Customer Service à la Green Beans

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Customer Service à la Green Beans

Postby McDanielCA » Wed Mar 25, 2009 1:17 pm

Customer Service à la Green Beans at the Church was originally posted on the main page of LDS Tech. It was written by Jeffrey Tibbitts.


We've all heard the phrase "the customer is always right," a statement thought to have originated with one of the proprietors of the Marshall Fields department store in the late 19th century. These enterprising businessmen hoped to instill a sense of good customer service in their employees —placing the customer first in the list of competing priorities. The wisdom of this concept has repeatedly proven itself, as others who have adopted it have become the stuff of customer service legend. Nordstrom, Southwest Airlines, Lexus, and a host of others have found tremendous success by putting the customer first.

In the early years of my career, I was a typical technologist—spending the majority of my time narrowly focused on the IT tools and technologies that attracted most of us to this field in the first place. I didn’t give much thought to my customers or what was important to them— until a can of green beans changed my outlook on IT and life.

Nearly ten years ago, while I worked for a major U.S. food and drug retailer, a wise IT manager set an inspired team goal that I think about even today. We were to make a list of our customers and identify one way we could better serve each of them. Simple, right? I dove right in, making a very short list of the people that I interacted with each day. The service improvement idea was a little more challenging, but I made a half-hearted effort and had my list—goal accomplished.

But as I thought about who my customer is and what it really meant to serve them, my list changed, as did my approach to IT. Rather than viewing my customer in the limited demographic of the technology consumer, I came to see my customer as anyone who is impacted by the service that I provide: engineers, support personnel, baggers, checkers, stockers, clerks, the CEO . . . and the mother of five on Aisle 7 buying green beans for her family.

My newly enlightened view changed my perspective and approach to both IT and life. I began to think about everything in terms of how it affects other people. I began to view the opportunity to provide service to my customers as more of a privilege than a right.

King Benjamin, in one of my favorite addresses on this subject, tells us that “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17). Each of us serves a customer in one way or another, regardless of our occupation, social status, or position. Knowing who that customer is and thinking about how they are affected by what we do each day forces us to consider the impact—positive or negative—that we have on their professional and personal lives.

Jeffrey D. Tibbitts is an infrastructure manager for the Church.

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Postby techgy » Wed Mar 25, 2009 3:26 pm

The company that I work for has the following statement, which is very similar to what you quoted. The statement speaks for itself in treating everyone with whom you work as part of the overall quality program.

"BI is committed to total customer satisfaction. We will provide our customers with defect-free products and service through a process of continuous quality improvement. We recognize that every employee, supplier and customer is an essential component of our quality improvement process. Only by supporting each other, can we provide quality products and service"
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Customer Service Conundrum

Postby HintonBR » Thu Mar 26, 2009 10:49 am

One of my favorite examples of this in the IT realm is told by a very senior software engineer at MS by the name of Chris Sells who got a call from a customer wanting the "Sales" department - links to his account of the experience. Obviously customer service is critical for a business success, but that doesn't mean the customer is always right.

Many businesses stagnate themselves by listening too much to customers and not thinking innovatively enough. There is a big discussion going on right now about this with respect to the redesign of Facebook. Customers will largely produce evolutionary change which will allow you to keep them, but revolutionary change through serving existing customers is rarer

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Postby Mikerowaved » Thu Mar 26, 2009 12:47 pm

McDanielCA wrote:I began to view the opportunity to provide service to my customers as more of a privilege than a right.

Because the entire concept of customer service in our day to day activities has waned over the years, those that provide it really stand out from the rest. For example, I will never forget a small theater in oldtown Los Gatos, CA where each week the owner always had a different older (classic) G-rated movie to be shown. Tickets were only a couple of dollars each, so it proved to be a popular spot for families and LDS teens (like me) trying to have a nice date on a tight budget :o.

Each evening before the "shorts" would begin, the owner of the theater would stand up in front of the audience and give a little background about the film and some trivia that was always fun. After the feature film was over, he would always stand at the exit shaking hands and sincerely thanking people for attending. He made you feel like your presence there was truly appreciated. This man understood how to apply "customer service" in his line of work and stand head and shoulders above all the rest. I've often reflected upon that and tried to apply similar concepts in my carreer.
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