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Service Quality Institute - Blog

Why it’s Almost Impossible to Implement a Service Culture Plan

I have been talking and writing about customer service longer than anyone else in the world, letting both large and small companies know that it’s fiercely competitive out there and the only way to compete and win is with superior customer service. It will help you retain customers, build market share and improve worker performance. I, for one, am relentless in this.  I work on it daily

For 40 years I have said the major reason organizations are not customer driven is because top management has no grasp of the financial impact and the impact it has on employee performance. They are not relentless.

CEO's like to delegate customer service to HR, Human Resources. This is the kiss of death. The vast majority of all HR leaders have no grasp of strategy. If the company increases market share and sales for them it is just more work and no increased compensation. About the only time I have seen HR drive the service strategy is when the CEO demands it now.  Most HR will then work to kill the project.

Service leaders like Metro Bank, Amazon, Mayo Clinic, Costco, Southwest Airlines and Apple do not delegate this to HR. It is a strategy that is, or should be, the vision of the CEO and they relentlessly pursue it.

Another problem is most CEO's are not relentless. This is a 1 or 2 year project.  What is worse is many firms who have a service culture when the CEO retires delegate it to a Financial CEO like Michael Dell at Dell did with Kevin Rollins and Sam Walton and David Glass at Walmart did with Lee Scott. They put blinders on and dealt with numbers only, no thought to strategy and customer service.  Not even paying any attention to the fact that it is very difficult to recover the service brand. Good example of that is the $1000 I invested in Dell in May 20013 is worth $475 and at Walmart $2323, and this is after 15 years.

Vernon Hill, Founder & CEO of Metro Bank London said it "starts with a thousand cuts.” It is very difficult for the Board to buy into the Service Strategy. The United States bank he founded in 1973, Commerce Bank, was sold to TD Bank in 2007. Today it has little resemblance to the customer service culture it was built on.  You used to be able to call 888-751-9000 and a live person answered the call in 1-2 rings. Today it requires an IVR system.  The hours are no longer the same and inconvenience the consumer. It’s so much worse and has little evidence of improving.

I think Internal Politics destroys the focus on customer service. There is so much infighting. Everyone wants to fight for their own petty issues. It just becomes too much work. NO one wants to take responsibility. Unless the CEO is relentless it will die. If a Financial person is put in as CEO it will die. They just do not understand the power of the service strategy.

In order to create a service culture the CEO needs to be relentless. Needs to drive this as a strategy and needs to develop a management team that understands this culture. They need to focus on keeping customers, building market share and improving the performance of the entire work force by developing a culture of delivering superior customer service.

We are relentless:

For 40 years we have been helped companies succeed.


For 40 years, over 1 million people trained using our system.


For 40 years we have tailored programs for motivating frontline employees.


For 40 years we have helped companies save money and watch their profits grow with great customer service.

About the Author: John Tschohl
John Tschohl is an author and president of Service Quality Institute. He is an American business consultant and Customer Service Strategist.


Publish Date: November 12, 2018

Are You Guessing on Your Quality of Customer Service?

Providing outstanding customer service at the right price is the “Golden Rule” of most companies. It’s worth remembering that we all experience customer service every day. Customer service is a critical piece of your business, and you should fine-tune it as much as you can. Here are some well-known facts on customer service ….

Fact: 90% of companies say they deliver superior customer service and only 8% of people think these same companies deliver superior customer service. Which goes to show, you shouldn’t be guessing when it comes to evaluating your customer service.

Think you don’t have to worry?  Guess again!

Take your mobile phone and your service contract.  If you’re like me, it’s hard to tell.  The contract has been deliberately written so complex that most people don’t read it.  This, by the way, is why just about everyone hates mobile service providers—and why wireless carriers have some of the lowest customer service ratings of any industry.

FactThe average American spends13 hours per year and 43 days per lifetime on hold for customer service.  When it comes to customer service, your customers care far more about competent and helpful service.

Fact: 73% of dissatisfied customers cited incompetent, rude, and "rushed" service as the #1 reason why they abandoned a brand.

Fact: 86% of consumers will immediately quit doing business with a company because of a bad customer experience

Fact: Bad customer service is more than just a potential liability, it's a huge cost to your business.  Consumers are far more likely to share bad customer experiences due to their frustration.

