Content By Chip R. Bell and John R. Patterson

Chip R. Bell and John R. Patterson’s default image

By: Chip R. Bell and John R. Patterson

The New Yorker magazine featured a cartoon showing a discussion between a salesman and his sales manager. The despondent salesman asked, “I know you’re always telling us to sell the sizzle and not the steak, Mr. Bollinger, but just what is the sizzle of a 90º elbow, flexible-copper fitting?”

Starbucks, Ritz-Carlton, Zappos.com, Lexus, and DisneyWorld have infatuated the marketplace as exemplars of great customer service. Clearly there are principles such organizations have mastered relevant for all enterprises. But, just like our plumbing supply salesman, not every industry is as glamorous as a gourmet coffeehouse, luxury hotel, expensive car, or theme park.

Consider this, you are in charge of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). How would you make the DMV more like a Starbucks and still stay within the state mandated cost controls? How would you make your bank more like a Ritz-Carlton and stay within the razor thin profit margins that characterize today’s financial services industry? As one senior executive said, “No matter how customer-friendly our employees are, our processes are customer-hostile and most are decreed by regulators.”