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Recognize the Promise Makers and Promise Keepers

Recognize the Promise Makers and Promise Keepers

In the inaugural issue of Business, John Spence wrote a review about two of our New York Times Bestselling books, “The Orange Revolution” and “All In.” If you’ve read any of our work, you know that we’ve made the study of great corporate cultures the focus of our careers. We were thrilled when Scott asked to include our latest article titled “Recognize the Promise Makers and Promise Keepers” in this issue. Here we provide three tips for engaging not only your sales stars but those people who fulfill the sales promises: those in service roles.

Imagine you are taking a group of kids to a theme park. They are bouncing-off-the-walls excited as you step on to your first ride of the day—a jungle cruise. Justin says he’ll be your tour guide for the ride. Terrific, right? The start to a perfect day.

But let’s say a little kid with cotton candy hands falls into our ride operator and he snaps at the little boy, even muttering into the PA that he can’t wait to be done with this day. Yikes. No matter what happens the rest of the visit, chances are you’ll leave thinking the theme park’s famous customer service is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Here’s the moral: The more workers are engaged, the better they treat customers, and the better our brand appears to those making purchasing decisions. And if even one of our important customers catches just one of our employees in a surly mood, that customer won’t think we have a bad employee, they’ll think we have a bad culture. It’s that simple

The bottom line, says Jon Picoult, founder of Watermark Consulting, managers need to spend a lot more time engaging their employees.

“If your people are disengaged in some fashion—soured on the company or their role—it’s inevitable those feelings will bleed into their interactions with your customers,” he adds. “No matter how great your technology, or how iron clad your business processes—customers’ impressions about your business rise and fall with the individual delivering the service.”

With that said, Jon offers three strategies for building employee engagement to deliver a stronger service culture from his expertise helping some great brands impress their customers.

Measure what matters…to your customers. Many companies say they want to rally employees around service excellence, but then evaluate performance based on how many widgets the company manufactures or how quickly they “handle” incoming calls. See the disconnect? The conflict between a leader’s words and the organization’s metrics can confuse and frustrate employees. If you want to build an engaging, service-oriented culture, be sure to complement traditional internal metrics—like productivity and timeliness—with external “voice-of-the-customer” measures such as customer satisfaction or likelihood-to-recommend. The ultimate arbiter of your company’s service quality is the person on the receiving end.

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Watch for ‘recognition equity.’ How can you tell if a company is paying lip service to the concept of service excellence? Compare their sales recognition programs with recognition offered to employees in service roles. In many organizations, excellence in sales is rewarded with big bonuses, luxury trips, or lavish merchandise. And those who excel in customer service, what do they get: A meal ticket to the cafeteria, if they’re lucky. There’s an implied message in this disparity about what a company truly values, and it’s not lost on the service staff. By creating programs that recognize service excellence as prominently (and richly) as sales excellence, managers can convincingly demonstrate the equal value of service to the organization, and advance the engagement of employees in those often forgotten but vital roles.

As for us (Adrian and Chester), we call this recognizing the promise makers (sales) and promise keepers (service and operations).

Show staff what ‘right’ looks like. To build a strong service culture, serve your employees as you’d want them to serve your customers. With every interaction, meeting, or coaching moment, managers have an opportunity to show their people what constitutes great service by actively listening to their people, taking ownership of issues raised, being responsive to concerns, communicating clearly, and treating their people with respect and appreciation. One of the most powerful tools in any leader’s arsenal is consistently modeling the behavior he or she seeks to promote. Do that with your employees and they’ll not only have a great example to follow, but they’ll become happier, more engaged internal customers themselves.

Think Orange!

Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton are the New York Times bestselling authors of “The Carrot Principle” and “All In.” You can learn more about their work at

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