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Everyone Represents Your Company
by Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE

When I was a new business owner I attended a management seminar, the speaker said something that I have never forgotten. "Your business is as good as your worst employee." What a sobering thought.

Paul Harvey said: "For a company's advertising strategy to work, it has to be handled not only corporately but also individually." Haven't you every walked into a hotel and felt like saying to the desk clerk "Haven't you seen your commercials, you're supposed to be nice to me" then walked into the restaurant and felt like deducting 15% for putting up with the lousy service?

I was parked in the Union Square Garage in San Francisco, I asked the young man at the counter if I could have a token to use for the ladies room, he said "we are out", I said "that's not very good customer service", and then staggered, cross legging to my car. A couple of months later, same garage, different young man, I was about to give them $16.00 of my hard earned cash, I said "could I have a token for he ladies room please?" He said "we are out, but follow me", we walked a few yards to the ladies room, he turned a lever and all the tokens fell out, he gave one to me and took the rest back to the till for the next customers. Can you imagine the first young man would not give me good service because he would have had to walk just a few steps?

Perhaps that young man was not as lucky as I was to be brought up in an entrepreneurial environment, that means his manager or supervisor should let him know exactly what is expected.

I was in New York with my brother. We left a movie at 9:45 p.m. and although we thought we should be sensible and go back to the hotel, we were having such a good time that we thought we would squeeze in one other movie. A Claude Van Damme film had started 10 minutes before two blocks down the street. This was a high action film and it did not matter if we missed the first couple of minutes. As we were racing down the street, my brother was explaining the story line to me, we got to the counter of the cinema exactly fifteen minutes after the film had started. We said "we know we are late, but we want to go in, two tickets please." The cashier said "we are out, you can't come in, I've closed the till." I said "well put the money in the till tomorrow", "no" she said, "once I've closed the till we can't open it." I am a firm believer that if you don't like the first answer you get talk to somebody else, I went to the gentlemen who was actually taking the tickets. We said "Look we really want to see this film, we realize we are late, put the money in the till tomorrow, let us in free or keep the money yourselves." This was too much of a decision, he called the manager, we went through the choices, she said "no, once you miss the beginning of the last show, we don't let you in."

As we were walking away I turned around and said "I can tell none of you own this business, because the number one key point in business is that if people want to give you money, you take it." Owning the business does not mean your name is on the door. It is an attitude that everyone has to have to compete in challenging times. Who is training all your employees? What is expected of them?

I was delivering some customer service seminars for telephone operators or a large company. Their manager said "Patricia, we want our employees to understand about good customer service, but they don't shop in Nordstrom, they don't stay in fancy hotels, how do we get the point across? I said "I promise you as they are all consumers themselves they know exactly what good customer service is."

When I presented my seminar I told them some of my funny, good and bad customer service stories. I then asked them to share some of their experiences. I heard some fabulous and frightening tales. One women explained that she had bought a leotard to go under her child's halloween costume. When she got it home she found that it was a size too small, she hadn't opened the package. She returned it to the store the next day. The young man at the counter said, "what do you mean, you don't even know what size your own kid is?" Then she made another purchase, wrote a check and made the mistake of putting the next days date on it. He threw the pen across the counter and said "will you initial that?" in a condescending tone of voice. She went up to the customer service department and told them the story and do you know what they said? "That must have been Anthony." If they understood about Anthony's behavior, why was he still waiting on customers? Why isn't he in the shipping department until someone has time to train him on customer service?

What we need to do is make sure everybody in our organization, large or small know that they are part of the sales department, the service department and the PR campaign, everybody makes a difference.

Successful author and "integrity sales trainer" Ron Willingham was talking to the CEO and high level managers of a car company, the CEO was saying how much we believe in customer service, we have to train our people in good customer service. A gentlemen in the back put his hand up and said "If we truly believed in good customer service, why do we consistently ship cars to dealers who have very bad customer service records?" As Ron said to me over dinner "It's not what management says, that sets a corporate culture, it's what they let happen."

In the early days of Crown Zellerbach Paper Company's business in the northwest, a company truck driver was moving his load along a narrow, twisting road. A man driving a big, impressive car slowed him up, and it took the truck driver about twenty minutes to pass the man. When he did, he rolled down his window and shouted, "You $*$@!#*!; you want to take up the whole road!"...with the Zellerbach name all over the truck! It just so happened that the man in the car was Zellerbach's largest purchaser in the entire state, and he saw that the truck belonged to Crown Zellerbach. He immediately contacted his purchasing agent and said, "Cancel all orders we have with Zellerbach and never, ever do business with them again."

