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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.

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Why We Must Connect with the Customer

A number of years ago, research was done to discover why customers will stop doing business with an organization. The statistics were quite interesting. This is what was discovered.

Statistics on why customers leave or want to!

1% die

3% move away

4% are fickle and float

5% listen to their friends advice

9% can buy product/service cheaper or somewhere else

10% are complainers and whiners

68% leave because they feel we do not care about their needs

Rapport The Answer to Connection

The answer to this dilemma is rapport. We have to connect with the customer if we want a chance of making them loyal. Have you ever wished you knew how to get along better with people? Have you ever wanted to connect with a perfect stranger? But how can we connect better? How do we build rapport with people?

In the 1930s, Dale Carnegie wrote a terrific book titled How To Win Friends and Influence People. In his book, he has a section filled with six steps to get people to like us. That is what rapport really is. When we like someone and they like us then we have rapport and trust with each other. In this chapter, let us use Dale Carnegie’s six steps as a guideline to rapport. A guideline to connection with not only our customers but everyone in our lives from the perfect stranger to our best friend.

STEP ONE: Sincerely interested in other people.

Have you ever been talking to someone and knew that in their mind they were 2000 miles away? How did that make you feel? Like you were being taken for granted? Well, we want to make sure we don’t make other people feel that way. We need to be sincerely interested in other people. This is not easy. Research shows that many people are focused primarily on their own needs, desires, and wants. I know I have to fight that temptation. As champions, we must go against this grain. We must put our needs (at least temporarily) aside and become sincerely interested in other people. If we can do this then we will start building better rapport with other people.

STEP TWO: Simply smile.

Are you a dog lover? If you are, you will probably understand this. When you get home at night what does your dog do? He/she probably greets you at the door with their tale wagging and their tongue sticking out. In its mind, the dog is thinking, “Where have you been? I am so glad you are home. Do you want to play some ball? I do! Do you? Oh, I love you, I love you, I love you. Please never leave me again!” To build rapport, we need to be more like a puppy dog. Now, dont slobber on people but we do need to greet people properly. We need to smile people into our lives.

A smile softens, its opens the door to the heart. When that door is open, connection has been made. We need to commit our lives to giving away as many smiles each day as possible. Give it a try. I believe you will discover that you have more connection with people and even feel better yourself. Not only will you feel good because you have brightened someone’s day but it will also brighten your day physically. The muscles that form a smile actually release a chemical in your brain that makes you feel good. Isn’t that great!

Some of you might be thinking, “That’s great Mark, but I spend most of my day on the telephone. Does a smile help me build rapport?” The answer is a resounding “YES!” There are telemarketing companies that put a mirror on the desk of the people who are on the phone all day. Why do they do that? Because if the employee is looking at a sour puss all day long (him/herself) then they will probably start to smile. When they smile, it brightens their tone and they build rapport with the customer on the other end of the phone line. A smile or a frown can be heard by the customer no matter how many miles of phone line is in between them and you.

STEP THREE: The honor of ones name.

Dale Carnegie said that the sweetest sound in any language is the sound of our own name. Get into the habit of using people’s name in conversation with them. Don’t use it every other sentence because that will annoy them but two or three times in a conversation will connect with them. Also, don’t forget to use their name in the middle of letters, memos, or emails. For example, your note might look as follows.

Dear Bob,

Fantastic job on the xyz project. So and so was sold by your presentation. (At this point, the note continues)…

Bob, …(Here you are using Bob’s name again before making your statement.)

STEP FOUR: The power of the listening ear.

Dale Carnegie shared the story of a department store in Chicago, Illinois which almost lost a valued customer. Mrs. Douglas spent thousands of dollars every year in this one particular department store. On this one day, she walked into the store and bought a coat that was on sale. When she got home, she realized the coat had a rip in the lining. That obviously upset her. She went back to the store and showed the ripped lining to a sales clerk. The clerk pointed to a sign and gruffly said, “All sales are final! If you don’t like it then you can sew it up yourself.”

“But it is damaged,” said Mrs. Douglas.

“Doesn’t matter! Sold means sold!”

Mrs. Douglas was about to leave the store and probably not return when she ran across the department store manager. The manager knew her very well because of her loyal years of shopping there. The manager did something that honored her. He just listened. He let her share everything that was on her chest. He let her share the anger that was bubbling up inside her and her disappointment in the product. Once Mrs. Douglas had said everything she wanted to say, the manager spoke. He said, “Mrs. Douglas, it is true that on sale items the sales are final so we can clear our merchandise at the end of a season. But that policy has nothing to do with damaged merchandise. By all means we will replace the item for you, fix it, or give you your money back. Whichever you prefer.”