Fact: It is 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one

Fact: The average business hears from only 4% of its dissatisfied customers.Very few people have time for your mistakes. Even fewer people are going to take the time to let you know about them, and why should they? You're the one that screwed up.

Fact: your customers can do quite a few things much better than you can, and if your business isn't embracing this fact by viewing customer service as a branch of your marketing department with tremendous ROI, you're doing yourself a disservice, as well as your customers.

Fact: 9 out of 10 U.S. consumers say they would pay more to ensure a superior customer experience.  Customers expect consistent quality of customer service; with a similar, familiar look and feel whenever and however they contact your company.

American firms spend all their Customer Service Training dollars on surveys.  That’s total overkill.  Few spend any money training employees on Customer Service.  Customer Service training will tip the scales toward making your business more successful for your employees and your bottom line.

Take responsibility! 

Be…fast and accurate.

People want answers and to move on with their busy lives. One simple and straightforward way to solve problems faster is simply to be available at all times, 24/7 with a ‘live’ person that answers the call within 3 rings. That way no one is ever having to check your hours to get in touch the next day. It’s easier to resolve issues and you will stand out from the competition as a company that deals with their customers right away.

Be…respectful and friendly

Customer service should be filled with positivity. Greet your customers, use their names, and always express appreciation for their business. Inject positivity into your day, the results will be eye-opening.

Be…a listener

Lead with your ear rather than your mouth so you can connect and problem-solve.  How can you meet your customer’s needs, if you don’t know them?  To understand their needs, just listen to the “voice of the customer” and take action accordingly.

Be…a solution provider

Ask your customer what they think would be a good outcome.  They probably have something in mind that they feel would make sense given the circumstances.  Even if that final answer is not exactly what you want, the customer may also feel that they are not getting exactly what they’d hoped.


Bear in mind that the customer will feel incredible if they feel that you are taking extra steps to help them. 

About the Author: John Tschohl
John Tschohl is an author and president of Service Quality Institute. He is an American business consultant and Customer Service Strategist.


Publish Date: May 31, 2018

Service Recovery and Handling Irate Customers

Every organization makes mistakes daily. Things go wrong and bad stuff happens no matter how committed we are to great service.

When this happens, the frontline employee often takes the brunt of your customer’s wrath. Not every customer is nice and often uses derogatory language. When things blow up the customer can get very excited and their tone of voice changes dramatically, setting the stage for an unpleasant encounter.

How do we handle this? In most companies, the employee lies and runs for cover. They figure it is better to let someone else handle the wrath of the customer and they know the customer will never remember who they talked to.  Lying only kicks the can down the road for someone else to handle and creates a better chance the customer will never come back.

A screaming customer can ruin any employee's day. If an unpleasant encounter happened at 9 am with an irate customer it will be difficult for that same employee to be cheerful and nice to everyone for the rest of the day. Even more difficult if the employee was not given the training and empowerment needed to handle the problem.

There is NO educational system in the world that will teach your employees how to handle these situations. If you want to reduce employee turnover, keep employees happy and have customers return to do business with you, all employees should be trained on how to handle Service Recovery

and Irate Customers . This is a link to our 2 session program on Handling Irate Customers. You can view the video, leader guide and participant kit online.

The customer is always right even if you think they are nuts. There are 6 steps I teach in Handling Irate Customers:

1. Listen carefully

2. Put yourself in the customer’s place

3. Ask questions

4. Suggest alternatives

5. Apologize

6. Solve the problem

Service Recovery is how you flip an upset customer in 60 seconds who is maybe swearing because your organization screwed up or he/she believes you screwed up. When I give my service strategy seminars across the world I ask executives to come up with 5-10 services or products they can give away as Service Recovery. Guess what?  Very few can come up with even one.  So, if the leaders have a problem what is the front line employee supposed to do? Which proves my point that according to my estimates, less than 2 percent of organizations practice service recovery.  This leaves a company with only two choices….

1. Kiss the customer good bye.
Often the employee will say the customer was a jerk. Very few companies know the life time value of a customer. 

2. Master Service Recovery.
Give something away that makes the customer excited about what happen so they fall in love with you.


