John DiJulius

Who needs LeBron? We have customer service! Yes, it would be really nice if one of our major sports team won a championship. However, in spite of that, Cleveland is on the rise. Personally, I love Cleveland, and I am proud to say I am from Cleveland and live here.

There is a lot to love; we are known for our leading health care facilities, our theater district, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, downtown is making a strong comeback, and most of all, we are known for our people. We are in the heart of the Midwest, where we have the best people, grounded and loyal with amazing family values.

However, that isn’t all for which Cleveland is known; Cleveland is now becoming a fantastic customer service location. Five years ago, The DiJulius Group launched the annual Secret Service Summit. The Secret Service Summit is a two-day conference featuring the top customer service speakers, authors and brand executives for two days.

I will be honest, the plan was to launch the first year, 2009, in Cleveland, then move the annual conference to the more desirable destinations, i.e. Las Vegas, Orlando, etc.

However, it sold out the first year and was so successful that we decided we were going to keep the Secret Service Summit in Cleveland. Why? For one thing, more than 75 of the attendees are from outside of Ohio, many outside the U.S., so we felt good about helping Cleveland generate some traffic.

Secondly, with the help of so many Cleveland people, we are able to provide a conference experience never seen before, one we could never duplicate anywhere else. As a result the Secret Service Summit is one of the top customer service conferences in America.

Seeing the affect that both the Secret Service Summit and SBN’s World-Class customer service awards has had on recognizing and educating Northeast Ohio businesses for their commitment to providing superior customer service, we have seen an improvement in the level of customer service being delivered everywhere in NEO and the momentum is rapidly building.

What does it mean when an entire region is known for something like world-class customer service? It means businesses experience higher sales growth, become less price sensitive, enjoy more referrals, are less affected by things such as the economic swings, they are more profitable, and spend less on advertising.

In addition, they have higher employee morale and lower employee turnover. Ultimately it means we have nicer people, who enjoy serving others and it shows, which attracts more people to the business and the area. More businesses prosper and more companies and customers are attracted to the area.

The DiJulius Group’s mission has always been to change the world by creating a customer service revolution; however, we have a second one: to make Cleveland the “Customer Service Capital of the World.” Together, we can make this a reality.


John DeJulius 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 DeJulius Group. Reach him at

During the 2012 Secret Service Summit held recently at the Intercontinental Hotel Cleveland, one of the most often discussed topics was who is in charge of the customer service department.

Regardless of your company’s size, someone in your organization has to be in charge of the customer experience and all that goes with it. That someone should not be the president, CEO or owner, but someone who reports directly to them.

Our company has heads of operations, marketing, accounting, sales and human resources, but our second biggest asset (other than our employees) is our customer. How happy they are is determined by the customer experience we deliver.

Until recently, the vast majority of companies had just anyone in charge of the customer experience. If you are a mid-to-large company, you may want to consider creating a position, i.e. chief xperience officer (CXO) or chief customer officer (CCO).

The fastest growing C-Suite position is the CCO/CXO. “More and more companies are reconfiguring their C Suites to accommodate a new kind of chief: the chief of customer.” Here’s an article in Inc. magazine titled, “Make Room for the Chief Customer Officer.

For what should a CXO/CCO be responsible? The CCO should be an executive who provides a comprehensive and authoritative view of the customer and creates corporate and customer strategy at the highest levels of the company to maximize customer acquisition, retention, and profitability.

They should influence strategies of all areas of the business that impact the customer, and ensure the service strategies are built around, and for, the customer.

What does a CXO/CCO look like? One of the biggest mistakes I have seen companies make is hiring, promoting or delegating the CCO position to people who have zero genuine hospitality characteristics.

This person has to live and breathe hospitality, internally, externally, and in all areas of his/her life. If they do not meet the criteria below, pass! It is so much better to leave the position vacant than to fill it with a mismatched person.

  1. Passionate customer experience and the customer.
  2. Extremely high service aptitude.
  3. Lives world-class hospitality personally and professionally.

What if you are not a large organization? If you are a small company or a start-up, I don’t suggest creating a brand-new position dedicated to the customer experience, but you do need to have it be a major part of someone’s job title and responsibility.

