Management covers a lot of ground. Managing with Aloha covers nineteen universal business values, and thus that number, nineteen, is just the beginning when it comes to the different topics people will ask me to speak on. Still, preferences fall along certain lines at any given time, and there are runaway winners when it comes to the hot topics of the day. It’s fascinating to me how these preferences emerge, from market influences to unemployment rates, from ‘trendy’ learning initiatives to stubborn resistance to change.

Chronic frustration is a frequent driver: A few months ago the topic requested most was The Reinvention of Human Resources. Nowadays, it seems nearly everyone is asking me to speak about The Art of Ho‘okipa (hospitality) in Service.

Mediocrity is running rampant in customer service, and people are sick of it. In fact, the alarming trend is that mediocrity is starting to look okay next to the flagrantly bad service examples we keep running into.

WE WANT GREAT SERVICE! We want it for ourselves as consumers, and we want to be the ones providing it in our businesses, sealing the deal on our competitive advantage in the process. We want better service, we are extremely tired of not getting it, and we are looking for answers as to how we can get it to happen — guaranteed.

So I give the motivational speeches, and I enjoy giving them, optimistically hoping that something will resonate and sink in, for I want great customer service to happen more often too. I want it to happen all the time. Today and for you, without the full-blown 45-minute keynote that normally accompanies it, I can cut to the chase and give you my take on what the answer is, that is, when great service will happen consistently in your company. I think there are only two parts to it, but you need both, not one or the other.

When does great service happen?

1. When you have hired the right people in the first place, and
2. When you take care of them really really well, providing them with a workplace that is as exceptional as the service you expect them to give others.

You can only get great service from people who sincerely and genuinely love giving it, and who love where they work. Read that again; the word is LOVE, not like. We want GREAT service, not just passably good service. Great service only comes from people who are passionate about it.

Great customer service providers are born and not made. I believe that you can’t train the service gene into someone. You have to find the people who have it, hire them instantly, and then take care of them as the precious gold they are. The people who give us the best service do so because they live to give it. They feel that their own lives are better because they have the opportunity to be of service to their fellow human beings. In Hawaii, we even have a name for these gems of the human race; we call them Mea Ho‘okipa. In old Hawaii, to be called Mea Ho‘okipa was the highest compliment you could receive; serving others was considered noble.

Nobility in Customer Service. What a concept! We need it back. Put the wrong people in the wrong job, and it just isn’t going to happen. The good news is that Mea Ho‘okipa are not that rare. However cease to take EXCEPTIONAL care of those who are in the right job and they have no wellspring to draw from in their own giving. They need to fuel their fire for service giving, and that’s where great managers come in, creating caring workplaces for those who care for the customer.

That’s it. Not a difficult answer. The difficulty is in the execution though, isn’t it.

The other good news? I have faith in you; we can do this.

Thank you for reading, I’ll be back next Thursday. On every other day, you can visit me on Talking Story, or on www.ManagingWithAloha.com. Aloha!

Rosa Say
Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business

Previous Thursday Column: What’s the difference between Mission and Vision?

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