How Excellent Service Creates Customers for Life

Build a Customer Experience They want to Write Home About

If focusing on service is a significant step on the InSPIRED leadership path, how do you go about making excellent service an everyday practice? You guessed it—by being Intentional

Great service doesn’t happen by accident. Every member of your organization is a person who has good days and bad days. 

Without a detailed plan in place for excellent service, you’ll only get the best any of those people can bring themselves to give on any given day. 

But if you architect superior service every step of the way, you’ll know in advance, and with great certainty, the quality of your customer experience. 

You’ll be able to deliver the gold standard when you define what optimal service must look like for your customer.  

Excellent Service Creates Exceptional Stories

As I serve business leaders and organizations around the world, I travel quite a bit and stay in many hotels. Sometimes my wife goes with me. When we visit San Diego, my wife loves to stay at the Hotel del Coronado (or Hotel Del).

If you’ve never experienced the Hotel Del, it is a magical place to stay. 

It was built in 1888 and turned into a National Historic Landmark in 1977. It has hosted presidents, movie stars, and all manner of famous people. Located right on the Pacific Ocean and just outside downtown San Diego, it has a unique vibe. 

When we visited a few years ago, we checked in, got our keys, and went to the room. When we opened the door, the room looked nice, but no different than any other hotel room. 

Plus, it faced the parking lot, so the view wasn’t great. A little disappointed, I went back down to the front desk clerk and explained that I was here with my wife and needed a bit of downtime. I asked if she might be able to put us in a better room. 

Her response was excellent service in action. It gave us a customer experience extraordinaire. 

She clicked a few keys on her computer, issued new room keys, and sent us to the new room.  We walked down the hall both nervous and excited to see what was behind the next door.

As we swung open the door, the view took our breath away.

This Californian cabana looked out over beautiful landscape and onto the Pacific Ocean. Out the back door was a small patch of grass that transitioned to the dunes and then on to the beach. 

An incredible beach vibe immediately washed over us as we felt the stress slip away. We could hear waves crashing with immense power and beauty. Sunlight streamed in through windows and doors, as the salty smell of the ocean permeated everything.

It was the polar opposite of the parking lot view in the other room. 

Excellent Service Sets You Apart

Did the lady at the front desk have to upgrade us to this room? Certainly not. 

But in doing so, she delivered a wow experience like nothing I’ve ever experienced. That was no accident. 

Long before we arrived, someone architected that experience, empowering and encouraging her as a frontline employee to make superior customer service a top priority. 

No matter your industry, when you deliver that kind of experience to your customers, you set yourself apart from your competitors. 

Any hotel could provide us with a decent room and a continental breakfast, but Hotel Del provided us with an experience we’re still talking about. Even better, we committed this year to annual stays by joining Hotel Del’s Club level membership. After this particularly outstanding teammate served us well, we more than returned the value of her service. 

3 Tips For Excellent Service

Every team member has the ability to create a WOW experience for each customer—if they feel equipped and encouraged to deliver. Here are three tips for taking an average interaction from eh to excellent. 

1. Get in Their Shoes

To best serve your customer, you have to think like your customer. What are they in front of you to experience? What might be a potential source of stress? What could put their experience with your brand/company/team over the top? 

2. Take the Extra Step

The steps to excellent service are, more often than not, simple—they just take that extra step. Don’t be afraid to get a little messy on your mission.  

So if you don’t have the information your customer needs or the authority to architect a WOW experience, take the time to gather, research, connect, ask, extend, engage, and even surprise! 

3. See the Big Picture

Every interaction between you, your team, and your customers is just one moment in their larger story. But a truly inspired brand can leverage a single moment into a memory. 

It might feel inconveniencing to take the extra step for a customer you may never see again—but with the bigger picture in mind, that one act of InSpired value can spark a connection that brings them back again and again and again.

Make this level of excellent service part of your value proposition. 

Anyone can do what you can do, but no one can do it the way you do it. I call it serving others “from tip to tail.” It means you see customers as valued individuals, without whom you wouldn’t exist. 

Average brands/teams perform individual tasks day after day. InSpired brands/teams create customer experiences they will never forget. 

Architect a wow customer experience to make service your strength. Lean into it—and shine. 

Why You Need a Productivity Plan in a Changing World

Spoiler Alert: You Can Be Busy But Not Productive

It’s always interesting to try to imagine what the future will bring. 

The Jetsons cartoon show, based in the year 2062, envisioned a future where robots do all the housework, cars fold up to the size of a briefcase, and much of what we need is automated. 

