The Answer Is Yes, Now Whats The Question?: Building A Customer Service Culture


Micah Solomon, Contributor

June 17, 2015

“The answer is yes!—now what’s your question?” is the secret, the creamy nougat center, of creating a culture of customer service excellence. As a leader, your goal must be success in getting your organization to share a goal of getting to a “yes” for every customer, rather than a goal of figuring out ways to say “no,” “not my department,” “it doesn’t work that way around here,” “sadly, we cannot accommodate that request,” or “if you call back in the morning, perhaps we’ll be able to help you.”

That you should strive to tell your guests “yes” might seem like a big duh, like something entirely self-evident. Yet well-meaning employees can still find a dozen reasons on every single shift to say “no” to their customers. Which is why it’s incredibly important to set, actively and over and over and over if you ever sense it slipping, your cultural default to “yes.”  It can make all the difference in the world.

When the cultural default is set as yes, it can be, to a large part, self-sustaining. This is because other employees witness the yeses and strive to emulate them, or even top them.

Here’s just one example, but it’s a doozy, told to me by an alumnus of the double-five-star Inn at Little Washington, who witnessed it during one of his first days on the job.

I watched a couple arrived at The Inn from Pittsburgh, several hours away, to celebrate their anniversary with a three-night stay. As the staff unloaded the luggage, our female guest said to her husband, ‘Don’t forget my hanging bag.’ Her husband looked into the trunk and came up with a horrified expression on his face. Apparently, she had left her bag beside the car in their garage assuming he would pack it, but he never saw it.

“At this point, she pretty much fell apart: This poor woman was checking into one of the most expensive places on the planet with nothing but the clothes on herback! As the doormen and I tried to figure out what to do to make this couple happy, one of the staff who had been there a lot longer than me drove up to the front of the inn in the company car. I looked at him oddly and he just smiled and said, ‘Get me their keys and the address; I’ll be back before dinner.’

“I was floored. No one asked him to do this, and there wasn’t a moment’s hesitation on his part. He was so much a part of the service culture that he just knew the exact right thing to do. He was halfway to Pittsburgh before the lady actually believed that we were really going to get her luggage at her house. He drove eight hours straight and made it back before their dinner reservations at nine.”

Your Customer Is The Star: An eBook From Forbes How to make Millennials, Boomers and everyone in between fall in love with your business. By Micah Solomon.

The young man witnessing this extraordinary “yes,” which so much more easily could have been a “so sorry to hear that, I guess you’ll have to make do with the one set of clothes that you drove in wearing” was Jay Coldren, who still speaks of the impression this example of service made on his professional career (he rose to eventually to  lead Dining and Hospitality Services at the Inn before moving to a series of leadership roles at Marriott, where he now helms EDITION hotels, Marriott’s innovative luxury collaboration with hotelier Ian Schrager.)

That’s the power of “The answer is yes!—now what’s your question?” Strive to make it the default among your employees as well.  Pulling this off is what customer-centered leadership and building a culture of customer service excellence is all about.

Micah Solomon is a customer service consultant, customer service and company culture speaker and bestselling business author, most recently of High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service

This article was written by Micah Solomon from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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