“Customers don’t distinguish between you and the company you work for. To the customer’s way of thinking, you are the company.”
– Ron Zemke, Author,Service America
I just happened to come across this quote – again. When I did, it made me think about Ron Zemke, who was a prolific author whose books focus on the topic that is near and dear to my heart: customer service. He was one of the people that I admired and studied. I have read and re-read his excellent books, as his teachings are timeless. When I first read this quote many years ago, I thought it would be the perfect quote to set up a chapter in my first book, Moments of Magic, which was about making a great first impression.
In short, the chapter focused on how employees create first impressions that impact the customer’s perception of the company. My point was that a customer’s perception or opinion of the company can be based on just one person. First impressions count, as they set the tone for whatever interaction is to follow.
As I read this quote, many years later, I can’t help but think of how this also ties in perfectly with my “Awesome Responsibility” concept. Simply put, everyone has an awesome responsibility in that at any given time, the customer may view one person as the entire company. That person represents all of the employees, the brand – virtually everything about the company.
I took my kids to a restaurant. We only interacted with one person who took our food order, our money and served us our food. She was nice and friendly as can be. As we left my daughter said, “The people at this restaurant are so friendly.” What she didn’t say was, “That woman who took care of us was so nice.” That woman that my daughter was referring to represented all of the restaurant’s employees. She actually represented the entire restaurant including the promise of great food and good service. In effect, she was the restaurant.
Many of you have heard me tell the story about a cab driver. My first impression of him was not good. He looked disheveled with wrinkled clothes and messed up hair. I thought to myself, “What does the inside of his taxi-cab look like?”
Imagine that you are walking into a grocery store and notice a produce truck parked outside. The employees unloading the fruits and vegetables look sweaty and dirty. Might you wonder about the cleanliness of the store?
And that is what Mr. Zemke’s quote is about. Simply put, to the customer, you are the company.