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

  • 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

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 [email protected]