, training, leadership philosophies as well as your overall business model.

There are two critical parts in implementing a successful service vision:

  • Finding the words that will properly articulate your company’s purpose and vision to customers and employees.

  • Consistently marketing the service vision internally to your employees and making the connection of how each of their roles impact and support that service vision.

Creating a service vision is a lot like creating a mission statement for the organization. It should be a brief sentence. That may sound easy, but if it takes your leadership team less than 30 hours to develop, your service vision will probably have no meaning. A service vision should be something senior management debates. It must be created from the company’s legacy. It is never the product or service that you sell; rather, it is the underlying purpose of why your company is in existence. Every great service company is a storytelling company. The company should be constantly telling stories of how employees deliver on the service vision to customers. Telling these stories daily keeps the service philosophy front and center in the mind of every employee and puts a burden on both existing and new employees to continue that legacy.

Once you have a strong service vision, you want to support it with service brand promises, which are keywords, phrases, quotes and “isms” that are repeated over and over.

To create your own service brand promise:

  • Define what business you are in

  • List what you sell

  • Determine your “priceless”

  • Identify the customers’ long-term benefits of doing business with your company

  • Figure out how to make price irrelevant

A service brand promise does not always have to be something you advertise to the public. It is an internal marketing tool that reinforces your service vision.

I found a very effective way of helping organizations figure out their service brand promise by borrowing from the MasterCard “Priceless” commercials. Picture MasterCard using your organization in its next commercial; what would be your company’s priceless tagline?

When doing this exercise, most organizations don’t think big enough. For example, I worked with a financial services company that helps people plan for retirement. Management’s first attempt at a priceless tagline was “20 percent return on your retirement investment.” Boring!

So, I asked, “Why do your clients want a 20 percent annual return?”

My clients responded, “So they can create wealth.”

“Why do they want to create wealth?”

“So they can have something to retire on.”

“Why do they need something to retire on?”

“So they don’t have to work till the day they die and so their standard of living doesn’t change.”

After having this type of dialogue, they created a new service brand promise: “Being able to retire five years earlier than you expected and maintain your standard of living.” Priceless.

Like any great marketing campaign, just coming up with clever slogans is not enough to consistently get your message out to your target audience. In this case, your target audience is every employee in your organization.

Use a similar approach to what you use with your customers — storytelling and constant references to how your organization lives its service brand promise.

Phrases, slogans and creative titles don’t change the culture. But they are effective aids in reminding every person the role that comes with his or her position. It is ultimately management’s daily responsibility to constantly demonstrate how each department supports and impacts the service vision of the organization, which, in turn, drives the customers’ experience and their satisfaction level.

JOHN R. DIJULIUS III is the author of “Secret Service: Hidden Systems That Deliver Unforgettable Customer Service” and “What’s The Secret.” He is also president of The DiJulius Group, a firm specializing in giving companies a superior competitive advantage by helping them differentiate on delivering an experience and making price irrelevant. Reach him at