For example, at John Robert’s Spa, we promoted a rising star, a manager in training, to director of secret service. Her responsibilities are to manage and monitor all aspects of the customer experience and lead John Robert’s internal secret service agent team (front line employees who wanted to be part of the John Robert’s experience team).

In his book "What’s The Secret?" DiJulius focuses on what a chief xperience officer’s job description could look like. Details here: Chief Xperience OfficerJohn DiJulius is the founder of The DiJulius Group, a customer experience consulting firm. He is an international consultant, best-selling author and is regarded as an authority on world-class customer experience. Go to for information.


Thursday, 31 May 2012 20:01

John DiJulius: Getting to Benny

At a workshop, I had an influential partner (let’s call him Larry) ask if he could share a story with the group. His story was about how one of his largest, long-term clients had recently changed its CEO. Any time an organization changes a CEO, all vendors are in danger of being replaced. So Larry went on to share that he knew he had to quickly demonstrate to the new CEO (let’s call him Greg) how valuable and how brilliant his company was, before it was decided to start shopping its services.

Larry admitted it was a struggle; every meeting that the new CEO attended was short and very transactional. Every time Larry and his associates tried to make small talk, share advice or demonstrate their expertise, Greg, who is known by his close friends as “Benny,” was not interested in engaging in anything more than the facts. Larry knew that once the company’s current contract was up, it was going to lose this large, long-term client.

That is when Larry started thinking about all the training, systems and tools he and his team had been going through. He admitted while he didn’t put much stock into it, he decided he had nothing to lose. He realized that there was very little customer intelligence he had learned in the few meetings. He remembered about F.O.R.D. (family, occupation, recreation and dreams) from the training and started doing some research online. Through that, he discovered that Greg was an avid triathlete and was a big supporter of multiple sclerosis causes.

At the end of their next meeting, Larry briefly mentioned that he was aware that Greg competed in triathlons and how it was a goal to compete in one. Larry said Greg’s eyes lit up. He started showing him pictures of different events and telling stories. He told Larry that if he could do it anyone could. Over the next few weeks, Greg was sending Larry advice, books and articles on how to train. Larry also found out that Greg has a daughter who is challenged with multiple sclerosis and that is why he is such a big supporter of MS causes.

Several months later, Larry was competing in his first triathlon with new buddy, Greg. Additionally, he has since become a supporter of the annual event that Greg holds every year for MS. Larry went on to tell the group how Greg’s company renewed its annual contract with Larry’s firm, but best of all, every note or e-mail he gets from Greg is signed “Benny."

Most companies have what they call mission, purpose and vision statements, but I have found that very few have a true customer service vision statement (CSV).

The true underlying value of the what and how your front line delivers to each and every customer provides a meaningful purpose for your employees.

The CSV is the what. A CSV should match the following criteria:

  • Easy for all employees to relate to and understand
  • Simple, concise and memorable
  • Actionable and empowering
  • Measurable, observable and trainable

In my own experiences through working with and helping many great companies create a CSV, I have found that the pre-existing vision is great, but many times too “big” for the frontline employees to understand the role they play for each and every customer interaction. So it gets moved to a purpose statement and we re-craft a CSV that fits the stated criteria. Here are two examples of my own companies’ CSV evolution.

CompanyOld CSVNew CSV
John Robert's SpaTo enhance the quality of lives around usTo be the best part of our customer's day
The DiJulius GroupChanging the world by creating a customer service revolutionTo be the best investment our clients have made

I felt extremely passionate about our existing service vision statements; however, they did not tell our employees what their role was in their interaction with the customer. The new CSV was significantly more measurable, trainable and actionable. Over time our initial CSV became our respective companies’ purpose if we hit our CSV consistently.

Supporting pillars

The supporting pillars are the how everyone from your front-line employees to the CEO performs on a daily basis in each customer interaction, and therefore executes the CSV. There are traditionally three pillars that support the CSV.

  • Refers to the quality/expertise of the service or product your organization is selling.
  • Refers to the customer interaction.
  • Creates the autonomy for your employees to exceed the norm.

