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How to Get Your Employees to Go "Above & Beyond"

How to Get Your Employees to Go "Above & Beyond"

April 01, 2008

How far would you go to help one of your customers? As someone who runs the show there, I bet you would do whatever you could for a customer.

But what about your employees? That's the real test.

Because your employees have more opportunity to make a difference ' either good or bad. And most of the time, you won't know about it until afterwards.

How one barista made a difference

There's a great story of Sandie Anderson, a Starbucks barista (yes, we run some good news about Starbucks from time to time!) who donated her kidney to one of her customers. Sandie is already well-known for her friendliness behind the counter at the Tacoma, Washington store and she's well-known for doing missionary work in Mexico and helping dig mud out of houses after Hurricane Katrina, according to the New York Times.

One morning, she noticed her long-time customer, Annamarie Ausnes, wasn’t as cheerful as she normally was while stopping in for her usual short-drip double-cup of coffee. When Sandie asked her about it, Annamarie shrugged it off. They had talked about grandkids and vacation souvenirs in the past and got to know each other a bit over the typical small talk you would expect any worker to have with a regular customer.

But Sandie didn’t let it go with a shrug. This is what got me; she prodded to find out what was going on. It was then she learned that Annamarie was suffering from polycystic kidney disease and one of her two kidneys was deteriorating rapidly and she needed a transplant fast. No one in her family was a match and she was added to a long wait list. Sandie responded instantly that she would get tested to find out if she was a match. Tests came back positive and three weeks ago Sandie donated her kidney to her customer and friend, and both are doing great.

Now, I’m not suggesting for a minute that you and your employees should be willing to donate your body parts to show you really care about your customers. But it is a reminder that we should be willing to do more than what’s just included in the job description.

For Sandie, it began with noticing that one of her customers who is usually cheerful each morning was particularly glum that one day. And she showed she cared by not settling for a shrug.

It’s true that at the same time, Starbucks CEO Howard D. Schultz had launched a well-publicized campaign to have employees make a “human connection” with customers, but that isn’t why Sandie donated her kidney.

Values can’t be found on resumes or in slogans

She did it because that’s part of who she is. You can see that by looking beyond her resume. In fact, her primary reason for taking the job at Starbucks in the first place was simply so she could get health insurance for her and her family. But as someone who volunteers her time to make a difference in the lives of others, she’s certainly someone who had a desire to make a difference in the lives of her customers too.

That attitude doesn’t begin with a company slogan or a corporate training course. It begins at the top with your core values. Actions speak louder than words in this case, so you need to model how you want your employees to go “above and beyond.” What have you done lately to go above and beyond for a customer – or for an employee?

Nordstrom’s is well known for its return policy. One day a woman returned a set of tires that she insisted she bought at Nordstrom’s, which has never sold tires. The manager of the store honored its return policy and gave the woman her money back and took the tires!

There’s another terrific story of the Nordstrom’s customer who fell in love with a pair of pants that were on sale. However, the store was out of stock in the customer's size and the sales associate wasn't able to find the pants in any of the other Nordstrom’s stores either.

The sales associate, on her own, (and following the founder’s core value of customer satisfaction), took petty cash from the department manager, went across the street to a competitor's store, and bought the slacks at full price. When she came back, she sold it to the customer at the marked down price!

Empowering employees to make a difference

The Ritz Carlton gives each and every employee $2,000 worth of discretionary funds that they're allowed to use in order to make their customers happy and solve disputes. Why? Because it’s part of their culture and a mission that says, “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” Just imagine, every employee is empowered to provide instant resolution to any guest’s problem, without the need to get a supervisor’s approval, spending up to $2,000!

As I said, it begins at the top. But in every case we talked about top management wasn’t involved much at all. It’s the employees who made the call. So, hire people who support your core values. Go beyond the resume and look for examples of how candidates care for customers, clients and even strangers. Who knows, you may even have your own legendary story of customer service in the making.

And if you’re looking for a business reason of why customer service is so important, I’ll leave you with this statistic:

One satisfied customer tends to tell one person about their experience. And unfortunately, one very dissatisfied customer will tell eight people. But here’s the good news: one very satisfied customer will tell six people about their experience.

Taking you from where you are to where you want to go,


Jon Goldman

P.S. Got a great customer service story to share of something you or an employee did? Or did someone else go above and beyond for you in some way? I’d love to hear it. Send me an email with your story so I can add it to our list of Extraordinary Service Stories.