Jurgen Ahlers

(Legend: a story handed down from generation to generation; something unique and of great importance to tell others about; something worth experiencing.)

Some of us have had the pleasure of experiencing what could aptly be called "legendary" service, unusually fresh, attentive and personalized. It its legendary in that it stands out from the ordinary. Rare and most delightful! At a time when much abetted "quality service" should indeed be the norm, service unfortunately comes across too often as unpolished, insincere, almost methodical.

I want to share with you several proven "secrets" that seem integral to the consistent delivery of legendary service. Together, these secrets could be seen as a formula, but I prefer to regard them as rare seeds to be sown in fertile soil, and if nurtured consciously and consistently, they will grow a healthy, strong, high-quality service culture.

The first seed is the belief that what you produce or deliver in service is of great, intrinsic worth in and of itself. For example, if you provide a particular service, you should know that you are offering the enhancement of another's personal state of being, whether for just a fleeting moment or in an ongoing capacity. When you come to know or "own" this fundamental truth, do you regularly affirm it for yourself and your associates, that what you provide is indeed of inestimable value to your customers? Does this belief show through in your approach, imagination and enthusiasm about your service and its consequences?  Do both your associates and your customers feel it?

The second seed is the belief in your people, the belief that your people have the wherewithal to genuinely deliver the best! This belief is grounded in your practice of bringing the "right" people on board. As you recruit and interview, are you clear about the comprehensive profile of qualities needed for the job? Are you confident that once on board your associates will be equipped with the best in company orientation, job training, and personal development whereby they see and feel their own self-esteem and professional competency rising? Do your associates sense your respect and trust in them, in their desire to "give it their best?" Are they rewarded, not only for accomplishment but also for effort? Do your associates trust you? Are they "caught up" in your belief of the intrinsic worth of their services? Contrary to the popular dictum that the "customer comes first," in actual fact, it is your associates who require your initial focused care and attention.

The third seed is the belief that the service your organization provides can make significant contributions in both the short and long term. Too often our preoccupation with short-term gains (and losses) exhaust our energies. We tend to concentrate almost exclusively, and with remarkable consistency, on current, “quarterly” conditions, giving little heed to how our activity affects the larger, long-term conditions (the quality of people’s lives, organizations, or, even the environment). Conversely, when this short and long-term imbalance becomes aligned, in fact, when the long-term,  principled perspective drives our present policy and activities, an amazing "ecologic synergy" emerges, spiriting latent energies toward performance excellence. Put another way, once future possibilities of the broader spectrum are envisioned and affirmed at all organizational levels, daily activity becomes endowed with deeper meaning and purposefulness resulting in higher motivation, personal commitment, and anticipatory service.

The most effective means of fusing these three seeds into a dynamic nucleus is by developing an organizational "credo" (Latin: "I believe"). An organizational credo captures the values and principles, as well as the character and culture of an organization, reaffirming its heritage while giving expression to its hope for the future. The process of developing an organizational credo serves to push back present limits, elevate future visions, and strives to uplift the human spirit. Consequently, it will be important that the perspectives of the organization's "key players," at all levels, be solicited, heard, given consideration, and reflected in the credo's central message. The credo will thus become a prominent "co-created" symbol of tradition, integrity and continuity, conveying the organization's foundation of the past and its vision for tomorrow.

It is from these  critical "seeds," expressed in the form of an organization's credo, that truly legendary customer service can grow. Any service organization, regardless of size, that consciously plants and consistently nurtures these seeds within its organizational culture will reap extraordinary, joyful and lasting results. When an organizational culture reflects legendary customer service people take notice. Customers, because such service is so rare, will look forward to "repeat performances," and will gladly speak of them to others, generating healthy curiosity, heightened, challenging expectations, and sound business relationships -- with the bottom line: everyone becomes a winner!