"People want to be part of something larger than them. They want to be part of something they are really proud of, that they’ll fight for, sacrifice for, and that they trust." - Howard Schultz

Sunday, 26 October 2008 20:00

The sky is falling!

Headline news: “Economic wreckage expected to hit the U.S.”

Sure, the economy is in turmoil, but it’s no reason to panic. Doom and gloom sells the news, but we have to stop being the media’s suckers.

Believe it or not, there are many companies surviving significantly better than the competition. How? Because in a down economy, customer loyalty is your stronger asset. More than ever, as leaders of companies, we need to get back to the basics and focus on the foundational formula that has always made the market leaders continually dominate their industry:

  • Selling your service vision to your team members, creating a purpose and a cause that allows them to make a difference

  • Ensuring your organization is doing everything to make the customer experience you deliver significantly better than anyone in your sandbox

  • Developing an internal culture that buys in to your service vision and the opportunities available from successfully delivering on that vision

  • Being creative and finding new revenue streams that benefit your customers

It is an employer’s market again, and while all your competitors are panicking and making decisions that upset their customers, it is much easier to stand alone.

Are you part of the customer service crisis or the customer service revolution?

Recently, the airline industry fought a proposed bill that would not allow passengers to be stranded on runways for extended periods of time without proper food, water and sanitation.

We have all seen how the major airlines have been like blind sheep, following each other in cutting amenities and services, or if their customers still want these services, making them pay for them. The prevailing theory: If everyone else is doing it, we should be, too. So there are no free meals on a long flight, but you can buy a tasteless sandwich for $5. One airline decided to help increase revenue by charging any passenger wanting to check more than one bag, then other airlines, not wanting to leave money on the table, decided to follow suit. Then another decided to charge for the first checked bag — and the rest began to fall in line.

Customer service revolution

One airline did not follow the trend. Southwest Airlines lets you check two pieces of luggage for free. Wow. Why aren’t they playing follow the leader?

I recently flew Southwest to Nashville. I was able to send my two pieces of luggage for free, but what really amazed me was when the flight attendant was coming down the aisle with the beverage cart and the passenger in front of me ordered an alcoholic drink. The employee informed the passenger that it would be $4 and that she could only accept credit cards. The passenger didn’t have a credit card available and asked if it would be possible to use cash. The Southwest employee responded, “I apologize; we only accept credit cards and are not allowed to take cash. But that certainly isn’t your fault, so let this one be on me.” It gets even better, on her way back, she brought the passenger a refill.

Will someone please tell Southwest Airlines how the sky is falling and how much money the company is losing by not charging $15 per checked bag and by giving away free drinks because its employees are afraid to say no to a customer?

Or maybe no one has to tell Southwest Airlines anything. Southwest doesn’t play follow the leader, because they are the leader. Maybe, just maybe, the other airlines should pay attention to Southwest — they carry more passengers than any other airline and have maintained profits while others fall apart and are forced to merge.

Action plan

Educate your people to stop listening to and believing in all the hype and find opportunities to expose your competitors’ weaknesses and capture market share that is dying for someone who cares about them.

In the past month, I have asked several thousand audience members what they would prefer: A stronger economy or to duplicate their best employees — the people who get it, buy in and do anything necessary to satisfy customers.

The vast majority answered they would take No. 2. Well, the good news is you can have that. We can’t control the economy, but we can create a stronger internal culture that produces satisfied customers who become loyal, repeat business. /P>

JOHN R. DIJULIUS is the best-selling author of “What’s The Secret? To Providing a World-Class Customer Experience.” (Wiley, May 2008). 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

Wednesday, 25 June 2008 20:00

Culture club

Having a service vision for your company is only the first step of developing a top-flight, service-oriented business. Even the most visionary organizations can’t pull off top service if they don’t have a world-class internal culture. That is accomplished only by attracting, hiring and retaining only those people who have the all-important service DNA.

As business leaders, we need to have standards that require prospective employees to earn the right to be a part of our company. Having a set of non-negotiable hiring standards will turn your prospective employees either on or off.