A restaurant has a reservation for 4 people for you at 7PM. When you get there the hostess says, “Mr. Nelson we are way behind. All our fault. Would you and your guests please wait in the bar until we call you and have drinks on us.”  Lets' say each person has 2 drinks during the waiting time. The real cost of goods is at most $1 each which would come to a total of approximately $8.

What do you suppose everyone is talking about while waiting?  I suspect 100 to 1000 people with social media will hear about this. All for $8. This is called “word of mouth” advertising and Service Recovery.

The host/hostess took a mere 4 steps in dealing with a potentially irritated customer. 

1. Acted quickly
All this has to happen in 60 seconds or less.

2. Took responsibility 
Didn't lie or move the problem to someone else.

3. Made an empowered decision
Made a fast decision in favor of the customer.

4. Compensation
Every organization has things of value they can give away to compensate the customer for your mistake. Just apologizing is nice and is good customer service but it is not Service Recovery. 

Always remember….Once you connect with your customer it becomes easy and natural to take a concerned or irate customer and turn them into a valuable ally in growing your business profitably.

The Service Recovery/Loyal for Life Training Program is three hours.  

If you are interested in my book on Service Recovery, Loyal For Life, click here. All these programs and my books are also available on Amazon.

About the Author: John Tschohl
John Tschohl is an author and president of Service Quality Institute. He is an American business consultant and Customer Service Strategist.


Publish Date: May 7, 2018

What does it take to be a Customer Service Leader?

I marvel at the endless publications of the self-help books that are published year after year. I mean, the information is out there, all the tricks in the books are available for anyone to miraculously lose weight, get in shape, think positive, be a better person, get rich, etc., the “how to” information is readily available. What is lacking, however; is the attitude of the reader to own up to the opportunity and start on a consistent, long and relentless journey to accomplishing that goal. Not easy!

 John Tschohl, President and founder of Service Quality Institute (SQI) says; “One of the major weaknesses of most organizations is top management’s lack of a service strategy”.  I get that, and I understand it, too. You see, CEO´s and President’s top priority in business is the bottom line… profits! Since this business of customer service is such an elusive topic, it´s quite difficult for the finance guys to quantify it into numbers. It is an intangible figure that you´ll never, ever find it in any company’s balance sheet. Hence, the attitude of most top management is that customer service has no, or very low importance on the company strategy because of what is perceived to have a probable low economic impact on the bottom line.

Why most companies don’t do it or even try? Because of two reason; the first reason is because it is not easy. All of the training books and well-structured manuals in the market; like SQI´s and others have available, cannot accomplish their goal in making companies costumer service successful through their beautifully packaged products alone. You see, I´ve learned in my many years in the retail bank business that it is not about the product; it´s about the attitude that most CEO´s and Presidents of companies place on this complex subject.

Here is the irony; most top management spends thousands, if not millions of dollars in advertisement and spend only a fraction of that money in training and developing their staff. Top management is more focused in keeping a fierce advertisement campaign against the competition than investing in training and developing their people. I have noticed that successful companies have one thing in common: they are focused on, and first sell, customer service…the product is secondary. No, I am not saying sell substandard product, of course not. I am saying that the culture of a successful company is wrapped around the service discipline that the customer comes first.

The second reason; Top management must be consistently and totally involved in the process, walk the walk and talk the talk. Someone at the top in management must be directly responsible to this quest.  Several years ago, Mr. Tschohl sold a pretty hefty and pricy training program contract to a local, large bank company here in El Salvador. Amazingly, John sold the idea and top management all agreed to embark on the development of their service culture. The program was launched at a huge company kick-off rally and soon after they set sails on to this new culture venture. Sadly, only six months into the campaign, the project fell flat, it had been put on the back burner. What happened? I can only assume that once management gave the green light to kick start the project, they took their hands off the wheel and did not manage the process of the development of their service culture. Mr. Tschohl, early in our relationship advised me that his programs have a do or die factor; top management needs to be involved in it, always! If top management is not, he said, this program will be a flash in the pan.  

During the past 18 years, and with the guidance of my Service Guru, John Tschohl and his training products, I have personally managed the Customer Service Culture of our company. First, starting it in El Salvador, then, one by one, I gained the momentum necessary to spread the concept of this culture throughout Central America, the Caribbean and Ecuador.

If a picture is worth one thousand words, then the following three frames of performance should speak volumes of how SQI provided us with the tools necessary to achieve our extraordinary results.

