Improving Customer Service

Issue # 46 of 70 

John T. Self, Ph.D.
By: Dr. John T. Self


What a wonderful word. But, if you're anything like me, it's one that you won't use very often. Why is that? Why can't we not only use the word, but also put it into action? After all, it just takes a quick look around to notice many, many reasons to celebrate. I'll bet there are hordes of events, people or occasions that are crying out to be celebrated. If you're proud of something or someone, celebrate! The event can be either small or monumental; the point is that it be fun and significant. Besides the following examples, you're free to be creative. Create annual or monthly awards that are significant to your company, that mean something to the individual and the team that's honored. Be imaginative and be innovative, but do it. You will be surprised at how company culture and morale can be both heightened and made stronger by this addition to your customer service arsenal.

For example:

Events: look forward to the future and start planning now for events that will happen in the next 12 months. You'll have to ask; people typically don't even realize that they may be coming up on some significant event.

  • The anniversary of the founding of your company or product
  • The anniversary of the opening of your location or branch
  • The first time your location or company went over one million dollars (or ten million, or one billion)
  • The date that your company opened its 100th location (or second)
  • The date of your 10 000th customer

As Kevin and Jackie Frieberg list in their book, Nuts! Southwest Airlines' Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success, there are benefits to celebrating:

  • It provides an opportunity for building relationships.
  • It transmits a sense of history.
  • It helps us to envision the future.
  • It's a way to recognize major milestones.
  • It helps reduce stress.
  • It inspires motivation and re-energizes people.
  • It helps us mourn the losses associated with change.
  • It builds self-confidence and removes fear.

The Freibergs go on to describe Southwest Airlines' celebration guidelines:

  • The celebration must be authentic--it must be for a real occasion that signifies a success for the individual and for the company.
  • The celebration must raise people's dignity and self-esteem.
  • The celebration must be done right.
  • The celebration must appeal to all the senses.
  • The celebration must be seen as an investment. Southwest Airlines sees the cost of celebrations as an investment in the morale of their company, not just as an expense.
  • The celebration must be cost-effective. Use your own people as much as possible or consider bartering for goods and services to keep the cost down.

Just as Ken Blanchard's One Minute Manager realized that he(or she) would get the most accomplished by making one-minute praisings and reprimands, so too can celebrations lend themselves to reinforcing the joy of an occasion that a common certificate or simple praise cannot.

The team spirit fostered by celebrating the wonders of the job and of your people lasts far longer and runs much deeper than formalities that typically come to be both expected and soon forgotten.

John T. Self is a lecturer at The Collins School of Hospitality Management at California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly Pomona). Prior to entering academia, Dr. Self spent fifteen years in the restaurant industry. While in the corporate world, he worked for several chains including Chili's and Steak and Ale, and as vice president of a regional restaurant chain overseeing six restaurants with sales of over twenty million dollars. He has also owned three independent restaurants, including a comedy club.
Dr. Self has also been involved in the development of international hospitality programs. While at Golden Gate University, he started the partnership with Dalian University of Technology in Dalian, China and is continuing in that involvement at Cal Poly.

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Text © Dr. John T. Self, 1997,1998. Part of the original Sideroad.