People need to earn the right to work for you The main objective of any human resource person who conducts first interviews with prospective hires is to try to scare the applicant out of working for you. If the applicant doesn’t scare, chances are high that he or she is a good fit for your company. What “scare” really means is to help candidates recognize that a job at your company may be either a much bigger commitment than they wanted or exactly what they have been looking for. In order to do this, your company needs to have its own set of nonnegotiable hiring standards.

Very similar to creating the service vision, there are two distinct parts of creating your hiring standards: creating the values that truly embody what your company stands for and being able to articulate those values to potential, new and seasoned employees so clearly and passionately that, within minutes, you can tell if your are turning them on or off. Otherwise, it will just be another company slogan.

A world-class culture does not compromise values; rather, it remains faithful to values, even when remaining faithful means doing things differently from everyone else. A legendary culture is created in the head and the heart of the leader and passed from team member to team member.

Build the culture and the customers will come

If you truly want to be a world-class customer service organization, then you have to be the employer of choice. And to do that, you need to be known for four things:

  1. Being a great place to work

  2. Providing great training

  3. Having superior customer service

  4. Offering unlimited opportunity

If you can create that type of reputation, you will never have a shortage of applicants.

The employee career experience

The employee career experience encompasses the traditional stages an employee has during his or her career with your company. These stages are quite consistent from company to company — recruiting, screening and hiring, orientation and training, 90 days after hire, six months after hire, one year after hire, two years after hire, and five or more years of employment.

Because the employee’s mentality is different at each stage, managers need to be trained how to coach, emphasize and avoid certain factors at each stage. By creating this, you are designing a blueprint on how to create a positive working environment. This blueprint teaches new managers — and reminds experienced managers — how to create a great culture throughout an employee’s career in a way that continually reinforces his or her emotional capital in the company.

There are three components of each stage: service defects, standards and above-and-beyond opportunities.

Service defects are the things that the company and management need to avoid at each stage because those things can cause the employee’s morale to take a nosedive.

Standards are actions we want the company and management to deliver at each stage because those are the things that will differentiate the company from any other company for which the employee has ever worked.

And finally, above-and-beyond opportunities allow management to demonstrate a culture of going out of their way to care about the individual employee, leaving a reoccurring impression that this company is unlike any other for which they have worked.

I have never come across a world-class customer service organization that wasn’t a world-class company to work for — not only vertically (management to employee) but horizontally (employee to employee), as well.

JOHN R. DIJULIUS III, John is the best-selling author of “What’s The Secret? To Providing a World-Class Customer Experience” (Wiley May 2008). 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. He can be reached at

Saturday, 26 July 2008 20:00

Nonnegotiable experiential standards

What if your company applied an experience tax to everything you sold to your customers?

If you did, you would begin to analyze and quantify each stage of your customer experience cycle (points of contact) to understand how important it is to be consistent in delivering your nonnegotiable standards.

The truth is, unless you are the cheapest in your industry, you are probably already charging an experience tax — you just don’t realize it nor break it out. If you weren’t, then your prices — and everyone in your industry’s prices — would be exactly the same. The reason for the difference — some companies promise to provide more of an experience than others.

What’s important about this is that every employee in your organization must realize that you need to actually deliver whatever it is that you’re promising. Otherwise, your customers will move on to a competitor who neither promises nor charges for those things.

The six components of a customer’s experience

To create brand loyalty and customer evangelists, you must operate at a high level in six distinct areas of business and evaluate your company’s customer service across each category.

Physical — The actual brick-and-mortar component of your operation. These are the physical elements that are more permanent or long term and cannot be changed daily.

Setting — The controllable setting you create daily. The setting communicates a message about what you can provide to your customers. This isn’t always visual; it may be the music your customers hear when they call and are placed on hold or the mood your Web site creates. The setting reveals the characteristics of your business as they appeal to the five senses.

Functional — The ease of doing business with you, such as return policies and hours of operations. Functionality has nothing to do with human interactions, such as being pleasant or saying please or thank you.

Technical — Your staff’s expertise in their particular skills and the company’s systems and equipment.

Operational — The actions that team members must execute behind the scenes before, during and after a customer’s experience. These actions assist in the day-to-day transactions with customers, the tasks, compliances and duties of our jobs.

