Medium 9781576753750

Magnetic Service

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Winner of the 2004 Publishers Marketing Association Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Business Book
By the bestselling author of Managers As Mentors-over 100,000 copies sold
Reveals the seven "magnetic service" secrets that work for cult-like brands such as Starbucks, Harley-Davidson, and Ritz-Carlton
Provides tools, techniques, and tips for fostering customer devotion
Magnetic Service provides a provocative yet practical blueprint for going beyond mere customer loyalty to create and sustain customer devotion. Devoted customers not only forgive you when you err but actually help you correct what caused the mistake. They don't just recommend you; they assertively insist that their friends do business with you.
Authors Chip and Bilijack Bell made an intensive study of companies that inspire this kind of cult-like devotion-companies as diverse as Starbucks, Jack Daniels, Ritz-Carlton Hotels, GE, eBay, Chick-fil-A, Harley-Davidson, and many others. They found that these companies created customer experiences so captivating that they bound their customers to them-they provided "magnetic service." Chip and Bilijack identify the seven secrets of magnetic service, and use dozens of real-life examples to illustrate the secrets in action. And they show precisely what leaders can do to create a culture of magnetic service in any unit or organization.

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SECRET #1: Make Trust a Verb


Secret #1

Make Trust a Verb

magnetism \ ’mag-n - ti-z m \ n : A magnet will reliably perform as it always has—its draw is one of the absolute laws of nature. e ’e

magnetic service \ mag-’n -tik ’s r-v s \ e e


vb, n : Magnetic service is trustworthy. It continually updates and reaffirms the customer’s perception of reliability in the service provider.

Service is an implied agreement between the service provider and the service receiver to exchange value for value. It is also a promise by the service provider that certain core requirements will be assured and particular customer expectations will be honored. Finally, it is a pledge that should any part of the covenant not be fulfilled, the response by the service provider will represent a fair fix.

Look at the implied agreement between an airline and passenger as an example. “Mayday” Airline provides transportation to a passenger in exchange for a certain sum of money (value for value). Mayday promises that the delivery of the customer from point A to point B will be done reasonably on time, safely, and with the customer’s luggage in


SECRET #2: Focus on Customer Hopes, Not Just Needs


house calls. Oh, you can take your sick computer by and leave it for repair. You can even sit in their reception area and wait while they put it in their “emergency room” fast track. They will even try to help you avoid their services altogether by first attempting to troubleshoot your problem with you by phone. But what will really make you a devoted fan is PC House Call’s seeming ability to read your mind!

The last time a friend of ours was in their ER reception area, owner

Linda Beneventi chatted with him in between the phone calls she was fielding with her remote headset that gave her complete mobility around the shop. Quickly zipping past “How’s the weather” questions, she moved on to questions that might have come from some think tank inquiry.

“Would you like to be able to interact with your laptop remotely

. . . like when it’s in the hotel room and you’re at a meeting, would you like to be able to call it on the phone?” “How does your computer make you angry?” “Do you ever use your modem with the air phone when you’re flying?” “How often do you clean your computer keys with that expensive can of air?”


SECRET #3: Add “Charisma” to the Service Mix


word being “to capture”). It is service that “sparkles.” It is loaded with a kind of infectious energy—an energy that invites reciprocal energy from the customer. It is the Francie Johnsen approach to magnetic service.

Francie Johnsen is an Eckerd’s pharmacist in Dallas who customers label “the fastest pharmacist in the West.” Watching Francie in action is like watching ducks swimming on a pond—under the water you see frenzied feet; on top you only see grace. To customers, Francie never appears rushed despite the breakneck speed of her hands as she sets the pharmacology record for minimum time taken to fill prescriptions.

Francie manages customers’ wait in a way that leaves them infatuated. “Chip,” she said one day, “go and check to see if your pictures are ready while I fill your script.” “But, Francie,” Chip protested, “I don’t have pictures being developed.” Unchanged by his refusal to take the bait, she elevated the tease to a higher altitude. “Well, go look at someone else’s pictures . . . or better yet, go check your blood pressure on that machine over there. I’ll have your order ready by the time you get back.”


SECRET #4: Engage the Customer’s Curiosity


dish was a John Dory fish, pan-fried in a ravishing and unique combination of tropical fruits and spices.