Feel free to get in touch with Oscar Orozco.  Executive Director

@ Banco Promerica, S.A.     503-2513-5000     


Publish Date: January 10, 2018

Customer Service in 2018!

Are you going to copy Amazon in 2018 and deliver great customer service?

I suspect when December is over Amazon will have grown about $40 billion in 2017. Jeff Bezos, the founder, is now the wealthiest person in the world.

The Customer Experience is built around the first contact and last contact. In customer service you are dependent on people, your employees. Very few firms understand the value of high performing employees. The less we pay employees the less respect we have for them and therefore, the less we are willing to invest in them. So sad.

Customer service is having no dumb rules and policies.  Making it easy to do business with you means you use technology to get closer to the customer not push them away. Most firms love IVR. This means you push one for English. Push two for Spanish and push 7 to go to HELL.  A live person needs to answer the call in 1-3 rings if you have over 100 employees and it should be 24/7. Much less expensive than a physical location. These need to be your best people.

Speed is critical. Reduce the time it takes by 90%. That's speed. Most employees have a slow mindset and most organizations have too many policies and procedures that encourage… slow.

Do your employees treat every customer as special? Do they use the customer's name and remember it. Do they feel valued?

Price is a part of great service. Most firms have too much waste, too many dead employees. Amazon has great prices because it understands the power of price.

When someone in your firm screws up what is the service recovery? Most firms in the world have NO service recovery. Saying I am sorry is NOT Service Recovery. I teach 4 steps: 

1. Act Quickly: No time to move the problem up the ladder

2. Take Responsibility: I can count on one hand how many times in my life I have heard an employee take responsibility

3. Be Empowered: Every employee has to solve the problem in 60 seconds or less for the magic to happen.

4. Compensate:  Give products and services away that have high value/low cost. 

Click here for more details  

Most organizations think they provide awesome customer service. Most consumers in the world feel there is no customer service. In the U.S. firms love surveys. They have never seen a survey they didn't like. The problem is few people respond to these surveys and most firms do nothing with the results. Surveys are now overkill. They turn customers off. Customer service and HR departments have convinced management that these are cool when they are really a waste of time and money.

If you want to make 2018 a great year with huge increases in revenue and dramatically reduce customer complaints I suggest the following.

1. Drive this as a strategy

2. Eliminate dumb rules and policies

3. Master empowerment

4. Practice Service Recovery

5. Dramatically increase speed for everything you do.

6. Have the best people in your call center and answer with live people 24/7 in 1-3 rings.

7. Train everyone on the skills and art of customer service with something new and fresh every 4 months. Make sure the programs are short and awesome. Great packaging and design are needed.  Click here 

About the Author: John Tschohl
John Tschohl is an author and president of Service Quality Institute. He is an American business consultant and Customer Service Strategist.


Publish Date: December 14, 2017

8 Principles of Great Service to Create a Service Culture

Service Culture doesn't come as easy as you'd expect. These are some simple principles critical for creating a Service Culture.

  1. Understand this is Strategy
  2. Eliminate dumb rules. Make it easier for customers to do business with you.
  3. Master empowerment
  4. Use speed. Shrink the time it takes to get things done by 90%
  5. Use Service Recovery
  6. Train every employee on Customer Service with something new and fresh every 4 months
  7. Use the customer’s name and recognize customers.
  8. Price is critical.  Reduce costs and pass the savings on to the customer.
About the Author: John Tschohl
John Tschohl is an author and president of Service Quality Institute. He is an American business consultant and Customer Service Strategist.


Publish Date: November 13, 2017

7 Key Steps Critical to Being a Service Leader

There are a variety of core skills or steps necessary to become a Service leader. Take these 7 skills and implement them into your Customer Service Practices today!

1. Eliminate Dumb Rules: You can have great people but really dumb policies and rules. For example most firms use IVR to avoid talking to customers. Any firm with more than 100 employees should have a 24/7 call center. Phone should be answered in 1-2 rings by a live person. NO IVR. Make it easy to do business with your organizations. Have hours convenient to the customer.

2. Master Empowerment: So many crazy things happen each day. Employees must be empowered to make fast decisions on the spot to make a customer happy. I could count on 2 hands the number of times I see employees making an empowered decision.