Experiential — The actions that team members execute while interacting with the customer. Experiential actions are the reason why customers return, refer others and become brand evangelists. These include personalization and anticipating customers’ needs.

Task-focused vs. customer-focused

Secret service focuses on the experiential, but it is important that a company be technically and operationally excellent before they can be experientially excellent.

While your emphasis on experiential skills should not come at the cost of technical or operational, being only technically and operationally focused results in employees losing sight of the customer.

But here’s the rub: Experiential training is the least provided and hardest to teach of the components. Conversely, it is also the most rewarding because it provides the largest return on investment. Experiential training is about making the customer’s day. It is about creating value over and above the product you are selling. It is about empowering your front-line employees to have a sense of ownership in their jobs, and it sets you apart from the competition.

Action plan

Get started by examining the standards on which you train your employees. It’s a safe bet that the majority, if not all, the standards fall under operational and technical. But a memorable customer experience requires memorable encounters that extend well beyond your employees dotting their I’s and crossing their T’s.

Employees need to be trained on how to deliver personal service. When getting customer information over the phone, it is imperative that we confirm their address and the accuracy of their order (all operational), but it doesn’t take any longer to ask them about the weather in Minneapolis or thank them for being a customer of your company since 2004. You’ll be amazed how those simple details change your customers’ experiential paradigm.

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

Monday, 26 May 2008 20:00

Clear purpose

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

Monday, 23 February 2009 19:00

Creating an above-and-beyond culture

World-class service organizations create an awareness of the most common opportunities where employees can deliver heroic service for the customer, creating an above-and-beyond culture.

Are your employees empowered and inspired to exceed customer expectations? Do you have mechanisms in place to collect and redistribute above-and-beyond stories to constantly remind your employees of that vision?

The truth of the matter is that everyone gets the same number of above-and-beyond opportunities. The only difference is some employees see the opportunity and act on it, while others fail to see it.

Here are five steps to creating an above-and-beyond culture:

  1. Empower employees with the confidence that they can aggressively go above and beyond without being second-guessed by management.
  2. Train employees to consistently recognize opportunities that occur.
  3. Inspire them to think outside the box for the customer.
  4. Acquire and document all above-and-beyond stories in your organization.
  5. Advertise and recognize those stories and employees throughout your entire organization.

The answer’s yes. ... What’s the question?
I hate the word no. I can’t believe how many people in a vast number of companies use it. It should be stricken from use in any company that is focused on customer service.

While staying in a prominent hotel in Las Vegas, I ordered room service. When asked if I wanted fries or coleslaw as my side, I asked if I could have fruit. The person’s response was a quick and unfriendly, “No. Do you want fries or coleslaw?” I said, “What do you mean, no? I see a fruit dish on your menu.” She responded, “Well, I would have to charge you.” I wasn’t asking for it for free. How easy would it be to say, “Certainly, while you cannot substitute the fruit for your side dish, I can add it to your order.”

Cameron Mitchell Restaurants not only removed the word “no” from the vocabulary of its 2,000 associates, it also has a great service brand promise: Yes is the answer. ... What’s the question?

Cameron Mitchell himself created a brilliant metaphor on which the company’s service philosophy is founded. It is known as the “Milkshake.” Legend has it that several years ago, Mitchell and his family were at a restaurant, and his son asked if he could have a milkshake. The server said no. Mitchell knew the restaurant had ice cream, milk and a blender, so he couldn’t understand why someone wouldn’t accommodate such a simple thing. So the milkshake became an icon to remind everyone at Cameron Mitchell Restaurants about finding a way to say yes. Having three young boys myself, I know we’ve been in a restaurant where one of my sons didn’t like the kid’s menu and asked if he could have a grilled cheese. Again, nearly every time the answer was no. Once, I asked the waiter, “Do you mean to tell me that your restaurant doesn’t have bread and cheese that someone could throw on a stove?” The waiter responded, “Yeah, but I wouldn’t know how to ring it up.” I responded, “I don’t care if you charge me the price of a steak. You don’t want my kid upset because he can empty this restaurant faster than a fire.”

The milkshake has grown into a life of its own at Cameron Mitchell Restaurants. They start every company meeting with a “milkshake toast,” and they give a Milkshake Award to the associates who best demonstrate the spirit of their service brand promise.