At the time, the paper company was being managed by its founder, Mr. Isadore Zellerbach, who attempted to contact his ex-client by phone for two months in order to find out why the account had been cancelled.

He had no luck. He flew up to the northwest in person. He said to his customer, "We give you good service, prompt deliveries and great prices. Why won't you do business with us anymore?"

The man told Mr. Zellerbach about the truck driver. At that moment, Zellerbach realized that he had overlooked the most important aspect of his business: everyone in his company represented Crown Zellerbach to the outside world.

Sometimes it's difficult for us to realize that we do represent our company every day. But a single negative contact can ruin a company's reputation in the eyes of a customer. You do make a difference every day in your company's ultimate success.

Sometimes we have good employees that management could take a lesson from. Several years ago at the National Speakers Association Winter Workshop in a hotel in Nashville the board of directors met and afterwards six of us had adjourned to the coffee shop to continue our deliberations. We weren't trying to be awkward, but nobody wanted anything exactly as it was presented on the menu, no one wanted the same as anyone else and as speakers we talked the entire time the waitress was taking the order, she was so nice and so patient that at the end of the meal I said "My dear, this is going to be worth your while, these guys are big tippers." She said something that I have never forgotten, she said "I'm not being nice for a tip, I don't care if you don't give me a tip, I just feel that if we give you good service, if your group comes back here another year, you'll bring your business back to our hotel and not the competition."

Frankly, I was impressed, here was a waitress talking about our hotel. When I got back to my office I asked my assistant to send a letter to the manager. "Dear Sir, I am a motivational speaker and I travel nationwide talking about good and bad service, may I congratulate on all of your staff, especially this waitress and I related the tale. I said "Sir, I don't know what you do to motivate your people, but keep doing it, it works." I never received a reply, I think the manager and the waitress should change places for a couple of weeks, she knows more about PR than he does.

SUGGESTIONS:

If you have a glossy brochure, explaining your services make sure everybody reads it, print in how ever many languages it takes. If you have a mission statement of philosophy, have it posted everywhere. Be creative on how you explain what's expected.

Got off an airplane in Columbus, Ohio and a gentleman that had been sitting next to me introduced me to the young man who was meeting him. He said "John worked in Disney World for three years." I said "How old were you?"

He said "Eighteen to twenty-one." I said "Where did you work?" He said "Lost and Found", I said "Is it true that when you first go to work in Disney World or Disneyland, they send you through a week's training program telling you about the philosophy and that you have to be nice to people and what your job is?"

"Yes," he said. I said "After that first weeks training, in the three years he worked there how often did you hear the philosophy on how you had to treat people?"

He said "Every day". I said "Oh, come on, you're kidding." "No" he said, it took different forms, it took different words, but he heard it everyday. It is tough getting good help. Yes, it is, but let's be inspired by people who want to be the best.

I was staying at the Cheyenne Mountain Conference Center and was very impressed by all the employees. As it was one of these facilities where your room could in fact be a long way from the lodge, bell people stopped me to make sure I wasn't lost and to see if I needed directions. The waiters in the restaurants were exceptionally friendly and outgoing. I was getting ready to speak at a banquet and one of the waiters had gone out of his way to initiate help and I commented to him how impressed I was with all the staff. He said "I have worked in six different hotels, and without a doubt the help is better in this one than any other place I have worked." I said "What's the secret?" He said "The management here treats us so much as professionals that it is so much easier for us to do our jobs."

Dr. Ko Nishimura, President and co-CEO of Solectron, Corporation won the Malcolm Baldrige award, 74% of his employees have English as a second language, in one department they speak 22 different languages. He said "They didn't necessarily try and win the award, they just used the techniques or the criteria to strive for continuous improvement."

Naisbitt says "Tomorrow's manager must learn to supervise a work force that is older and has more minorities and women." Even old-line CEO'S are taking a new approach to management. General Electric Chairman John Welch, Jr., advocates a kinder, gentler style that does not suppress ideas or intimidate employees. In GE's annual report, Welch promises a management technique neither autocratic nor tyrannical. He encourages communication outside traditional channels and says "Factory workers should be included in workplace decisions."

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Patricia Fripp CSP,CPAE is a San Francisco-based professional speaker on Change, Teamwork, Customer Service, Promoting Business, and Communication Skills. She is the author of Get What You Want! and Past-President of the National Speakers Association. PFripp@Fripp.com, 1-800 634 3035, http://www.fripp.com

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