World-Class Customer Service – The Key Is Caring – Horst Schulze on a Culture of Service

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Just the expression “5-Star Hotels” summons delicious images of ocean views and chic, comfortable rooms and all those tiny touches to insure your return. Though never a guest in such a hotel, I have enjoyed 4-star treatment, and I have been a customer of Chick-fil-A  and Southwest Airlines. All through our days, we are administering and receiving some sort of customer service.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of learning about customer service from Horst Schulze, a world-renowned leader in the field of luxury hotels. He gained his wisdom and expertise, up through the ranks, and his counsel is applicable to any peopled workplace or organization. Schulze puts caring at the foundation for world class excellence – not just caring about the customer or client (albeit extremely important) but caring for all people (the employees and all who interface with each other in his industry).

Mr. Schulze talks about the service process as three parts: delivering an excellent product (without defect), in a timely manner, with genuine caring. Genuine caring. Not silly over-friendliness, or with casual sloppiness. Genuinely caring for the customer’s personage, time, and purpose for that interaction.

Since his presentation, I have intentionally looked at service very differently. Whether we’re talking about a small business or a large franchise, a school or university, or even such a thing as a church connection team. We can enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty by intentionally and comprehensively setting our culture.

Mr. Schulze is people-oriented – with his employees, vendors, and customers. He manages this in his hiring and training practices and through a vigilant daily (industry-wide) practice of his canon of customer service standards* (definitely worth a read- click on the link below to read the 24 standards). As I listened to him speak, his whole demeanor was that of one who joyfully delights in excellence and bringing it to bear in improving the lives of those around him.

No matter how well we think we’re doing in providing services or responding to the needs of our clients/customers, we would do well to look at the practices of such businesses as the Capella Hotel Group, Chick-fil-A, and Southwest Airlines. You will see this common thread of caring in their philosophies, culture, and standards.

“I dreamed of hotels where every employee comes to work not just to work but to create excellence, where every employee is committed, and where it’s not about creating rules but about every customer being taken care of the way they want to be taken care of.” – Horst Schulze**

“Focus on creating an organization of excellence and have processes where you can transfer excellence. That starts by finding out what is excellent in the eyes of the customer – what the guest really wants from us – based not just on what they said they wanted but what they were really thinking.” – Horst Schulze**

“It’s my responsibility to set standards. I have no right to accept mediocrity or limitation. If you don’t point out flaws, mediocrity will set in. It’s my business to do what is right and not make excuses for mediocrity. I agonize when I make a decision that it is good for all concerned; if it’s not, I don’t do it.” – Horst Schulze**

[Leading by Culture] “Southwest was the first to create a position entitled “Vice President of Customers.” For many years Colleen Barrett held the position. She understood that Customers always come first, and that in order to have a Customer service mindset you cannot separate the importance of the internal Customer (Employees) from the external Customers (passengers). If the internal Customer is happy, it will naturally flow to the external Customer in the form of good service.” – Lessons in Loyalty, Ian BrooksBlog - Southwest Airlines - Customer Service Culture - leapq.orgPhoto Credit: leapQ.org

 “Every life has a story, and often our customers and our employees, need a little grace and a little space when you deal with them because they are either experiencing a problem, just finished having a problem, or are about to have one. The word ‘restaurant’ means place of restoration. We think of Chick-fil-A as an oasis where people can be restored.  We’re all people with a lot of emotional things going on that don’t necessarily show on the surface, so we try to offer amenities and kindness that minister to the heart.” – Dan Cathy, President, Chick-fil-A***

Blog - Customer Service - Chick-fil-APhoto Credit: jyontheroad.blogspot.com

“Forty years ago, exceptional was a glass elevator in the lobby; then it became real paintings and fine marble and so on. Now it’s coming back to doing what the individual guest really wants: personalized and individualized service geared not to the market, but to the individual. True luxury today is about responding to each individual guest.” – Horst Schulze**

*Capella Hotel Group’s Canon service standards conceived by chairman and founder Horst Schulze

**Defining Luxury – LEADERS Interview with Horst Schulze

YouTube Video – Horst Schulze- Presentation on Customer Service

Global Leadership Summit – 6 Take-Aways from Day 2 of #GLS15

Summaries on All Speakers of Global Leadership Summit 2015 by David M. Arnold

Notes from the GLS15 – Creating World Cass Service – Horst Schulze

****A Lesson in Customer Service from Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy

The Chick-fil-A Difference: Why Customer Lingo Matters

Thank you. My pleasure.

What You Can Learn from Southwest Airlines’ Culture

***Lessons in Loyalty: How Southwest Airlines Does It – An Insider’s Point of View

Southwest Airlines – the Airlines with Heart – and One Heart I Know Well

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