“The fish was excellent,” one of us commented to our waiter as he brought the next course of delicacies. “What’s in that dish?”

“I think with some mango and mustard,” he responded in broken

English. We contemplated how we could learn more detail about this special delicacy. Minutes later our dreams were fulfilled.

The head chef appeared at our table with a copy of the cherished recipe. But our lesson did not stop there. He spent five minutes offering a few cautions, shortcuts, and embellishments. He even asked a waiter to bring over the bottle of the wine he used so we could see the label.

As he warmly bid us farewell to return to his kitchen we looked at each other in quiet amazement. Finally, one of us broke the silence: “We’ve all been to chef’s school!”

While “tutor me or lose me” is not yet the byword of today’s customer, their expectation that service providers be super smart has fast become a standard. Call center employees get dinged by customers much more quickly for inadequate knowledge than for rudeness. In fact, most people nowadays would rather have a surly expert than a polite idiot. What’s more, we want to become virtual experts ourselves.


SECRET #5: Give Customers an Occasional Miracle


you about your stay here at Children’s Memorial Hospital of Boston?”

The child smiled and proudly responded, “I did not know my doctor would be Chinese.”

The Meaning of Miracle Power

Delight your customer! Exceed your customers’ expectations! Provide value-added service! These have been the mantras of customer-service gurus for a long time. Such focus on “adding more” has raised the quality of service in many organizations. It has also raised customers’ standards for what qualifies as “good service.”

But what’s an organization to do when the budget-cutting ax is loosed and tight profit margins get even tighter? How do leaders avoid sending a very mixed message by telling the front line to wow their customers in the morning and announcing staff cutbacks and expense reductions in the afternoon? How can you add value when there are no more resources to fund extra added attractions? In a phrase: Offer the occasional miracle!

Producing the occasional miracle is different from exceeding customer expectations. Ask customers what actions would be value added in a given situation and they will focus on those that take the expected experience to a higher level—meaning those that make them walk away feeling “they gave me more than I anticipated.” Value added is the upgrade, the extra helping, the complimentary dessert. It is a linear extension of good service.


SECRET #6: Empower Customers Through Comfort


His wife continued. “Why don’t you stop by the grocery store and pick up a large deli tray we can take to the family sometime tomorrow?” In that region of the country, food was always a helpful antidote to sorrow. Ed pulled into a very large grocery store and made his way past the floral department and auto repair center to the clerk behind the meat counter of the well-stocked delicatessen section.

“I’d like a large deli tray,” Ed explained to the deli clerk, fully expecting a “coming right up” response.

“I’m sorry, but we’re out of deli trays,” the clerk said, without expression or eye contact.

“Oh, that’s okay,” Ed responded. “I’ll just shop around the store, pick up a few items I know we need, and give you a chance to make one up.”

“Nope,” the clerk replied, still sporting a monotone attitude.

“The woman who makes the deli trays has already gone.” Ed wondered what had made this task such a specialized skill. He had visions of the absent worker at the Deli Tray Makers Convention in Las

Vegas. But he didn’t want to go home empty-handed. He’d simply purchase all the makings for a deli tray and his wife could assemble it.


SECRET #7: Reveal Your Character by Unveiling Your Courage


Without hesitation, Davidson put the part into the hands of an employee and got the employee on the next plane to New Orleans, where he delivered the part and then stayed overnight before returning home.

Was Davidson driven by some official service guarantee or legal obligation? Nope. What was the cost to Southern Pipe & Supply? More than $1000. What possessed Davidson to take what any cost accountant would see as a foolish move? The answer lies not in the fanatical customer devotion and word-of-mouth marketing that occurred as a result of Davidson’s decision—those were the happy consequences.

The answer lies in his character.

“I have learned one thing that has made my business a success,” says Davidson. “You cannot live your values only during the good times. The real test is to live them during the bad times. Besides, the

$2.50 part incident was a good way to remind everyone in my shop about what is really important around here.”

