Principles Before All Else

Principles before all else – todays rules for better customer service.

Effective customer service is easier to perform than ineffective customer service. But judging by the way most companies deliver customer service, you’d never know it.

Why? Lots of corporate “policy;” lack of corporate “principles.”

Most companies and their employees have no idea what customers want, much less how to deliver what they want. Customers don’t want to hear stories or excuses, they only want to hear that you care about them personally, and what you are going to do about their problem right now. Here’s the rub – companies communicate about things and problems in terms of themselves and not in terms of the customer.

Customer service people give excuses about why they didn’t and why they can’t (stuff about them) instead of what will be done about it, and how to solve the problem (stuff about the customer).

When serving, the secret is “think other guy,” first.

Why companies train employees non stop about their policies is beyond me. Policies have nothing to do with success, principles have everything to do with the success of “people” – that leads to the success of the “company.”

To serve customers, a set of principles must be established, so that the policies can be delivered in a positive (customer retaining) manner.

Oh, that.

Here are some Principles of Customer Service Success. Train on these before you even dream of opening your policy book.

  • Principle 1.Your customer is your paycheck. Don’t be fooled by the signature at the bottom of your payroll check – the guy who signed the check didn’t put the money there – your customers did. No customers, no money. You should change your customer greeting to “Hi, thanks for the food!” Your business is worthless, and your wallet is empty without funds provided by customers. Principle Action:The more you work for the customer’s success, the more you will earn.


  • Principle 2.Your attitude (the way you dedicate yourself to the way you think) determines the degree of excellence of service you will perform. Positive attitude is the foundation of your life – and the determining factor of your ability to serve. Your positive attitude has the best possibility of creating positive customer perception of your entire company. How positive (enthusiastic and friendly) are the first words spoken to your customer? Principle Action:Read about positive attitude for 15 minutes each morning. Create and deliver positive first words. Do whatever it takes to maintain your positive attitude.


  • Principle 3.Customers call, contact or visit for one reason – they need HELP. Most of the time we don’t give them help – we give them hell. They can’t get through without automated attendant, voice mail, or hassle. One of the cries of the mass consumer is, “You wouldn’t believe what I had to go through just to speak to a live human being.” – When the customer finally gets through they’re already mad or exasperated – and of course, the response is, “our company policy states…” and the customer boils over. The customer will want to talk to you (and buy from you), if they believe that you can solve their problems (resolve their situations). If you gain their trust, they won’t call the competition, and they won’t be as price sensitive…They just want help, and comfort. Principle Action:Know why your customers call, and the BEST way to respond to each need.
  • Principle 4.The value of a customer is 20 times his annual sales volume. A $10,000 a year customer has a value of $200,000. That’s what you earn if you keep him, that’s what to fail to earn if you lose him. Do you spend as much to keep existing customers as you do attracting new ones? Principle Action:Every customer contact is an opportunity to earn the next sale. Be your best on every customer interaction.


  • Principle 5.A customer ready to repeat his purchase is a powerful business advantage. The quality of the relationship with your customers determines continuity more than the price of your products. Have you earned the right to the re–order? Is it easy to do business with you? Will carry the sale – or will your customer shop for price? Principle Action:Substitute relationship building strategies for sales techniques. Stay in front of your customer in times of “non–sale” as much as you do in times of “sale.”


  • Principle 6.Customer satisfaction is worthless. Satisfaction is no longer the acceptable standard of customer service. Satisfaction is no longer the acceptable measurement of customer service success. The standard and measure of success for the next millennium is loyal customers. Just because they’re satisfied doesn’t mean they’re loyal. How loyal are your customers? – Less than you think. Principle Action:Understand what makes you loyal and deploy those actions towards customers.


  • Principle 7.Word of mouth advertising is 50 times more powerful than advertising. America is not sold by advertising alone – it is sold by word–of–mouth advertising. One person telling another what to do, what to buy, where to shop, what and where to eat, where to live, what to drive, OR what NOT to do, buy, or drive, OR where NOT to shop, eat, or live. Memorable customer service (to create favorable word–of–mouth–advertising) can only take place in a human to human situation. Secret: To be the best you can be for others, first you must be the best you can be for yourself. This means attitude, discipline, and self-education every day. Not “serve for the company” rather serve to be the best you can be for yourself.
    • What’s the word on the street about your company?
    • Do you spend as much to promote positive word–of–mouth advertising as you spend on advertising?
    • Principle Action:Write about things that help customers, speak at trade shows and business functions – get in front of people who can say “yes” to you, and deliver value first.


  • Principle 8.When your done speaking with a customer or the transaction is over, that’s when they START talking. They will either say something good about you, nothing about you, or something bad about you. And the best part about this is, by your words and actions you determine what they say. Principle Action:Start positive, end positive, and put positive in the middle.


  • Principle 9.Your friendliness and willingness to help is in direct proportion to your success. All things being equal, people want to do business with friends. All things being not quite equal, people want to do business with friends. The best way to get to be friends is to be friendly. How friendly are you?Principle Action:Start friendly, end friendly, and put friendly in the middle.


  • Principle 10.Company policy is written in terms of the company not the customer. It tells you what you can’t do for a customer – not what you can do. Company policy and customer service are oxymorons. Customers NEVER want to hear the word “policy” Principle Action:When faced with a policy situation, start out by saying, “in order to be fair to everyone…”
  • Principle 11.Service is a feeling. You know what it is when you get it so give back the same thing or more. The simple secret is don’t give any feeling to others you wouldn’t want to feel. Principle Action:Remember how you felt the last time you got great service? Give that to your customers. Every day.


  • Principle 12.The secret to success of customer service is start with YES. Don’t give the customer a bunch of lame excuses or reasons you can’t do what they want. Give solutions, not excuses. Principle Action:Start your response with “the best way to get that done is…” or “The easiest (fastest) way to do that is…”

Major Service Success Clue:Institute a policy that states you must have a manager’s approval before you can tell a customer “no.”

  • Principle 12.5The customers PERCEPTION of good or bad service is the measure of your success or failure. If the customer has a different customer service definition than we do, our definition is invalid. In the end, customer perception is all that matters. Principle Action:Master the elements of service that the customer considers most important. How do you find out what they are? You ask them (duh). How do you master them? You work at being your best every day.

Well, those are the principles don’t be discouraged if you read them and fall short of the mark there isn’t a Fortune 500 company within a country mile of understanding customer principles, let alone implementing them. If you just tackle one principle a month and get every employee in your company to understand it, and work it into their daily customer interaction, you can beat any big company to the punch (and the loyal customer) any day.

And for those of you Fortune 500 people reading this and thinking you have the program under control with your customer policies and practices just the way they are remember it was you that thought TQM (Total Quality Management) *  was good. What happened to that? Same problem policies before principles.

Final Proof:It’s interesting to note that people are willing to die for their personal principles, but I doubt anyone ever died defending their company policy.

But the best thing about these 12.5 principles is that EVERY ONE OF THEM CAN BE IMPLEMENTED BY YOU TOMORROW WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF ANYONE. They can be enacted by YOU on behalf of (in spite of) your company. “Bob,” you whine. “What if I get fired?” What boss in his right mind is going to say you’re too friendly, you’re fired or you’re talking entirely too positive, you’re fired.

Success challenge: Become a master of principles not policy.


Bob Underwood Specialty Funding