The point of this philosophy is that too many employees and companies say no way too quickly without thinking how easy it would be to grant the customer’s wish. Many times it is blamed on company policy. Many times it’s just laziness on the part of the front-line employee.

Find your milkshake metaphor
I help many companies come up with their icon and metaphor, similar to the milkshake, specific to their culture. The first thing a company has to do is find its best above-and-beyond stories and then choose the most significant one that will serve as the example. Once a company has this story, the next thing it does is create the symbol, logo or picture that represents the best story. Eventually, words will be unnecessary. When employees see that picture, they will be instantly reminded of the culture they work in and the legacy they have to uphold.

JOHN R. DIJULIUS is the best-selling author of “What’s The Secret? To Providing a World-Class Customer Experience.” (Wiley, May 2008). 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

Tuesday, 25 November 2008 19:00

From paper to consistent concept

Without execution, systems in manuals are nothing more than ideas on paper. This is where most companies fail — the execution of these systems.

The two most important words in the success of implementing systems are consistency and continuity. Nearly every company has more ideas than it knows what to do with. Here’s a scenario familiar in every company: Some executives attend a fantastic seminar, get dozens of great ideas, and return to work all fired up to start executing. A month later, not one idea is being executed even 10 percent of the time. The managers are either preoccupied with a crisis or have moved on to a new focus. Managers are not short on ideas; they are short on strategy that will result in successful implementation.

Select a path and stick with it

I can’t tell you how often I hear the same thing from the companies I consult: “A few years ago, our theme was ‘fish,’ last year our theme was ‘raving fans,’ and this year our theme is your book.”

It’s no wonder nothing sticks. There’s no continuity from one generation of employees to the next because they joined under a different theme.

There is nothing wrong with using any of those books and concepts as themes. What I am saying is pick a path. The world-class customer service companies focus on one concept and build their training program around it. Over the years, every new employee goes through the same training, learns the same underlying concept and theme, reads the same book, and hears the same message.

That doesn’t mean the training doesn’t evolve. But you have a consistent foundation on which everyone has been trained. And it can’t just be new employees who go through intensive training; existing employees need to be retrained and re-energized on at least an annual basis. Beyond that training, world-class customer service companies advertise superior customer service to their employees on a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis.

Implement slowly and properly

Let’s assume you have just successfully completed the Customer Experience Cycle Workshop with your entire organization. You should now have the buzz.

Stop right there. This is when the train wreck so often happens. The workshop was easy; the hard part is implementation. Yes, you are excited about the buy-in to being world-class. Yes, you want to maintain the enthusiasm and the momentum. But now you must crawl before you can walk.

A worst practice is to allow managers to roll out the implementation on their own or to introduce many new concepts every week. If you do either, in about 45 days, all of those great ideas will be a distant memory because not one of them will stick. The only result will be a loss of credibility. Employees will feel that all their work was just a bunch of rah-rah and hot air because nothing ever came of it. Customers will be disappointed by the inconsistency between your promises and their experiences.

Both your front-line managers and employees already have too much on their plate to digest and manage the execution of more than a few things at once. You need to create a roll-out calendar of new customer service systems. Never introduce more than two or three things per 120 days to any one department. This may sound like a slow process, but wouldn’t you be doing cartwheels if I told you that a year from now, you will have introduced 10 new initiatives that are all being executed consistently?

Manage the experience

It is imperative that every manager is uncompromising about the execution of your standards. Your employees have to know that they cannot pick and choose. That is why it is very important NOT to have too many standards for every stage of interaction. Less is more, so keep it realistic to achieve.

As soon as employees start to think no one is really paying attention or cares, the standards go from nonnegotiable to optional. To avoid this, managers have to routinely do audits of the standards and recognize when they are being executed and immediately coach when they aren’t. You can have the greatest customer experience on paper, but it is the leadership’s responsibility to make sure every employee is well aware of the importance of consistent, continuous execution.

JOHN R. DIJULIUS is the best-selling author of “What’s The Secret? To Providing a World-Class Customer Experience.” (Wiley, May 2008). 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

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