"We’re in the customer service business...we also happen to fly planes" ~ Colleen Barrett, Former CEO of Southwest Airlines
"Excellence is not a skill...it’s an attitude" ~ Ralph Marston, American Writer
All companies have an organizational chart.
On the top of the chart is typically the Chairman, the President, and/or the CEO... at the bottom of the chart are the multitudes of support personnel who perform many of the unheralded tasks it takes to keep an organization running smoothly.
Today, I’d like to share two stories... one about a person at the top of the org chart and one about a person at the bottom of the chart.
Each is vital to their respective companies but for reasons that are not necessarily readily apparent.
As I rode up the elevator in a highrise downtown office tower, I thought about the many years that I’ve been coming to see Steve, a senior partner at a local accounting firm. Steve has been my CPA for practically all my entire entrepreneurial life... through the good times and the bad times, helping me to understand how the "numbers" help to tell an unbiased story of what works and what doesn’t, and providing me sage counsel and fresh perspective at those times when I was pondering difficult decisions.
After all these years, I still vividly recall my first visit to Steve’s office.
After walking through the door, I was warmly greeted by Melinda. Some people might refer to Melinda’s position as a receptionist, but Melinda’s official title at the company is "Director of First Impressions"... and she takes her job seriously.
Melinda asked me if I was there to see Steve, and when I said "yes", she told me that he was just finishing up a conference call but that she would gladly go back to his office to let him know I was there waiting.
When she returned to me, she was carrying a cold bottle of water.
"It’s really warm out there today, so I thought that you could use some cold water", she said with a bright smile.
I sat down in the lobby area. After a short time, Melinda approached me with several of the day’s newspapers.
"I don’t suspect that Steve will be long, but just in case, here are this morning’s papers for you to look at."
It didn’t take me very long to see that Melinda’s official title at the firm was aptly bestowed. She makes a great first impression and their clients feel very welcomed at their office.
After only a few minutes, Steve met me in the lobby and we went into one of the small conference rooms to conduct our business.
As I was leaving, Melinda asked me if I wanted a cold water to go. I kindly refused her offer.
She then asked me for my parking ticket so she could validate it. Good thing she did as I had forgotten so it saved me a trip back up to the office.
I thanked her for reminding me and handed her my parking ticket.
On the way back down to my car, I couldn’t help but think about the phenomenal customer service I received that morning.
My good friend Jeffrey is considered by many people to be a very successful businessman.
Through lots of hard work over the past 25 years he’s been able to grow his financial services company now managing client assets in excess of a billion dollars.
I hadn’t seen my friend in several months, so we decided to meet at his office and go grab some lunch while we catch up.
After lunch we returned to his office building. Before we could go into the building, he noticed several pieces of trash paper in the flower beds in front of his office. Without saying a word, he waded through the muddy flower bed to retrieve the trash and then deposit the papers in the trash bin.
He could have easily called someone in building maintenance to pick up the trash but yet he didn’t. He did it himself.
I asked him why he wanted to ruin his good shoes in order to remove a few pieces of paper.
He replied, "Because I was here first".
The event was so strange that I thought about it on my entire drive back to my own office. Then it hit me.
The reason that Jeffrey has found his success wasn’t that he was necessarily incredibly smarter than everyone else (although he is quite intelligent), had impeccable market timing, or that he works more hours than anyone else...
Jeffrey is successful at what he does because he pays attention to the small details.
It’s that attention to details that helps to differentiate himself and his company from the others.
No job or task is too trivial.
People like Jeffrey live by two rules:
1) Take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves.
2) There are no big things... only a progression of little things.
The Pursuit of Excellence
Now on the surface, it doesn’t readily appear that a billion dollar money manager and receptionist would have much in common but in reality, there is a lot of commonality between the two.
Melinda doesn’t let the fact that she is a receptionist get in the way of doing the very best job she can. She comes to work each day with the attitude where she truly believes that the success of her company rests solely upon her shoulders.
She is the Director of First Impressions and it is up to her to make sure that a client (or potential client) feels like they are the firm’s ONLY client. When you walk into her lobby or call on the phone, it is her personal mission to ensure that your expectations are exceeded and that you feel important and respected.
Jeffrey on the other hand, doesn’t let the fact that he is the company’s CEO stop him from doing any job at his company no matter how small or trivial... even it means that he needs to get his good shoes dirty to pick up a piece of trash. It’s this attention to detail that has helped to contribute to much of his success.
In both cases, each is taking personal responsibility for their firm’s success, going the extra measure to ensure that their company’s clients get extraordinary service.
You’ll never hear that it’s not their job... because they believe it IS their job.
In this global Internet world, don’t you sometimes wish that more people had this attitude?
Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we believe that providing an outstanding customer experience is everyone’s job.
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