The Colors of Character Revealed

“Character” is one of those vibrant words that can be used to paint many colorful word pictures. Webster’s really big dictionary has twentyeight definitions! The word is derived from the Greek word


Reflection: Assessing Your Magnetic Service Style


7. Sensitivity to others’ feelings

Insensitive 1 2 3 4 5 Sensitive

8. Tolerance of others’ differences

Low tolerance 1 2 3 4 5 High tolerance

9. Feelings about your work role

Bored 1 2 3 4 5 Excited

10. Capacity to convey excitement

Hold it in 1 2 3 4 5 Let it out

11. Level of self-understanding

Low 1 2 3 4 5 High

12. Comfort with conflicting views

Low 1 2 3 4 5 High

13. Comfort with change

Uncomfortable 1 2 3 4 5 Comfortable

14. Willingness to value others’ views

Rigid 1 2 3 4 5 Open

15. Enthusiasm about learning

Reluctant 1 2 3 4 5 Eager

16. Ease in appreciating humor

Very low 1 2 3 4 5 Very high

17. Degree of versatility

18. Generosity in relationships

19. Capacity for creative solutions

Not versatile 1 2 3 4 5 Very versatile

A taker 1 2 3 4 5 A giver

Resort to policy 1 2 3 4 5 Rely on instinct

20. Motivation for making a big impression

Want to impress 1 2 3 4 5 Want to influence

21. Readiness for partnership

Reluctant 1 2 3 4 5 Ready

22. Ease in cooperating with others

Prefer tension 1 2 3 4 5 Prefer harmony

23. Steadiness in relationships


CHAPTER 8 Trust Thrives When Leaders Lead Naturally


1. You want very much for your immediate family members to be open and honest in their dealings with you. You are eager to have relationships that lack suspicion or mistrust. Would you:

A. Periodically sit down as a family and talk through thorny issues and conflicts, openly resolving all you can on the spot, or:

B. Hire a colleague to prepare an anonymous, written attitude survey he would administer to your family members and then come to dinner one evening to present the results, still protecting each family member’s anonymity.

2. Using a participative style, you frequently have encouraged your immediate family members to help you identify ways to make home management more efficient and effective. Without warning, your spouse is unemployed and you must make major cuts in your family budget. Do you:

A. Ask family members to help you solve the challenges of the economic crunch just like you have sought their input in better times, or

B. Encourage your oldest child to join the army early and send two of the kids off to live with a distant cousin several states away.


CHAPTER 9 Hopes Spring Forth When Leaders Foster Revelation


his or her expectations. Customers make such revelations only if the front-line service provider demonstrates respect, understanding, empathy, and confidence. These qualities are found in employees who feel good about who they are and what they do, and that “feel good” can be nurtured by leaders who create a setting of safety.

Magnetic service leaders, in turn, create a setting of safety precisely by embracing the concept we are talking about here: revelation. In other words, they open up, exposing themselves to full view. This, in turn, enables front-line employees to better exude to customers the message of “you can be open with me.” Bottom line: leader revelation produces employee safety; employee safety begets customer revelation.

Revelation also means “an eye-opener or a surprise.” When customers reveal their hopes and aspirations, the service provider’s assumptions or conjectures about the customer are erased. Knowing the customer’s needs and expectations gives the service provider a target for good customer service. Learning about the customer’s hopes and aspirations positions the service provider to deliver magnetic service. The effect? As a customer might say, “Fulfill my requirements and I will return to you; fulfill my dreams and I will be devoted to you.”


CHAPTER 10 Service Can Be Charismatic If Leaders Exhibit Boldness


“Charisma” refers to a spiritual gift or talent or to the personal magnetism associated with some celebrities and political leaders. It connotes a trait, something ingrained, not something that service providers can do. Service with charisma, on the other hand, has to do with a willingness to take bold action. It also has to do with trusting your employees enough to encourage boldness.

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin in boldness,” wrote

German poet-philosopher Johann von Goethe. “Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” Scottish explorer W.H. Murray echoed the same sentiment when he wrote, “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. . . [T]he moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.”

Charismatic service is countercultural, unexpected, and goes against the grain. It is sometimes cut of unfamiliar cloth. And while any specific act of charismatic service might not be that unconventional, it springs from a place that is. It is that place—that restless, unsettled place—that leaders must occupy if they are to model and encourage boldness. This is the habitat of ground-breaking pioneers and norm-breaking entrepreneurs. It is also where inventors and artists of all types reside.


CHAPTER 11 Curiosity Lights Up When Leaders Learn Out Loud


Magnetic service leaders learn for learning’s sake—they get an adrenaline rush out of always honing their skills, enhancing their understanding, and deepening their wisdom. They know that the pursuit of the “not known” is worth more than the praise of the “known.” Magnetic service leaders lust for the thrill of the hunt. They are restless, hungry souls who are never satisfied with what they know because they appreciate the fact that “antiquated” is right on their heels and “obsolete” is gaining on them quickly.