Couldn’t have the store manager said this at the very beginning of their conversation? Sure, but that would have solved only part of the problem. You see, Mrs. Douglas needed to feel understood and the best way to help someone feel understood is too simply listen to him or her. Many times people just need to be heard.

STEP FIVE: Talk in terms of their interests.

In step number one, we learned we need to be genuinely interested in other people. In this step we need to talk in terms of their interest. For example, do you have a co-worker who just got back from vacation? If so, ask them about it. Do you have a friend who loves to go sailing? If so, ask them if they have been able to get out on the boat lately with the kids. You see, these are things they love to do. These are things they also love to talk about. When we are willing to talk in terms of another person’s interest, it fuels their enthusiasm for life. That enthusiasm will bubble over into the conversation in which you want to talk with them.

STEP SIX: Make them feel important and do it sincerely.

Have you ever been invited to a party and as soon as you walked in the door, the host said, “Wow! You look great. I have never seen anybody look so awesome.” For about a minute, you feel very special until you hear them saying the same thing to the next person who walks in the door. That’s called false flattery and that will destroy your rapport.

So, how do we make someone feel important and do it sincerely? Let me give you an example. When I was in college, I was in Air Force ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps). We had to give a speech in our military history course. For many people, public speaking is a fear worse than death. But believe me, it can be very intimidating to have to give a speech in front of a full fledge colonel who is your commanding officer. I would have been thrilled if Colonel Biltz would have pulled me aside when I was done and said, “You did a great job Cadet Bowser.” But he didn’t do that. He actually did something even more honoring for me. He set me up as an example for the rest of the cadets in the class. Colonel Biltz said something like this, “This is what Cadet Bowser did well and what we can learn from it.” He used me as an example on how to be prepared and give a fine presentation. That definitely made me feel important.

What Colonel Biltz did was give me a sincere compliment. Colonel Biltz (and most colonels for that matter) arent the kind of people who are going to give you false flattery. They will give you a compliment when you deserve it and encouragement when you need it. We can follow Colonel Biltz’s example and make people feel important. Who can you give a lift to today? Catch them doing something right and praise them for it.

Well, there you have it my friend. Six steps to transform your relationships. If we really want to connect with people all we have to do is:

1. Be sincerely interested in other people

2. Simply smile

3. Remember to honor a persons name

4. Be a listener

5. Talk in terms of their interests

6. Make them feel important and do it


Now, it is up to you and me. Lets go out there and make it happen!

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Great Customer Service is…

The question we have to ask ourselves is what great customer service?  Well, I have a two pronged definition to define effective customer service.  Here it is.

Mark BowserMotivational Business Speaker two pronged definition of Customer Service:

1. Finding a need and filling it.

2. Doing for the customer what you know they want done for them.

Let’s break this down a bit.  First, finding a need and filling it. What does this really mean?   Have you ever heard the saying that the customer is always right?  Of course you have.  Your customers keep preaching that to you.   But let me let you in on a little secret. It’s not true.  That quote has been taken out of context for years.  In fact, it is only half the original quote.  The challenge is that you have probably only heard it that way and even more challenging is that your customers have only heard it that way too.

The entire quote was from Marshall Field and he actually said, “Right or wrong, the customer is always right.”  This means something totally different.  You see your customer may not always be right, but they are still the customer.

Sam Walton of Wal-Mart perfected this.  Sam understood that his customers weren’t always right, but he more importantly understood that they were the King, the Queen,…the Boss.  Sam understood that he worked for the customer.

Everyone once in awhile, a customer would walk into the door of a Wal-Mart and say, “I need this….”   When in all actuality, that wasn’t what they needed at all.  They needed something totally different.  You see, finding a need and filling it doesn’t mean you give the customer everything they say they need.  That may not be right for them.  The key word in Customer Service is service.   What if Sam gave the customer what they said they needed and then six weeks down the road, they discovered it didn’t work?  Who are they upset with?  Right, good ole Sam and Wal-Mart.

What I mean by finding a need and filling it is finding the customer’s true need.  What are the results they are looking for?  When it is all said and done, where do they want to be?  That is their true need and that is the need we need to fill.  Now, I will admit, this makes your initial job tougher.  You have to connect with the customer. Your bed side manner has to be awesome. You need to communicate with that customer and help them understand why your approach will work in giving them the results they are looking for.

Two, do for that customer what you know they want done for them.  Many of us were taught the Golden Rule as children.  That is exactly what this is.  Well, how do we find out what they really want?  The first thing we can do is ask ourselves,  “What do you want as a customer?  What do we like and what irritates us as customers?”  That is the first clue for what our customers want. The second clue can be attained by simply asking them.  Ask the customer.  “What can I do for you today Mr./Mrs. Customer?  Take this practice to heart and you will be well on your way to providing outstanding customer service.

