Chapter 12 – Customer Commitment

“Service is the difference between a good company and a great company.”

85. Valuable Lessons!

According to the International Customer Service Association:

Corporate America recognizes that it costs nearly five times as much to get new customers as it does to keep existing ones. Thus, more resources are being committed to all aspects of customer service: salaries, training, human resources and equipment. Senior management is finding service more integral to their competitive advantage and to their bottom-line profits.

This constant commitment to service has nothing to do with phony smiles, clever phrases and hanging banners with slogans. It means the ability to compete and compete profitably. It requires a passion. A missionary zeal. A relentless pursuit to satisfy your customers.

Few companies possess this collective commitment. However, one company that has made customer service its fierce battle cry is a client of mine, Federal Express.

FedEx is a young company. On April 17, 1973, its first night of operation, FedEx shipped only eight packages. Seven were trial runs. In 1983, it was the first corporation in U.S. corporate history to hit the $1 billion mark in annual revenues within its first decade of operation. Today, FedEx has more than 300,000 employees in 220 countries, who make sure that when “the most important package is yours” and “it absolutely, positively has to get there”…it does! And they do it, over 10.2 million times a day!

Years ago, when Federal Express won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 1990, Chairman and CEO Fred Smith didn’t say the Baldrige was testament to his company’s expertise, an apt award for years of dedication or even a prize that was well deserved. Instead, he said, “I just hope we don’t take this damn thing too seriously!”

What a great quote! In essence, what Smith said is, “Okay, the statue is nice, but it sure doesn’t matter to our customers that we won some award if their packages arrive late or on the wrong day!” Smith knows that he and FedEx can’t allow the past to block their vision and customer commitment for the future.

The FedEX quest for service excellence hasn’t peaked. It has really, just begun. I know firsthand.

As part of my preparation and research for programs I conducted with FedEx senior managers, I observed, read about and heard about this service passion. These folks eat, live and breathe service. Believe me, it ain’t hype. They mean it! The American Management Association’s Management Briefing, “Blueprints for Service Quality, The FedEx Approach” states:

“There are no ‘secrets’ at Federal Express. The company’s impressive growth and its distinguished service quality achievements have little to do with ‘magic’   formulas. Their foundation lies in sound managerial theories and practices—the staples of management literature and of the wisdom espoused by quality ‘gurus’ for years, even decades.”

What sets Federal Express apart is this:

  1. “A consistent, clearly stated service quality goal—100 percent customer satisfaction, enunciated frequently and pursued doggedly in innumerable ways, large and small.
  2. A mathematical measure of absolute service failures as a catalyst to promote continuous quality improvement.
  3. Employees who feel empowered through open communication, training opportunities, quality improvement tools, and excellent leadership. They thus gain the freedom to take risks and innovate in the pursuit of quality and service for both internal and external customers.
  4. Finally, and most fundamental, FedEx has a people-first environment that acknowledges employee satisfaction as the primary corporate objective, and nurtures a culture from which customer satisfaction and profits spring.”

Regarding this last point, Fred Smith explains the Fed Ex corporate philosophy this way, “When people are placed first, they will provide the highest possible service, and profits will follow.” Smith summarizes this philosophy with his theory of PSP or People-Service-Profit. If you take care of your people and service your customer, then you will profit. Federal Express has always had this unwavering commitment to service, whether it was that first night when they shipped eight packages or last night when they delivered over 10 million.

When I asked Fed Ex employees what service means to them, here are some of the responses I received:

  • 100 percent customer satisfaction. Period.
  • Providing timely and accurate responses or solutions that properly meet customers’ needs and doing so with a friendly and positive attitude.
  • Keeping promises.
  • Prompt, educated and friendly service.
  • Being readily available and efficiently prepared to handle problems, questions or suggestions. To maintain a relationship in a proactive way.
  • Helping our customers attain their goals.
  • Doing whatever it takes to give customers the perception that they’re receiving more value than the investment they are placing in the partnership.
  • Customer service means being an equal partner with our customers, making their problems our own.
  • A willingness to go the extra mile…on your own!

And as a client recently said to me, “Remember, in the extra mile, there’s no traffic jam!”

© Blackman & Associates, LLC

Focus 96: What’s Your P/E Ratio? →

Jeff is a Hall of Fame speaker, best selling author, success coach, broadcaster and lawyer. His clients call him a “business-growth specialist.” If you hire speakers, please contact Sheryl Kantor at: 847.998.0688 or sheryl@jeffblackman.com. And visit jeffblackman.com to learn more about his other business-growth tools and to subscribe to Jeff’s FREE e-letter, The Results Report. Jeff’s books include; Stop Whining! Start Selling!, (an Amazon Bestseller), and the revised 4th edition of the bestselling Peak Your Profits. You can also stay connected with Jeff via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter: @BlackmanResults