We’ve got forty more years to see how that turns out. The movie Bladerunner, set in 2019, envisioned a future where rogue replicants were virtually indistinguishable from humans. 

Back to the Future II, set in 2015, predicted hover cars, self-lacing Nikes, and food rehydrators. The film 2001: A Space Odyssey predicted a colonized moon by 2001. 

While predictions of the future are often wrong, what we know is that the present will change dramatically in a short period of time.

The more technology advances, the more the business environment must advance with it. If you aren’t paying attention, you may just get left behind. 

You need a productivity plan. 

Consider this list of things that didn’t exist fifteen years ago: 

  • iPhone
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • iPad
  • Netflix streaming
  • Google Maps
  • Snapchat
  • Spotify
  • Android
  • Uber
  • Lyft
  • Alexa
  • Airbnb
  • App Store
  • Google Chrome
  • WhatsApp
  • Fitbit
  • Waze
  • Slack
  • Square
  • Dropbox
  • Pinterest
  • Venmo
  • Bitcoin
  • Hulu
  • Kindle

The lesson for an InSPIRED leader is this: change is inevitable and you can either get left behind or develop a plan for growth that puts you in the best place for success.

Stand still and you’ll be outpaced rather quickly. But if you’re nimble enough to move wisely with the changing times, you are in a position to grow with them. 

But this lesson comes with a warning. 

Tyranny of the Urgent vs. a Productivity Plan

There’s a mistaken notion that being busy is the same thing as being productive. It’s the tyranny of the urgent in action. 

By responding to the urgent, we tend to neglect the really important things in life—production capacity, personal growth, striving to make a difference, living a life of adventure, building a family, or crafting a leadership legacy. 

In the movie The Shawshank Redemption, Red, “the guy who can get anything,” says, “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” 

In a counterintuitive way, busyness may seem productive, but it can actually be a distraction that slows you down. When you don’t invest time to put first things first, you’ll fall behind faster and struggle to catch up.

The truth is many people don’t know how to adapt when things change, so they remain still, embracing the madness they know. However, nothing in life remains still. 

If you’re not intentionally growing, developing, and moving, you’re not standing still—you’re getting left behind. That’s why you need a productivity plan. 

No One Gets Productive by Accident

I’ve spent my fair share of time in airports around the world. Have you ever paid attention to what happens when you step on one of the “moving sidewalks” between concourses?

These giant conveyor belts run silently in the floor, moving people along at about 1.4 miles per hour. The average person walking briskly (as you might expect in an airport) moves at about 3 miles per hour. 

airport-walking-sidewalk

So, if a person walks onto a moving sidewalk and continues a normal stride, he or she can go farther, faster. 

But consider this. Suppose you and a friend are walking through the concourse together at a steady 3 miles an hour clip trying to make a connecting flight.

Your friend jumps on the moving sidewalk and keeps walking at his normal pace. You stop to find something in your carry-on, figuring you’ll just catch up in a minute. But when you look up, you can’t even see your friends in the crowd ahead. He’s gone, and you’ve been left behind. 

Unfortunately, many people make this same mistake in leadership. 

They set aside intentional development and think they can just catch up later. But when you stop, you stagnate. Stagnate long enough and you’ll die. There is no standing still in life. 

You’re either moving forward or falling behind.

Spend Your Time Where You Want to Reap Results

So if you shouldn’t stay still, but you shouldn’t hop on the hamster wheel just for the sake of moving, what’s the answer?

It comes down to your priorities. Your to-do list is broken. 

Spend time only on the urgent.

So where you spend your time? Are you taking advantage of the “moving sidewalks” or sitting against the wall waiting for the right moment to move. (HINT: you’ll be waiting forever.) 

Where are you growing and where are you letting yourself stagnate? Don’t neglect it. Otherwise, the world will pass you by, and you’ll wonder where everybody went. 

I’m not advocating hustle and grind 24/7 with no rest or relaxation. 

I’m advocating an intentional, holistic productivity plan for developing every day in the midst of executing with excellence. 

We can’t live in either ditch. We need results for today AND results for tomorrow. 

Why Your Winning Team Should Act Like Sled Dogs

Build a Thriving and Efficient Force for Productivity and Support

Part of what makes the great Iditarod race such an inspirational feat is the level of teamwork necessary at every step. 

What looks like a bunch of dogs all doing the same job is actually a multi-faceted team—trained, orchestrated, and equipped by their musher. 

A full team is made up of 16 dogs, running in 4 different positions. Every dog has a particular strength, and every musher knows exactly which dogs will play each position best. 