3. Speed: Very few employees and organizations understand or practice speed. Amazon and Uber have awesome speed. Most small business have no speed. The mind set of employees is slow. Companies have policies they reinforce slow.

4. Service Recovery: All of us make mistakes. Stupid stuff happens each day. How employees respond to these problems is core to great service. Less than 1 percent of companies use Service Recovery.

5. Remember Me: Your name is magic. Few employees remember you or use your name. Even when you pay by credit card or check your name is never used. Stupid.

6. Train everyone on Customer Service…regularly: You need a new program every 4 months. Must be fresh and new. Too many firms think there is a magic program you can dip your employees in and for the rest of their lives they will remember everything.

7. Service Strategy: SQI is not selling customer service programs. Our focus to help organizations rapidly grow their business through the service strategy.

About the Author: John Tschohl
John Tschohl is an author and president of Service Quality Institute. He is an American business consultant and Customer Service Strategist.


Publish Date: October 17, 2017

If You Can’t Say Something Nice About Customer Service…COMPLAIN!

In the customer service industry, we cannot avoid complaints.  Complaints happen every day and when a customer complains it is usually for a good reason or genuine concern. They usually have made a purchase that did not meet their expectation—a product, service, or maybe a combination of the two. We must take care of the customer by listening to the complaint, and resolving it, to ensure a happy customer.

Fewer than half of unhappy customers will bring a complaint to your attention. Those who never say anything will tell an average of 11 or more people about their bad experience. It is important that we recognize complaints as opportunities, so we can sway these averages, one resolved complaint at a time. It is my belief that no transaction is complete unless the service that customers receive will motivate them to return and do business with you again.

Customers want to know someone is listening and they are understood, and they are hoping you are willing to take care of the problem to their satisfaction. No matter what the situation is, when a customer brings a complaint to your attention—even if they do it in a less-than-desirable way—be thankful.  We must realize that improper handling of a customer complaint can be costly to the business.

Handle a customer complaint in a smooth and professional manner

When something goes wrong how do you take the customer from hell to heaven in 60 seconds?  The solution is to empower and reward employees to solve problems quickly and to the customer’s satisfaction

Follow up with a phone call. Even a small gesture of apology can turn a bad situation into a good one.  The cost could be minimal—maybe a simple upgrade on the customer’s next purchase or a gift certificate. A simple gesture like this could result in an over happy customer. When you resolve customer complaints successfully, you will better understand their needs, retain them as loyal customers, and enhance your business.

I have been writing about Stew Leonard for over 25 years. Stew Jr. has a huge 6,000 pound rock in front of their store that says Rule 1 The customer is always right! Rule 2 If the customer is ever wrong reread Rule 1.

The company has received worldwide acclaim for excellence in customer service and quality and is featured in two of management expert Tom Peter's books: A Passion for Excellence and Thriving on Chaos. In 1992, Stew Leonard's earned an entry into The Guinness Book of World Records for having "the greatest sales per unit area of any single food store in the United States."

In my book, The Customer is Boss, I show you how to complain correctly.  Most people begin their complaint with the person they are complaining about.  Not a good idea. It all starts at the bottom and many people don’t believe it will do any good. And, they are right.  After all, if the complaint comes in at the bottom level, they surely are not going to send it on up to management to show what a terrible job they did on handling it.

I tell everyone that they have the right to a good experience, a quality product, and top of the line customer service. I also tell everyone that it’s their responsibility to let the appropriate channels know when there is an issue. You deserve quality and top notch performance.

There are a couple of things that work when trying to motivate a business to give you better customer service:   

  • Ask for good service:  “I really need your help.”
  • Act as if you expect good service.
  • Treat salespeople as friends—a friendly attitude toward salespeople is so rare that clerks treated respectfully jump to attention to serve you as if you were a celebrity.
  • Change your attitude toward good service.  Your chances of receiving good service improve immensely.  Speak up.
  • State clearly your expectations and ask for a speedy resolution to problems.

Don’t feel sorry for business, government, or non-profit groups when you complain about bad service. You’re doing them a favor by complaining.

Complaints are good for business, so don’t shut up, speak up.--John Tschohl


About the Author: John Tschohl
John Tschohl is an author and president of Service Quality Institute. He is an American business consultant speaker, customer service guru and Customer Service Strategist.


Publish Date: August 17, 2017

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