At the same time, they continually direct their hunt for insight toward the goal of understanding customers better. “Just when you think you know what customers value,” says John Campbell, president of Toronto-based Brookfield Ventures, a large commercial property management company, “some incident happens that reminds you that you still have a lot to learn. It means customer listening is never over.”

It also means that questioning customers is a never-ending process.

Being continuously curious about customers involves a dogged and determined quest that says, in the words of one world-class car sales professional, “I’ll keep asking and listening and nosing around until something lights up.” Service providers driven by curiosity know that until the customer “lights up,” they have not reached the level of understanding that can truly inform anticipatory action and clairvoyant response.


CHAPTER 12 Miracle Making Happens When Leaders Inspire Engagement


guest at a table of eight managers toward the back of the hotel ballroom.

The guy beside Tom leaned over and knowingly whispered, “He doesn’t give a rat’s butt about the managers here tonight.” He paused to gauge Tom’s response, and then continued: “Our benefits suck, we have to stay in cheap hotels when we’re on the road, and he took away the daycare, casual Friday, and office parties at Christmas time.”

Before Tom could respond, the lights lowered, and the CEO started his show.

The CEO by no means seemed to be the ogre described by Tom’s seatmate. He convincingly outlined his rationale for austerity and sacrifice. His slides painted an unmistakable picture of economic challenge.

But instead of doom and gloom, the CEO spoke of hope and opportunity. Rather than dwell on the errors of the past, he delivered his enthusiasm for the future.

His passion was indisputable; his words, inspirational. He closed by inviting his top management team to the stage. One by one, he complimented their unique contribution with a sentence or two about each manager’s primary mission in the weeks ahead. Tom himself was super psyched by the end of the presentation—ready to rush out and sell something—and he was just a guest!


CHAPTER 13 Customers Are Empowered When Leaders Promote Partnerships


parts store for a replacement. The service counter person quickly determined that the plug Mel needed was not in stock at the store and that he’d have to call for one from their nearby warehouse.

“I need spark plug #232F ASAP!” the counter guy barked to the person who answered the warehouse phone. Mel sensed that he had suddenly been dropped in the middle of a battle zone. “Whaddaya mean you’re on break? I’m your customer, goldarnnit, and I need some service right now!”

The counter guy hung up and tersely apologized to Mel for the wait. “Those warehouse people forget who they’re working for,” he snapped. “They don’t give a darn that I’m the one out here on the firing line.”

Mel told him to forget about it; he’d just take his rifle to another war zone down the street. “As I left,” Mel said, “I heard him back on the phone to the poor soul in the warehouse. Their conversation was all about winning a feud, not about losing my funds.”

If the employee of that auto parts company had known a little something about working in partnership with others, Mel would have walked away in a different frame of mind. He would have also been reassured that he, not the employee behind the counter, was the customer.


CHAPTER 14 Character Is Revealed If Leaders Have Soul


The Swamp Fox’s hotly pursued Marion’s Brigade frequently embarrassed the British Redcoats by using bold tactics that completely altered the way battles were traditionally fought. The British soldiers proceeded with orderly precision and methodical planning; Marion pitched battles from trees and bushes. The British wore bright red uniforms; Marion’s Brigade donned camouflage.

The Swamp Fox’s hit-and-run methods typically caught the British army completely off guard. Creatively engineered guerrilla tactics enabled Marion’s small, under-resourced unit to take on a well-supplied enemy who had many times more troops. In one decisive victory, Marion was outnumbered twenty to one, and his soldiers had only three bullets each and no artillery. It was guerrilla warfare at its finest. Magnetic service is like guerrilla warfare—unconventional, maverick, and out of the ordinary. It requires a leader like Francis Marion, with courage enough to take the road less traveled

Francis Marion Was Courageous

Magnetic service leaders are, like Francis Marion, courageous. Not the show-off, fearless kind of courageous, but rather the “I only regret I have but one life to lose for my country” kind. Their courage wells up from a devotion to duty rather than from desperation. Such courage is seen in leadership that has its source in a deep commitment to customers as well as an insatiable desire to serve.



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