It takes the same analysis and social understanding to create a winning team in the workplace! 

Let’s look at each pack member in detail and how their strengths translate to your team. Keep in mind which of your own members would thrive in each position. 

Who Are Your Lead Dogs?

Lead dogs know their way on the trail without being watched and you can trust them to make decisions guiding others on the team. 

Lead dogs are smart, possess initiative, common sense, and the ability to perform even in less than ideal conditions. 

How can you tell which of your team members will execute well as a Lead? 

Some will take that initiative pretty early. But sometimes you take a leap of faith on an untested pack member— and they surprise you

Let the Leads get to know your heart, and keep them close. Learn to develop a mutual intuition and give them access where the rest of the team might not have. 

Watch for their health, so you don’t have to replace them. Make sure their “paws” are in good shape—in other words, make sure they are free to run without anything hindering their running with all of their potential. 

Stay Prepared with Swing Dogs

The best teams have members who can operate in other positions. The Lead can be a burdensome place that wears, wearies, and stresses.

So it’s natural for mushers to have their ‘leaders in waiting’ to run in the next position—which is Swing. These dogs have to be leaders in their own right, and for many, becoming that Lead dog is the next natural step. 

Swing dogs are directly behind the leader, understanding their moves and translating that to the rest of the team. 

They ‘swing’ the rest of the team behind them in turns or curves on the trail. They protect the Lead dogs from attempting a turn—only to find the rest of the team choosing not to follow! 

They are crucial to making sure everyone makes the journey and stays in sync. 

Pro tip: When Swing dogs are able to rotate with the Leads, both sets will remain fresh and the results will show. 

The Powerhouses: Your Team Dogs

Not everyone on your team will be a Lead dog. In fact, if you had a pack full of them, your mission would probably fail. Chaos would ensue with everyone trying to lead.

That’s why, settled in the middle, are Team dogs. 

They don’t have to be concerned with the stress of leading and the sled is a comfortable distance behind them. They are free to simply pull with power and run. 

These pack members make up the momentum and pull you need to get the race done. To get the project finished. To keep going towards the prize. 

Most of your Team dogs will never be Lead, and they are fine with that. But you know what? If we didn’t have them, we couldn’t do what we do. They are vital to every pack—and every business. 

We should accept that the race is not their life—and let them run from 8 to 5 as hard as they can, then clock out and leave it all. 

Steady the Sled with Wheel Dogs

Wheel dogs run at the back of the pack, but are important for the steadying element they bring the entire team.

It takes a calm and even temperament to run close to the jolting, unpredictable sled.

These dogs know how to pull with power and steadiness to maneuver the sled around turns and rough bumps. (Not all dogs can handle it, nor should they.) 

The sled is not always pretty—things like cash flow and layoffs and contingency planning. There are things in your business that not every pack member needs to see and some will be scared off by. 

Which people do you allow close to the sled of business? 

Team dogs need to run unhindered from the burdens of the sled. But remember, even Wheel dogs that are closest to the sled are still not on the sled itself.

Though Wheel dogs are seasoned confidantes, people you count on to help you turn the business, they’re not meant to be pack mules for your emotional burdens. 

Keep an eye on those boundaries, establish outside sources of emotional care and support, and you’ll keep the Wheel runners—as well as the team as a whole—healthy.

Create Your Racing Team

Of course, your people aren’t actual racing dogs. And you probably don’t wake up every morning, tie on your fur hat, and climb into a wooden sled. 

But it’s still true that how well your team performs is in direct proportion to how well you know your people and put them in the right spot on the team. 

All positions are necessary. Knowing which ones your team members naturally play and allowing them to run there not only increases their satisfaction, but can lead to better team performance in the long run. 

Building the perfect team is rarely a sprint—more like an adventure of endurance that is wildly rewarding to those who take the time to learn and truly prepare. 

As always, if I can help you maximize your team’s unique talent, drop me a note using the form below.

One Leader’s Tragic—but Avoidable—Story of Failure

The Secret to Managing Team Relationships

Captain William Bligh possessed a strong ship, crewed by forty-three talented Royal Navy seamen. He had charted a clear course and mission. 

But even in the harsh industry of 18th century sailing, Bligh had a tough reputation. 

Historical accounts tell us his crewmen described him as a stern, overbearing, and critical leader—frequently successful in achieving objectives, but harsh with punishment. 

He was focused, but either not self-aware or, more likely, he just didn’t care. 

The consequences would go down in infamy. 

