Is cheaper better?
Is profit the only thing to be maximized?
For its first decade, Federal Express embraced customer service as a marketing tool. They were competing with the postal service, but more than that, they were trying hard to create a habit that turned 25 cent deliveries into $20 deliveries, particularly among businesses.
They answered the phone on the first ring.
They hired people who cared about the customer experience and gave them tools to keep their promises.
They sacrificed short-term profits in order to build a brand promise that people could trust.
Some organizations end up ingraining this ethos deeply into what they do, and stick with it for the long haul. They have a hospitality mindset. Service isn’t simply the tool to make profits–it’s a key part of why you’re here in the first place.
In the last decade, Fedex (simply to pick a familiar example, they’re by no means unique) decided to take a different path.
They don’t answer the phone easily. When they do, they box their low-paid workers in with scripts and policies that leave little room for human engagement. They remove less profitable dropboxes, and shorten the hours they do pickups. When a package goes awry, they do little to repair the broken trust it creates. I’m sure a McKinsey consultant ran the numbers on all of these changes.
All of these steps add up to slightly more profit in the short run. And, perhaps, over time, people who really care (the difficult customers?) switch to another provider. But the real cost here is to their people, their mission and the culture they seek to build.
Hospitality is a choice, not simply a tactic.
It’s possible to build an organization that does work you’re proud of, surrounded by people who feel the same way. People who care, solving problems and creating connection.