Good health. Good work habits. Pure idiocy. And a customer service experiment.

I swim between 2,000 to 3,000 yards, four days a week before work. It sometimes makes for a stressful time getting out the door in time, but the physical and mental health benefits more than offset that. When I’m exercising regularly and eating right, I think better—and tend to do better work.

So when I get back from my swim, I usually fix a fruit smoothie, to which I add just enough spinach or broccoli to count as a serving, without adding so much that I actually have to taste it. I respect vegetables. I just don’t really like them.

One morning a few weeks ago, I got home from and plugged in the Vita-Mix, but didn’t notice that the clear cap was at the bottom of the container when I dumped in the ingredients. My wife had put it there without telling me, assuming I would notice. I didn’t. (It will be 18 years in April that we’ve been married, and she still assumes I will notice the glaringly obvious. I think that’s sweet.)

Apparently, the Vita-Mix didn’t notice it either. It blended away as if that container cap were nothing more than a half-melted ice cube. As I poured it into the glass, I wondered—when did I put ice in my drink? Then I realized what you already know, dumped my smoothie, and ate donuts.

I’m wondering if Vita-Mix’s customer service is as good as their engine. If it is, they’ll probably send me two replacement container caps. Granted, it’s more than I would expect. But so is their engine—which is why I love it. You could power a small go-cart with that thing.

I’ll let you know what I hear. In the meantime, here are six excellent tips on top customer service from a Harvey Mackay column I just ran across while trying to make this blog post relevant:

  1. Understand you’re in the service business.  Most companies think they’re in manufacturing and retail.  It’s a paradigm switch.  Southwest Airlines is successful because they understand they’re a customer service company.  They just happen to be an airline.
  2. Look at all the policies, procedures and systems that you’ve got in place that make life miserable for customers.  You could have the nicest people in the world, but you could have stupid hours, stupid rules, stupid procedures, that irritate customers.  And they won’t come back.
  3. Have empowerment. Every single employee has to be able to make fast and powerful decisions on the spot, and they better be in favor of the customer.
  4. Be more careful about who you hire.  The service leaders hire one out of 50 applicants, sometimes one out of 100, but they’re very, very, very careful.  You’ve got to look for the cream, the A players, instead of bringing on B and C players.
  5. Educate and train the whole staff on the art of customer service with something new and fresh virtually every four to six months.  There is no magic speaker, no magic training program.  No matter if you have a hundred or a thousand or ten thousand employees, you better have something new and fresh so it’s constantly in front of them, so when they go to work, they say, “Fantastic – I’m taking care of customers.”
  6. Then measure the results financially, so you know the impact it’s making on revenue, on profit and on market share. You have to track the numbers so you understand that it’s worth the time and effort.

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