Bligh could have succeeded in accomplishing the mission IF he had been an InSPIRED leader—if he understood how to manage relationships with his crew.

crew-only-ship-sign

Leadership Passion – Leadership Awareness = Mutiny!

In 1787, Bligh and his crew, along with Bligh’s comrade and leading lieutenant, Fletcher Christian, set sail from England on a ten-month journey. They were bound for Tahiti and its famous breadfruit harvests. 

They reached the island, but instead of purchasing, loading, and leaving with his precious cargo right away, Bligh allowed his men to stick around for five months without any direction or discipline. Bligh refused to understand and manage his people in ways that led to success for the whole team. 

Bligh never took his eyes off his prize—making it to the West Indies to resell the breadfruit and make a pile of cash.

His devotion to the mission, however, blinded him to wise execution. 

Rather than respect his people, he crippled them.

When he piled his men back on board The Bounty after months of rest and socialization with the Tahitian women, he expected instant results without instituting any processes. 

British historian Richard Hough notes Bligh “failed to anticipate how his company would react to the severity and austerity of life at sea … after five dissolute, hedonistic months at Tahiti.”

The problems began immediately. His men grumbled. They complained to Lieutenant Christian about leader Bligh’s strict discipline and exhausting expectations. 

Bligh had a people problem—he didn’t have trust from his crew. 

But at the core, Bligh failed managing his crew’s expectations. 

He had permitted his men to get cozy doing nothing and now had a group of men who resisted his hard-nosed efforts to get them working again. 

Bligh responded to the crew’s resistance with an even harsher crackdown. 

So only three weeks into their journey home, The Bounty’s frustrated crew, including Bligh’s comrade Fletcher Christian, slipped into their captain’s cabin, tied him up at cutlass-point—and set him adrift in the Southern Pacific. 

Pain Points of the Unaware 

Bligh’s story has become legendary through various retellings of the infamous “Mutiny on the Bounty.” 

While you probably haven’t set your boss adrift on the open sea, or been marooned by your employees, you’ve likely been tempted to do so. 

Has your boss (or have YOU) ever… 

  • Failed to manage expectations?
  • Given orders without laying out roles, processes, and goals?
  • Changed course without communicating with the crew? 
  • Gaslighted community concerns and complaints? 
  • Ignored the gap between leadership teaching style and team learning style?

Lack of awareness—of self, of team, and of direction—will always lead here one way or another. 

It comes down to a management of trust.  

When a leader fails to lead people well, the team can’t trust that their next order will lead to success. Missions will fall apart. Even talented teammates, like Bligh’s crew, will rebel. 

Through another series of adventures, Bligh eventually made his way back home. Unfortunately, he didn’t learn his lesson. His unwise and demanding leadership style led to three more mutinies.

Practical Steps for Awareness

How would others describe you and your leadership style? 

It’s an intriguing question because it causes you to pause and reconsider everything you think you know about yourself and your interaction with others. 

It means you have to think not only about what you intend by your words and actions, but how your words will be received, perceived, and experienced. 

This simple practice of awareness is a leadership key that has kept teams afloat through even the hardest storms. How to begin? Be ready to look, listen, and learn. 

  • Look at your team, your leaders, and your clients. How do they interact? What frustrates them? Where do they excel? How does the environment affect morale, productivity, creativity, etc.?
  • Listen to your team, your leaders, your clients. Conversations between team members will reveal the unsolved, chronic mistakes long before mutiny breaks out. If you’re stuck in the echo chamber of your own goals and expectations, you’ll miss these crucial moments.  
  • Learn from your team, your leaders, and your clients. The best leaders are self-aware of their own fallibility—and the room they have to grow. They look for new ideas daily to challenge their perspectives, encourage team flow, and keep the organization from stagnation.

How Will They Tell Your Story?

Everything—from how you carry yourself when you step into a room, how you listen when someone is talking, make eye contact, react to feedback, say your favorite leadership mantras, encourage or discourage—creates an experience that either inspires or exasperates. 

Unfortunately, most people lack self-awareness. They prefer to remain blissfully ignorant and blame everyone else for any problems they create.

They fail to realize how their words, actions, attitudes, and personality impact performance and relationships with the people they interact with on a daily basis. 

These leaders may know their strengths, but they overuse them to their own detriment. 

That’s not good enough if you aspire to be an InSPIRED leader.

Leadership legacies are written by you—BUT are preserved and passed down through the followers you leave behind.  

It’s too late for Captain Bligh to change his story. 

What will YOU do with yours? 

