January 19 , 2018 /


No, it’s not about coffee stains on your favorite tie. It’s about two separate stories told by one of my favorite management gurus, Tom Peters. He and I exchange quips via Twitter from time to time and a recent one reminded me of these stories of customer service and how they apply to organizations, certainly some of mine in the past and perhaps yours now.

The first one has to do with excellent, far beyond what is expected, customer service at Nordstrom’s. You can read about it in one of Tom’s books. Essentially it was about a disappointed customer who had hopes of picking up a couple of suits before he had to go on a business trip from Seattle to Dallas. The suits had to be tailored and weren’t ready for pick up even in the face of a same day or even next day promise. However, when the guy got to Dallas the next day and checked in to his hotel, there was a FEDEX package from Nordstrom’s containing the suits, a handwritten note of apology and two silk ties coordinated with his new suits. Asked if he was now a Nordstrom’s customer he responded with something like “I’m a raving maniac.”

The other story has to do with coffee stains on a pull down tray in an airplane and the impression that if the airline maintenance can’t take care of these small things, how about engine maintenance? In other words, the devil is in the details and small, bad things can leave negative impressions about bigger, worse things.

So, how I use these stories with organizational cultures and behaviors is that every company has its silk ties and coffee stains and how you identify those and take care of them can really make a difference in your customer response. For example here are a few for you to consider and you can add your own.

Coffee stain: Automatic phone answering with long menu of choices and long wait times. Silk tie: A real person answering the telephone and getting you to the right connection in a timely fashion.

Coffee stain: Lack of confirmation of important message or transaction leaving customer wondering if it was received and processed correctly. Silk tie: Confirmation with reference number, contact information if needed.

Coffee stain: Lack of any warmth or personality or accurate reflection of company culture from employee regardless of position. Silk tie: Friendly, genuine, honest conversation or communication of any kind.

Coffee stain: Very little or no celebration, recognition or appreciation of employees significant contributions to overall positive impressions created with customers. Silk tie: Personal notes, rewards, holding up examples of exemplary customer service for others to see and emulate.

You get the idea.   Now have a conversation with your management team about your company’s silk ties and coffee stains. Celebrate the silk ties, wear them proudly and for heaven’s sakes, take care of the coffee stains. Making small changes can result in a big payoffs. This goes beyond the old suggestion box although that’s still a worthy idea too.

Please share your thoughts and opinions