How To Build a Second Mile Organization
You want your people to smile, welcome your customers, and be friendly and courteous, right? As the leader, I am sure you do. And you should. These gestures are what I call going the first mile. This is the basic treatment that customers expect. And there is a lot of competition in the first mile.
But going the second mile is when we extend ourselves beyond what is expected. Beyond good or even great. Going the second mile is when we deliver world class, memorable, and extraordinary care. Most importantly, it’s when service comes not only from the good techniques we learn to apply, but from a place deep within us where we desire to touch the lives of others. There is hardly any competition on the second mile.
Let’s talk about becoming a second mile organization.
I was recently in line with my stepdad to check out at an antique shop. Jack was carrying a medium-sized old wooden box to step on to shine your shoes. We bought it for $8—a bargain I thought. One of the employees was walking by and said, “Oh sir, let me take that box from you so you don’t have to carry it. It will be here right by the register when you are ready to pay.” Now the box was not that big, was not that heavy, and Jack did not seem to be bothered by carrying it. But he sure was happy to have it off his hands for the three minutes it took to wait for our turn at the counter.
That lady did not have to do that. It was not expected of her. We were already happy being there. We thought everyone was friendly. So why would she extend such a kind act? I left there thinking about it. She was demonstrating a practice that I ascribe to second mile organizations which is, meeting the unexpressed needs of your customers. While this was not really our need, she thought it could be. So she acted. Wow!
This second mile principle is sometimes spoken of in our society. We may say of someone who helped us, “He went the second mile.” As you may know, this is taken from what Jesus said on the Sermon on the Mount, “And whoever shall compel you to go one mile, go with him two.”
In the context of customer service, going the first mile is when we deliver what is expected. In the Bible verse, the person is expecting you to go one mile. Going the second mile is when we deliver exceptional care, much more than what is expected.
I’ve added one more category: the zero mile. Make sure you are never there. Here is a brief description of these three types of organizations.
Zero Mile Organizations
These organizations do not meet the average standard of customer care. No one is greeted, and people barely smile. As the customer, you seem to be an inconvenience to them. I am thinking of an airline person routinely checking you in at the airport. Or a clerk at the driver’s license office that snaps at you, “Stand there and look at the camera.” And when the camera flashes, she says, “You’re done.” And that’s it. It could be when you visit a medical clinic, and the person behind the desk is on the phone and doesn’t even make eye contact with you. It is when a doctor has a poor bedside manner.
Unfortunately if we are not careful, our teams can slip into this stage. Many times as leaders, we are busy in our office with important meetings, while the culture that the customer sees is so blemished it would make you nauseated if you saw it first hand. But since you don’t, you won’t create systems to monitor how your customers and clients are being treated.
If you lead a team or an organization, I challenge you today to stop and make an honest assessment to see if this Zero Mile mentality exists on your team. If elements of it are present, don’t panic. Don’t start firing people. You need to go back to the office and carefully strategize how to get out of this potentially fatal situation. There is a lot that can be done.
First Mile Organizations
People here go with you one mile. And one mile is a long distance. In these organizations the customer is happy and satisfied.
The first mile is when you come into the store and the clerk greets you warmly, “Hello sir. Welcome to The Office Store. Can I help you find anything?” Everyone is dressed nicely and has a pleasant demeanor. When a customer is upset, protocols are followed to de-escalate the situation professionally. You purchase your product without issues or drama. You will certainly come back in the future. As you leave, you notice that the parking lot is clean and the young person pushing the empty carts is working hard.
This organization is well run. They match all the other professional organizations in town. They are corporate. They follow good standards. They are put together well. But you don’t talk about them, because they don’t really stand out.
Second Mile Organizations
Second Mile Organizations wow you—not by how everyone follows the protocols of customer service, but how they touch you as a person. Something warm is extended from their hearts and smiles. Relationships are often developed. Somehow, they remember your name and genuinely ask how you are doing. They greet your child and kneel down to smile and give them a sticker or sucker. And…they carry a box that you are holding if you are waiting in line.
When you are there, you feel like a million bucks because they honor you. They meet your unexpressed needs, and they exceed your expectations. You can tell that for whatever reason, each of them aims to touch you as a human being. You wonder how somehow this organization ended up with the best people in town. And as you leave you ask yourself, how could this be? How can they be so wonderful, so genuine, so caring, so personal—and yet so professional? You smile and tell everyone you know about them. There is only one of them in town.
Which type of organization do you lead?
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