Don't Go Down With the Ship; Do What's Right for the Company AND the Customer
Common sense must always prevail – especially when it comes to customer service. That said, sometimes companies create strict rules and policies or have a “system” that makes it impossible for an employee to deliver the customer service the company actually wants them to deliver.
Recently, I was sitting next to someone on an airplane who was on his way for a vacation on a cruise ship. We got into a discussion about how some people are so set in their ways that they can’t be creative about solving a customer’s problems. These people are so tied to their process and the way they have always done things that they jeopardize the relationship with their customer, even when common sense should prevail.
My fellow passenger has been on many cruises – and as good the customer service is on most cruises, he said there are always a few of the ship’s employees that are more focused on the system or process than on their customer. He then shared a few stories from his past trip about how some crew members lacked common sense. For some reason, it reminded me of the Titanic and how the eight-member band continued to play, even after the ship started sinking.
I thought that the story of the band playing while the ship was going down might be fictitious, so I did a little research to see if were true. Well, as the story actually goes, the reason for the band continuing to play was that Wallace Hartley, the band’s leader, had asked the band to keep playing because he thought it would help calm the chaos that was ensuing around them.
Maybe that was true, but I’d like to take some creative license and bend this story a bit to create a customer service lesson. My made-up version of the story has nothing to do with keeping the passengers calm. My version is that Mr. Hartley said, “Keep playing. We still have two hours to go in our set.” The passengers had all left to save themselves, but the band played on … as they went down with the ship.
The point is that Mr. Hartley’s band should have stopped playing immediately and tried to save themselves. Common sense should have prevailed. The band should have headed for the life rafts. But, sometimes people just do what they think they are supposed to be doing, without regard for common sense.
So, what does this have to do with customer service? The best companies hire people who are smart, problem-solving, customer-focused people who look for ways to work around having to say NO and come up with ways to say YES. They don’t get stuck on company policy. They work within the rules, but also understand flexibility. They will do what’s right for both the company and the customer. In short, they use common sense, especially when the ship is going down – or a customer is angry.
NBA Player Carl Landry Demonstrates the Value of Persistence in Life and Work
Written by: Jon Sabes
When you meet Carl Landry, stand-out college basketball player and nine-year NBA player, you imagine that becoming a professional basketball star was a straight forward run for the 6-foot-nine-inch power forward.
However, when you go deeper into Carl’s background, becoming a NBA professional was less than certain and little came easily to the 33-year-old from Milwaukee:
- He was cut from his high school team as a freshman and averaged less than ten points a game when he did play as a senior.
- He started his college career not at Purdue, but a junior college where it was not clear he would play.
- When he finally got to Purdue, he tore his ACL in his knee his first year and reinjured it the next year.
- While his family held a party for him the night of the NBA draft, he slept in the Philadelphia airport after missing a flight following a workout for the 76ers.
- In the NBA playoffs, Carl had a tooth knocked out, but came back in the same game to make a game-winning blocked shot as the Rockets beat the Utah Jazz 94-92.
Landry, who I interviewed on my podcast, Innovating Life with Jon Sabes (www.jonsabes.com), is a remarkable example of the value of “persistence.” In a time where technology creates the image that anything is possible at the touch of a button, persistence is an under-appreciated trait. When I spoke with Carl, I clearly saw someone for whom success has only come through a force of will that made him a NBA player, but it also made him a better player every year he played. That’s the kind of personality that has produced greatness in business as well as sports.
Carl was, in fact, drafted that night he spent in the airport. The Seattle Supersonics chose him as the 31st overall pick and then traded him to the Houston Rockets where he rode the bench for much of the first half of the season. When All-Star teammate Yao Ming was injured, he stepped in and played a key role in the Rockets astonishing 22-game winning streak (the third longest streak in NBA history). And, that season, after sitting on the bench for 33 of the first 36 games, he was named to the All-Rookie second team.
Carl was the first in his family to go to college. “I told myself that this was my ticket out, so I did everything I possibly could to be the best person in school and also on the court,” he said.
His family life in Milwaukee showed him what he didn’t want to do. “Just being honest with you, seeing some my cousins, peers, they went to work for jobs paying six, seven dollars an hour or they didn’t go to work at all and then living off welfare. I didn’t want that.”
When he was first injured, he had to contemplate the end of a career before it even got started. “When you have an ACL tear, it’s over…no more basketball,” he told me. “I said, God, give me health again and I’ll do everything I can to leave it all out on the line and be a successful individual.”
On my podcast, Carl pointed out another interesting lesson he learned in the NBA: Not doing things just to fit in.
“Fitting in was easy,” he said. “Doing everything that everybody else does was easy. If I stood out in some type of way, I’m going to have different results. I’m going to have stand-out results.”
That’s called the “Law of Contrast” and it produces that exact effect of changing the outcomes that everyone else is experiencing. Carl is smart, he recognized that differences make a difference, and doing whatever it takes is what is required to make real, meaningful differences.
Every off-season for the last 11 years, he has run a camp for kids in Milwaukee where he tells youth his story of hard work and persistence. “I always tell the kids to apply themselves and always be persistent,” he said. “If you dream, apply yourself and be persistent. With hard work, man, the sky’s the limit.”
When Carl says the sky’s the limit he means it. He is smart to recognize that it’s important to dream big, because if we don’t – we may be selling ourselves short. “You have to dream bigger than your mind could ever imagine,” he said. “I wanted a nice house. I wanted a nice car. I said, and I got all of that. So, what do I do, do I stop now? Maybe I didn’t dream big enough.” That’s a big statement coming from a kid who grew up to be the first in his family to graduate college and go on to be not only a top NBA basketball start, but a good businessman, father and someone who gives back to the community.
I’m convinced that in whatever he takes on as a basketball player or in his post-hoops career, Carl Landry is not going to stop getting better at whatever he does, and in the process of doing so, make the world a better place.
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