To empower or not to empower: Don’t ask such a stupid question!

At Your Service



The business buzzword over the last 10 years or so is empowerment. BIG DEAL! Everybody says that they do it...yet no one really does it right except for Ritz Carlton Hotels. But we’ll get back to them later.

In my travels as a speaker, we do programs for all types of companies or associations and everywhere I travel, I hear this line. “Our company or organization is different, we are unique and we are a little different than our competition”. My answer to this is simple: All companies that I have ever seen have these similar qualities. They are all for profit or non- profit. They either sell a product or a service or a combination of both Their best customers spend the most with them while their worst customers nickel and dime them to death, and the customers who had a problem where the company overreacted to their situation, now just became one of their best customers..and probably for life! Sound should because business is business. it is simple straight forward and easy to do GOOD business.

Now for one of my favorite topics, the “Mission Statement” Does your company have one? Most do, and most are junk! In fact I can take almost any mission statement and stick it on the wall of a Dunkin Donut and it will apply for them too. They all say the same thing, we believe in customer satisfaction, and will take care of our customers. We value our employees and promise to be good to them. Blah, Blah, Blah. We also Mission Statements don’t do anything...but People do!

So why the Ritz Carlton, simple! They have the greatest mission statement that I have ever seen. First off, it is a three fold plastic coated card that each employee MUST carry with them at all times. Right on the front it says “We are Ladies and Gentleman serving Ladies and gentleman”. What that means if you wanted to be treated as such, then act accordingly. Inside the card has 20 different sayings or phrases, but my favorite is number nine.

It states “Any employee who receives a guest complaint owns the complaint”! Simple and powerful which summarizes empowerment at it’s best. But wait boys and girls, I haven't even got to the best part yet. So read this very carefully because it speaks volumes about the organization and the message they want to get across to their employees and their customers. First line employees such as busboys, housekeeping, food and beverage personnel have the authority to spend up to $2,000.00 to satisfy a customers needs. Managers have the authority to spend up to $5,000.00! You are probably saying at this point WOW, that is a lot of money. Is it? If it is how much are your customers and employees worth?

The concept or business model is very simple, look for a triple win. Number 1:That is your employee wins by feeling good and was able to take care of the situation by themselves without running all over to find a manager or someone else who can just say “Take care of it” Number 2: The customer wins because they weren’t bounced all over the place and their problem was taken care of immediately with no hassle. Number 3: The company wins because they will now keep a satisfied customer who will probably tell a bunch of other people about this little problem and who great the company was in handling it. We call this “Word of mouth advertising” . Naturally, that is the best and in many times the cheapest from of advertising. Don’t believe me yet? Well how many ads have you seen about the great service Ritz or Nordstrom Department has? None! It is all created by the customers. Oh yeah you will also notice the Ritz and Nordstrom advertise less than their competition. The reason is simple. The outstanding service you receive is part of their culture. The employees and the customers both know it and to be honest...expect it!

So here are the basics:

  • Give your people on going training on customer service
  • Empower them, not with sayings or slogans but with tools, such as money or action related concepts.
  • Treat your employees well and then in turn will do the same for your customers.
  • Have your managers involved and observing their subordinates.
  • As an owner or CEO, be there, walk around, see what is going on for yourself and become part of the process.

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