Awful To Ordinary To Awesome


Don't shoot short! Losses of customers and business do occur because of awful customer service. Too many business leaders, it seems, address these leakages with limited allocations of time, people and resources. Some rationalise with reference to the Global Financial Crisis and its fallout.

The immediate consequence can be a reduction of business and customer loss or an elimination of such in the short term.

Overall, the outcome and newly applied customer service standards are, well, ordinary.  The benefits are inevitably short term and marginal.

Who or what wants to be ordinary ?  It wins very few plaudits … or new customers and business.

The autobiographical publication “My Fortunate Life” by Albert Facey was about a self declared ordinary bloke.  His life was anything but  ordinary and his book became a national best seller, with subsequent world-wide distribution.  It was awesome.  There is a lesson in that for all people in business and employment.

Being “no worse than competitors” is not a goal that will stretch or motivate staff-members.

A Never Ending Journey

Pursuit and attainment of quality customer service is repeatedly referred to as a journey, not a destination.

Changing, evolving and increasing customer demands ensure service excellence will be an eternal stretching goal.

Many journeys are and will be characterised by the phrase:

“Awful to Ordinary to Awesome”

Awful Service should and will be transposed from a business loss factor to being a defensive mechanism to retain customers, to ultimately, once the status of awesome has been achieved, to be strategic, a new customer generator.

Set The Priorities

Don’t shoot short!

Where customer service is identified to be an issue, the very best resources and people, complemented by a liberal provision of time and infrastructural support needs to be allocated and focussed on the initiatives.  There are no short cuts and, yes, it will cost.

Authority to resolve issues needs to be decentralised and delegated to all service providers.  Communication channels need to be optimised and transparency to be conspicuous, to ensure heightened accountability and responsiveness throughout the supply chain.

Spoken and text communication needs to be complemented, confirmed and reinforced by full use of the available multimedia awareness, including emails, sms texts, faxes, letters and personal representations.

Keeping people informed is an early phase to achieving and sustaining commitment, energy and a sense of fulfilment.

A True Measure

The time and appropriate measure of customer service related Key Performance Indicators (KPI)s centre on quality, not quantity.

Many people know what needs to be done.  They simply need guidance, reassurance and assistance in how best to deliver the service promise, consistently.

There is a lot to be said about style.  It is seldom expressed in customer service training and workshops.

A touch of theatre and flair makes a statement and can make a lasting impression on existing, prospective and past customers.  Such endeavours are seldom ordinary.

Celebrate Success

To some, senior people in particular, providing quality customer service, is considered to be just part of the job.

So too are kicking goals, winning matches, making movies, creating innovations and breaking records.  Many such milestones would go unnoticed and be unappreciated if it were not for the celebrations.

Therefore, in business and with service it is important to create heroes, applaud their successes, endorse their personal initiatives and reward their achievements.

If customer service is a journey, then achieving excellence in service is an ongoing process which responds promptly to attainments.

It sounds fun.  And so it should be.  Fun is the missing quotient in many business relationships.

Service is Different

Vive La Difference!

Optimal performance for engineers and other “scientific management” disciplines can and often do centre on processes like  6-Sigma and world best practice.

In both instances, standards are set and strict adherence to such parameters are the hallmark of excellence.

For customer service, the ideal is to set standards and for all staffmembers to consistently and regularly exceed such.  That is very different to advertising and promoting to customers and clients that their expectations will be exceeded.  The latter cases typically conclude in disappointment for all involved.

Integral to achieving a status of “awesome” in customer service, some risk must be taken, trust must be extended to staffmembers, authority must be delegated, errors need to be tolerated and successes celebrated.

The outcome will be performances worthy of Robert De Niro, Denzel Washington and Meryll Streep.



Barry Urquhart, Managing Director of Marketing Focus, Perth is author of

  • "Services You Right!"
  • "Service Please!"  

These are the two largest selling books on Service Excellence in the southern hemisphere.  Barry’s ongoing schedule of original research into service are features of his conference keynote addresses and interactive workshops.

Email:             [email protected]


Tel:                  (08) 9257 1777

Mob:                (041) 983 5555


Barry Urquhart, MD Marketing Focus, Perth, is the author of Australia's top two selling books on customer service and is an internationally recognised authority on consumer behaviour and creative visual marketing.

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