Can You Hear Me Now?

Customer service has been on my mind lately because a lot of parents are calling Product Detailsto ask about enrolling their child in school.  In fact, if you walked into my office, you might overhear me talking at the phone, instead of into the phone, and I’m pretty sure you would not find a customer friendly tone in my voice. I know I’m not alone in having to consciously change from sour to sweet in an instant (school secretaries everywhere know what I’m talking about)!  Add to that the out of range cell phone calls, and you can definitely have the “can you hear me now” factor.

Zingerman’s Guide to Giving Great Service is an enjoyable little book that will remind you that great customer service never goes out of style. My (and your) first contact, whether voice to voice, or face to face, is vitally important to create good will toward your school or organization.

Zingerman’s Deli is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan and is known for providing great food and outstanding customer service. How outstanding is their customer service? It’s so outstanding they lead seminars on their method. It’s pretty simple actually.

  • Figure out what your customer wants
  • Get it for them accurately, politely and enthusiastically
  • Go the extra mile for the customer

Not surprisingly, the Zingerman model has its roots in servant leadership. But beyond that, they are intentional about training and teaching their staff just what great customer service is. Zingerman’s takes it a step further, pledging to treat each other like royalty. Now that’s a place I’d like to work!

Zingerman customer service begins with these 5 tenants:View details

  • Teach it (from the janitor to the owner)
  • Define it
  • Live it
  • Measure it
  • Reward it

Zingerman’s mission statement complements the 5 tenants:

“We share the Zingerman’s experience selling food that makes you happy, giving service that makes you smile, in passionate pursuit of our mission, showing love and caring in all our actions to enrich as many lives as we possibly can.” (p.11)

I love this mission statement—isn’t it great that it goes beyond the “dry” facts to human connections?  It makes me want to retool my organization’s statement right now!

Unfortunately, we know people won’t always be smiling, and that brings us to the next level of great customer support—dealing with those complainers. Again, there’s no rocket science here, just the practice of being courteous:

  • Acknowledge the customer’s complaint
  • Sincerely apologize
  • Take action to make things right for the guest
  • Thank the customer for complaining (yes, you read this right)
  • Write it up (Zingerman customer service forms are on their website)

Like many of us who work in schools, I’m getting more on my plate, not less. It’s difficult to slow down and treat our customers (parents) like royalty, much less my colleagues. In addition, our culture, as a whole, is centered on “me” and what I want. This book asks us to put “me” aside and focus on others. This simple, but difficult, task could make the difference for chooser parents.

Has your school or district made an assumption that your employees know what good customer service looks like? Is training in customer service provided at every level from the cleaner to the superintendent? Do your employees know your mission statement and can they articulate it to parents and each other? Is there a culture of respect and appreciation for not just customers, but for coworkers? If not, this little book will start you on your way.

If you love the idea of servant leadership, check out check out The Power of Servant Leadership by Robert Greenleaf and Leadership is an Art by Max DePree