Mark Bowser

The Buck Stops Where?

There is a customer service philosophy known as under promise; over deliver.  That is a motto of the champion.  It is one of the secrets of success.  If this philosophy is so important then what does it mean and how do we live it?  Well, lets break it down and take a look at it.

First of all, I believe it means we have to give ourselves a little grace period.  Lets say it normally takes you two days to do something for a customer.  What I recommend is telling them that you will have it done for them no later than three days.   Why three days?  Because there is a little guy named Murphy.  Now, from time to time Murphy comes to visit us.  He brings with him his own little law known as Murphy’s Law which basically says if something could go wrong it will.  If you said you would have it done for them in two days and Murphy comes and messes everything up and youre late then your customer is upset and your credibility is weakened.  On the other hand, if you say you will have it done no later than three days and Murphy shows up and delays the progress, you still have a chance of getting it done on time because you have given yourself a little grace period.  Don’t expect everything to go perfect all the time.

You see, by saying no later than three days, you give yourself options anywhere between day one and day three. What if you tell them you will have it done for them no later than three days and Murphy doesn’t show up and you get it done for your customer in two days?  Your customer is thrilled.  You are terrific.  I know there are going to be times where you cant give yourself a grace period, but when you can under promise; over deliver.

The next thing this philosophy says to me is that we have to take responsibility.  United States President Truman had a sign on his desk.  Do you remember what it said?   The Buck Stops Here! President Truman made that popular, but do you know the historical heritage of that statement?  It goes farther back in history than Truman.  Where it comes from is from the old days when they were playing cards.  They would put a buck knife in front of the next dealer.  The buck stops here.  The responsibility stops here.  Over the years, they quit using the buck knife.  They would use a coin instead, like a silver dollar.  They still referred to it as a buck.  That is why you might say that you have ten bucks in your pocket.

Years later, President Truman put that sign on his desk saying that he was taking responsibility for everything in his administration.  If something went wrong, then he would fix it.  If he couldnt fix it then he would take the heat.  The buck stopped with him.  He was responsible.  Where does the buck stop in our lives?  Are we always looking for a scapegoat?  Do we always have an excuse?  Is it always someone else’s fault?  The champion has the courage to take responsibility and action to back it up.   The buck stops with us!

The third element I believe we can take from this philosophy is that we must go the extra mile.  You have probably heard that statement all your life but do you know the historical perspective on this one?  Let me give you a hint.  It is older than the last one. Doesn’t help?  Well, why don’t I go ahead and tell you.  This saying is around 2,000 years old.  It is a Biblical term.  It comes from the teachings of Jesus Christ.   It has to do with Roman law.

In Jesus day, Roman law said that if a Roman soldier came up to you and said, Carry my armor!, then by law you were required to carry his armor for one mile.  If you didn’t comply then he could probably kill you.  So, as you can imagine, most people carried the armor but they weren’t too pleased about it.  They weren’t too fond of the Roman soldiers.  Rome was a conqueror.  These soldiers were a representation of their bondage.  They despised the soldiers. So, they weren’t too pleasant as they carried the armor.

Well, Jesus turned things upside down.  He told the people of Israelto carry the armor not only one mile but two miles.  Give them more than they expect.  Shock them with kindness.  Give that extra effort. Be nice to the Roman soldiers.  Talk with them.  Connect with them. The result of this was fantastic.  History records that when Christianity was spread to the Roman Empire, it was spread through the Roman soldiers.  The Christians had gone the extra mile in the Roman soldiers lives and impacted them forever.  The Roman soldiers in turn, went back home and influenced more lives.

When we give that little extra effort, spend that extra moment with a customer, or do something that needs to be done even though it is not our job to do it, then wonderful things happen.  It changes not only the lives we touch, it changes ours as well.

Well get it painted for you!

I have a friend who really taught me what it means to go the extra mile.  His name was C.A. Bridges.  Unfortunately and unexpectedly,C.A. passed away.  At the time of this story, C.A. was the service manager at Tom Wood Lexus in Indianapolis, Indiana.  A number of years ago, I was having trouble with my car.  The clear coat was pealing off the hood of my Chevrolet Berretta.   Its not supposed to do that.  The car looked like it had a sunburn.  So, I went to my local dealer and I showed then the paint problem.   The body guy said, That doesnt fall under our warranty for that kind of paint problem.  In other words, I am out of luck. I will have to pay for it myself.

Well, I was sharing this challenge with C.A. and he let me vent then he said, I think we can help you out at Lexus.  Bring the car into me and we will get it painted and you wont have to pay for it.  C.A. explained to me that the guy who does the body work at Tom Wood Lexus also does overflow body work at Dan Young Chevrolet also in Indianapolis.

So, I drove my very badly painted Chevy Berretta onto this luxury car lot.  Ill have to admit, it kind of stood out.  I don’t think they left it outside very long for obvious reasons.  What I think they did behind the scenes was get the car to Dan Young Chevrolet where the car began to be worked on.  Even when there was a delay on when the car would be finished, C.A. arranged for me to get a rental car free of charge.  When the car was done, I drove off in a very beautifully painted Chevrolet Berretta.

What did I get out of this experience?  I got help.  I got help in an area I couldn’t help myself in.  What did C.A. get out of this?   Well, I am sure he got that warm feeling most of us get when we help someone in an area we know they couldn’t help themselves in.  How about Tom Wood Lexus?  I wasn’t one of their customers.  What did they get out of this?   For one thing, they get a lot of publicity.  I have shared this story with seminar audiences all over the country.  But they didn’t do it for that reason.  You see, this was years ago and my speaking schedule was not near as full as it is today.  There was very little PR to give.  Also, I don’t think Tom Wood himself ever knew this took place.   He has empowered his team to do the right thing—to go the extra mile.

Under promise; over deliver!  What a concept.  If every individual and every organization would adopt this philosophy then our success would be guaranteed.  So, where does the buck stop?   It stops with us!    Success is our choice.  Thats the mark of the customer service champion.