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Great Customer Service is Putting Yourself in Their Shoes

The First thing we have to do is to define our goal.  What is customer service?  Once we can define it then we can pin point like a laser beam the direction and focus of your business.

After teaching hundreds of seminars, I have discovered that one of the best ways to discover this is by putting ourselves in our customers’ shoes.  If you were in their situation what would you want?

We are all customers.  We all shop.  We all go out to eat.  And we are all patients.   So, what do you want?

Let’s make two lists.  On the first list, I want you to list all the things that tick you off as a customer.  Things that irritate you.  Things that drive you away from one business into the arms of another.

The Things that Irritate Me as a Customer






What things did you write down in this category.  You may have put down things such as rude attendants, having to wait a long time, and poor quality products and services.  Let me mention one of my pit peeves.  The Automated Phone System.  You know what I am talking about.  Those systems that say something like this, “If you want to talk to so and so then press 1, if you want to talk to so and so then press 2, ect…”  Then, once you finally push a button what does it do to you?  It sends you to another menu.

Finally, you reach a live person but what is your attitude like now? Your ticked, right?  Many times, the systems we have in place to make our lives easier actually create ticked off customers and thus create havoc and stress in our own lives.

My family owns a company in Anderson, Indiana called the Bright Corp.  What we do is sell papered products to the funeral industry. Hey, someone’s got to do it.  Actually, we are considered publishers for the funeral industry.  Our main product line includes Register Books, Acknowledgement Cards, Memorial Folders, and Prayer Cards.  I bring this up because if you were to call the Bright Corp. during business hours, you would get a live person.  Why?  Because my dad and my uncle are adamant about this.  And they should be. You see, when my grandfather bought this business back around 1947, the business was housed in a garage.  That is all the larger it was.  My family built it up from the ground floor.  Today, the company ships products all across United States and even a little beyond its borders.  It has been built up by the personal relationship with each customer.

Now, there are challenges of having a philosophy of answering the phone with a live person.  The main challenge is that you have to have someone man the phone all during business hours.  But, is it worth it?  You can count on it.  Many times, the things that irritate us as customers will irritate our own customers as well.  We have to make sure we aren’t putting up barriers between us and a relationship with our customers.

The Things I love as a Customer






You can have my pants

Let me share with you something I loved as a customer.  A few years ago, I had a very strange experience on a speaking engagement in Indianapolis.   Since I was still living in Anderson, Indiana at the time, about 40 miles northeast of Indy, I decided I would grab one of my suits and drive down the night before and stay in the hotel where the seminar was going to be held the next day.

I was relaxing in my hotel room and something hit me—you better check your suit.  I got up and walked to the closet in my hotel room.  At first glance, the suit looked fine.  After more detailed scrutiny, I realized I didn’t have any pants.  What happened to my pants?  I knew I had pants when I left home.  Where could they be? I then realized what had happened.  I had carried my suit in a hanging bag from the cleaners.  The type that has no bottom to it. My pants had fallen off the hanger somewhere between my home and the hotel room.

What was I going to do without any pants?  Well, I decided I had better look in the hotel.  I went down to the parking garage and retraced my steps—no pants!  I then went to the front desk and asked if anyone had found any pants.  You can imagine the looks I got.

The hotel was a Hyatt Regency in downtown Indianapolis so it also had shops in it.  I asked when the shops opened.  Big Problem! Too late the next day to be of help to me.  Then something amazing happened.  I guy behind the front desk heard what was going on. He said, “I have some pants in the back. You can wear my pants.” TALK ABOUT SERVICE!  I wore this guy’s pants all the next day.  They were a little big, but at least I had pants.

When is the last time you gave your pants to your customer?  Not lately, huh!   Well, too bad.  You see, look back at the story you just read.  Do you see something in it?  What was the name of the hotel I was staying at?  It is there, isn’t it?  I have no problem (in fact, I love to do it) boosting up the business of Hyatt Hotels.  The truth of the matter is that you don’t have a problem either.  Word of mouth advertising is the best kind of advertising and it starts with great service.

So, how do we encompass everything we love as customers and how do we keep from doing to our customers everything we hate as customers? It is real simple.  Put ourselves in their shoes and give them what we would want.  That is great customer service!

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Satisfied Customers are Absolutely Worthless

The late chaplain of the United States Senate, Peter Marshall, used to tell a story titled The Keeper of the Spring.  The story is about a man who lived in a forest in the eastern Alps overlooking an Austrian village.  This old man had been hired years ago by a wise town council to make sure the mountain waters flowed freely into the wonderful spring which flowed into the quaint village.

