Thursday, July 29, 2010

Service as a Strategy

Long before its culture of "Delivering WOW Through Service" made Zappos the darling of the business world, a scrappy start-up in Memphis, Tenn., used outrageously good customer service to build a billion-dollar enterprise.

That company was Federal Express (now FedEx).

And I used to work for them.

Back in the 1990s, they were the #1 client of the marketing communications firm that employed me. From 1996 to 1998, I answered the bulk of FedEx customer emails -- more than 10,000 of them -- from around the world. As a result, the FedEx culture of "People-Service-Profit" became second nature for me.

Here's how FedEx defines that culture:
The core philosophy that governs every activity at FedEx Express is People-Service-Profit (PSP): Take care of our people; they in turn will deliver impeccable service demanded by our customers, who will reward us with the profitability necessary to secure our future. People-Service-Profit: These three words are the very foundation of FedEx Express.
You might say FedEx is the company that service built.

Because, without the "do whatever it takes" attitude its employees displayed in the early days, it likely would have gone out of business. And our world would move a bit slower today.

Here's an example of how FedEx used service to build profits, from marketing expert Bob Bly:
Michael Basch, Co-founder, Federal Express, tells the following story....

When Federal Express first went into business, we could not get RCA to use our services, despite the fact we had opened one of our first offices near their plant in Wilmington, Indiana.

Then late one Friday afternoon, Diane, our clerk, got a call from a woman in Wilmington.

"I don't know who Federal Express is," the woman said. "I've never heard of you. All I know is that my wedding dress was supposed to be here today. It's 3:30 in the afternoon and I'm about to panic -- I'm getting married tomorrow. Can you help me?"

No manager was around Diane could ask for advice. So on her own, she chartered an airplane and pilot for $300 to fly the package to Wilmington. It arrived that night.

Some of the key RCA executives were at the wedding and heard about the outrageous package airline that chartered an airplane for a wedding dress. Two weeks later, FedEx got its first order for 20 packages from RCA.
Question: If you were to put SERVICE at the top of your company's priorities for the next 30 days, do you think you might get more clients talking about you? More clients buying from you again? More clients referring others? More profits?

Service as a strategy.

It may work for you. It may not.

But is has worked for FedEx, Zappos, Nordstrom, Disney, and many others.

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