Imitation: The Easiest Path to Leadership Success without Starting from Scratch

Find Awesome and Copy It!

Inspiration is contagious. 

Oprah Winfrey started out as a small-town newsperson and became a media mogul. 

Mother Teresa served the poor in the worst conditions. 

Gandhi, Steve Jobs, Malala from Pakistan, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., Albert Einstein—the list goes on. 

Each of these people had drastically different personalities, values, and vision, yet they all inspired millions.

Of course, you don’t have to meet a tech giant or join the Peace Corp. to find those electric people who inspire leadership success.

One of the first people to speak deeply into my life was a guy named Jim. He put a John Maxwell book in one hand and Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People in the other and began to teach me about leadership. As one of my first mentors, he told me he believed in me and saw amazing talent in me. 

It changed me and made me want to elevate my game.  And it made me realize—no great leaders are 100% original. 

It’s shocking, but true. 

We all model our lives after somebody. The difference is who and what do we choose to model. That decision changes everything.

mother-teresea

Inspiration Is Everywhere—If We Only Look

Inspirational people have a way of affecting our souls and changing our thinking. 

As kids, we model what we see in our parents and older siblings. Our word choices, actions, attitudes, and way of viewing the world all are shaped by what we see modeled for us. 

As adults, we encounter more and different viewpoints, we get to choose new patterns to imitate and replicate. 

So who inspires you? You may have never given it much thought. 

I encourage you to pause and consider it now. Who are your heroes? What leaders inspire you? It could be a… 

  • Teacher
  • Mentor
  • Boss
  • Coworker
  • Friend
  • Podcaster
  • Family member
  • Community figure
  • Spiritual leader
  • Author 

They could be your closest friend, but could also be someone whose perspective you value, whose work you’ve read, whose smile you pass everyday and take encouragement from. 

Great leaders have a way of bringing out the best in us. It’s the simplest way to gain your own leadership growth without starting absolutely from scratch! 

(I call it, “Copying Awesome!”)

They encourage, uplift, and inspire. Their presence inspires you to bigger and better things. You want what they “have” and are willing to listen up to find out how they got it. 

PRO Tip: Inspired From Afar

You don’t have to know someone personally to gain wisdom from them. You can engage some of the best mentors in the pages of books or via an online course or video. Use it all. 

Read voraciously, take notes, and apply what you learn to your own life to equip you for your own leadership journey.  

online-course

Key Markers of Inspiring Leadership

When you know who inspires you, you can identify the individual components that make them who they are and find things to replicate in your own life and leadership.

Some key characteristics may be:

Passion. They know why their work matters. They have a spark that comes from real engagement with their mission— if they lose their way, it always guides them back to what’s important.  

Honesty. They share ideas and opinions without fear of what their peers might think. They aren’t working in the spin room, but from a place of authenticity. 

Positivity. They don’t see failures, they see lessons. Unexpected changes are opportunities to grow. These people inspire hope, progress, and a big-picture mentality in the middle of seemingly discouraging circumstances. 

Inclusivity. They value the perspectives of others—even people who disagree with them. They actively encourage communication, creativity, and team thinking from every player. 

Wisdom. They may not be the oldest or the longest-working team member, but you can tell they don’t just bring knowledge to the table, but perspective and wisdom. 

Patience. They create space for trying, failing, and trying again. They are the listening ear you want to take frustrations and struggles to. 

Determination. When others want to quit, they dig deeper. They ask questions. They make moves. They have the grit and willpower to endure the dry spells and still reap the rewards of hard work. 

And this is only a starting list! Inspiration can strike from any direction. 

Now it’s your turn. 

As you think about leaders who’ve inspired you, ask what it is about them that speaks to you on a deep level. What is it about them that energizes you and makes you want to make them proud?

(Everyone’s life can be a lesson if you understand how to let it teach you.)

If you want to take it one powerful step forward—start a Board of Inspiration. Here’s how. 

  1. Get a posterboard, whiteboard, or personal journal. (Something with lots of room.) 
  2. Whenever you notice an encouraging, inspiring, or challenging characteristic—in anyone, friend, coworker, public figure—put it on the board! 
  3. Add books, articles, or resources that catch your attention.
  4. Add quotes that encapsulate your personal brand or mission. 
  5. Keep it somewhere you can see it! 

Imitation isn’t just the sincerest form of flattery, it’s also the quickest way to get remarkable results.

Why reinvent the wheel when so much of what you need to live an inspired life has already been modeled for you? Why start at the drawing board when leadership success is there in front of you in full color? 

Find awesome and copy it.