The Customer Rules: The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service by Lee Cockerell

The Customer Rules: The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational ServiceThe Customer Rules: The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service by Lee Cockerell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I borrowed this from a coworker and after the first few pages tracked down a couple of copies nearby (that I haven’t bought yet) so I can have my own to add to the toolbox. Solid advice, probably heard before for sure, but collected in one place. Cockerell’s Title plays on the words, but his subtitle entices: The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service. (I would have left off the definitive article, but I also didn’t write the book.) I won’t list all of them here – buy or borrow it yourself! – but here are a few, with some thoughts…

#1 – Customer Service Is Not A Department. True that, and something I’ve embodied, engendered, and espoused for years. Cockerell says it’s “a personal responsibility“. It is. Regardless of your business, job, profession, interactions in life.
#2 – You Win Customers One at a Time and Lose Them a Thousand at a Time. This is an internet age amplification of the old saying of losing them one at a time. People flock to negativity and give more credence to one bad review than a lot of good ones. And Yelp and similar rating sites can lose customers on the basis of a single bad review.
#4 – Don’t Get Bored with the Basics. I don’t get bored, but this is a good extension. Don’t lose sight of the core values, core behaviors, small details. Never forget the fundamentals.
#8 – Always Act Like a Professional. Conduct yourself as a professional and you’ll be at least on your way to being a professional. Doesn’t matter what your profession [“If you write, fix pipes, grade papers, lay bricks or drive a taxi—do it with a sense of pride. And do it the best you know how. Be cognizant and sympathetic to the guy alongside, because he wants a place in the sun, too. And always . . . always look past his color, his creed, his religion and the shape of his ears. Look for the whole person. Judge him as the whole person.” – Rod Serling]
#9 – Hire the Best Cast. Okay, this is Disney-fied, but really, hire the best people. Or try to. Nothing is guaranteed.
#11 – Become an Expert at Creating Experts. Train your relief, train staff to be knowledgeable, give them the tools (and training) to provide great service. This is simple. But it is at odds with the behavior of the man who wants to think he’s the smartest person in the room, or wants to take credit for everything.
#18 – Be a Copycat. Creative plagiarism is okay … don’t reinvent. Learn from others, in and outside your business. Apple consumer electronics might teach you something about performing maintenance on a door.
#20 – Be a Wordsmith – Language Matters. It really does. Cockerell offers the example of “subordinate”…and how people don’t get that it means inferior. Use another word – “coworker”, “cast member”, “team member”. I try to rarely (there must always be exceptions) say “my” staff (and cringe when I hear others drop it so easily) because they are not possessions. Don’t demean people with indefinite articles (his example is a peeve of his wife: “There’s a Priscilla Cockerell here to see you.” There’s only one, and she’s not “a”n object.)
#30 – Be Relentless About Details. Look around. See what people are seeing. People who are not you and not familiar with your place of business. First impressions and all. Goes with #4 above.
#31 – Be Reliable. Provide consistently great quality of service. People consciously and subconsciously look for that…and respond to it.
#33 – Never, Ever Argue With a Customer. Good point and a reason made clearer with one of Cockerell’s illustrations: “When a customer has a tantrum, it is vital to not take it personally. The anger is not about you – the customer doesn’t even know you or care about you -it is about a situation.”

I did take issue – minor – with a few…
#32 – Don’t Give the Responsibility Without the Authority. In the Navy, we learn that responsibility cannot be delegated so this runs a little counter to that. A leader cannot be absolved of responsibility by delegating. Still, each position, level, tier has a responsibility of some sort and authority commensurate with the job needs to go with it. I heard too many times from my Army peers, “I need to ask my Colonel.” This from an Officer in Charge! (Actual position title.) I see it in my world now, as some people want all of the power and don’t trust, or don’t want to trust their staff.
#34 – Never Say No, Except “No Problem”. I disagree to a point with this. I learned a long time ago that the customer is not always right! And it is our job to help that customer understand that. In my customer service world where the service results are not as immediate (design and construction, or minor construction), “no” is sometimes necessary, whether because of budget reasons or conformance, or whatever. In my career, I have followed “no problem” predecessors and had to fix a lot of problems. I have also followed “no” people and had to fix those problems! My solution might seem a little vacillatory, but it is “I’ll see what I can do.”

And one peeve about Rule #37 – Surprise Them with Something Extra… Cockerell says “we all love the surprise of getting something extra when it’s not expected”, and mentions something like an extra plum at the farmer’s marker for example. He also mentions one I-don’t-think-so anecdote … a baker’s dozen …as a customer service extra. The reality is, bakers would be penalized if they shorted a customer, so the good service was for self-preservation!

Good book; short read. Worth several rereads to refresh.

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