The old man faithfully year after year removed leaves, twigs, and everything that could contaminate or clog the flowing water.  As a result, the village spring was an attraction for vacationers and swans alike.  The village was peaceful, happy, and blessed.

One night, years later, another town council began talking about the almost mythical keeper of the spring.  They wondered, Why are we paying this man?  Does anyone ever see him?  This money could be used for better purposes.  As a result, you can imagine what they did.  They decided to terminate the services of the old man.

For a while, everything stayed the same.  The spring was beautiful and the village blossomed.  But then came autumn, and the trees began to loose their grip on their leaves.   Twigs and branches broke off the trees and fell into the streams grip.

One day, someone noticed something different about their wonderful spring.  It was changing to a different color.  Soon a haze came over parts of the spring and a sickening smell began to hover around it. The vacationers left the lovely village.  The swans decided to look for a new home.

The town council called an emergency meeting.  They realized what a terrible mistake they had made by firing the old man of the forest. They immediately hired him back.  The old man got to work and performed the miracle again.  Within a few weeks, the life-giving water was flowing freely and surely to the village spring.  Soon all was normal, healthy, and blessed.

Now, you might be thinking, This is kind of an odd way to start this section of the book.  It is a cute story but what does it have to do with me and my business?   My answer to that question is everything.   You see, you, your team, and your business are the village spring.  Your customers are the mountain waters.  The truth of the matter is that if you don’t take care of your mountain waters, it will put a strangle hold on your village spring.  It will sicken, smell, and if something is not done to reverse the process it will eventually die.

Right here at the very beginning of this section, I want you to think about your mountain waters.  Are they loyal to you or do they see business in your industry (including you) as a dime a dozen?  In fact, let me ask you a couple of hard questions.   What would you do if overnight you lost 25% of your customers?  Even more important, what are you going to do today to keep them loyal?  Tough questions.  But if you dont have answers to those two questions, then you have a big problem.

But before some of you panic, dont worry.  That is why I have written this section of the book.  And that is why Customer Service is one of The 3 Pillars of Success.    I am going to give you answers to those two questions.   Answers that not only work but can prosper your organization tremendously.  We are first going to put the lid on your village spring.  In other words, I am going to help you get rid of satisfied customers and turn them into loyal customers.

Satisfied customers are worthless.  They stay just long enough until the next big thing comes to town.  Lets say that your customer lives ten miles from your office and one of your competitors moves in just one mile away from your customers home.  Guess what happens?  If they are satisfied, they are not your customer anymore. If they are loyal, they are not going to jump ship.  They wouldnt move for anything.

I am a patient of Juszczyk Chiropractic in Lebanon, Ohio.  Do you know how far I drive to have my adjustments?   I drive about 25 minutes one way.  Why?  First of all, Dr. Paul is good.  Very good. I have some major back injuries.  Much of it caused by years of competition tennis.  Dr. Paul has taken me from tremendous pain to a lot of relief.  We are not out of the woods yet, but I can see the sunshine.  But that alone doesnt keep me with Juszczyk.  There are a lot of great doctors of chiropractic.  I am loyal because Dr. Paul is not only a great doctor, he has also become a friend.  He has connected with me.  He cares about me and my family.  That is why I am loyal.

We just finished the Second Pillar of Success which was on Sales. But I want to make crystal clear that the 3 Pillars work hand in hand. They build on each other and blend together. The truth of the matter is that loyal customers create more customers.   Loyal customers become your best marketing.

Loyal customer Bob is minding his own business eating his lunch in the company cafeteria, when co-worker Sally starts talking how her teenage daughter Cathy needs to have braces on her teeth.  Sally tells Bob that her dentist said that Cathy needs braces and soon.  Sally is frustrated because she doesnt know what orthodontist to take Cathy to.  She tells Bob that her dentist recommends five good ones in the area.  But she doesnt want to play Russian Roulette with the five. Who should she choose?

Bob says to Sally, Who are the five orthodontists?  Maybe I can help you choose?  My son David had to get braces two years ago.  We went to Dr. Kevin Baxter and he was great.

Dr. Baxter? exclaims Sally.  His name is one of the five orthodontists my dentist recommends.

I would have no challenge recommending him.   David loved him.

Dr. Baxter it is.  Thanks Bob.  I owe you one.

Dont mention it.  Glad to help.

Loyal customers create new customers.  New customers become loyal customers and create more new customers.  And the cycle goes on and on and on.

Excerpted from Mark Bowser’s book the 3 Pillars of Success.