My wife is a vacuum
snob connoisseur. Your basic knockoff won’t cut it for her. I love her, I have my own weaknesses, and if that inspires her to vacuum our home, then who am I to complain? So when our Oreck suffered its last breath, we scoured the frontier for a machine that could keep up with our family and our Golden Retriever, a gold medalist in shedding at the 2014 Boulder Olympics.
Our search brought us to the Dyson Ball “Animal 2” upright vacuum. It’s several hundred dollars' worth of the best vacuuming you could ever want. We went to Sears to check out the magic of this wonder and to take it for a test drive. Our service representative did a good job—until it came down to buying it.
We shared that Sears’ own online price was $75 cheaper than the in-store price. We told him that we either wanted that same price or we’d just buy it online from Sears. He proceeded to badmouth Sears’ on-line service: “You won’t get the right machine.” “It will come damaged.” “It will be delayed in shipping.”
Fascinating. I’ll bet Sears doesn’t train that type of response. In fact, I’ll bet Sears is investing heavily in its online strategy. But what does that investment do for our in-store service representative? He’ll likely lose his commission if we order on-line. And if too much goes online, he’ll likely lose his job. It doesn’t matter what the training manual or executives say. Sears’ online sales are his competitor.
In 1994, the Harvard Business Review published “Putting the Service-Profit Chain to Work.” It was about how to build profitability in a service business. It concluded that revenue and profit growth really start with employee satisfaction. Happy employees will deliver exceptional customer service, which builds customer loyalty, which is how to grow revenue and profit in a service business. The article continued that:
“Top-level executives of outstanding service organizations spend little time setting profit goals or focusing on market share, the management mantra of the 1970s and 1980s.. Instead, they understand that in the new economics of service, frontline workers and customers need to be the center of management concern. Successful service managers pay attention to the factors that drive profitability in this new service paradigm: investment in people, technology that supports frontline workers, revamped recruiting and training practices, and compensation linked to performance for employees at every level.
When we think of execution, most of us think about codifying our processes. Ensuring our teams follow them consistently and thoroughly. Focusing our team on doing things the way we want them done. I’ve been there and done that.
These are important, but today at Case our first step is to inspire our team members. Their inspiration is contagious with our clients—both directly and indirectly through their caring and pride. As that Harvard Business Review article continued, great companies “they express a vision of leadership in terms rarely heard in corporate America: an organization’s ‘patina of spirituality,’ the ‘importance of the mundane.’
1994 was a long time ago…makes me feel old. But the lessons of that article ring true to me today. I ponder it whenever I use the Dyson Animal we purchased from Amazon.