Wow, Did They Ever Get it Right!

When asked what differentiates their company from others in the industry, business owners very often respond “excellent customer service.”  At the Centre, we regularly see business plans that note customer service will be the defining factor in a business’ success but there are usually no details to accompany that statement.

So what is excellent customer service? The recent experience of a close friend defined it for me.

My friend travelled to another city to help family members in a time of crisis. Needless to say it was an emotional visit. When it was time for her to return home they drove her to the airport. She was determined to be strong because if she started to cry, it would be very difficult for everyone. She managed to step out of the car, collect her luggage, hug everyone, and wave goodbye with a small smile. As the airport doors closed behind her, the tears burst forth and she began to sob. In her words, “suddenly two angels came out of nowhere to help me”.

The angels were WestJet employees. One took her arm and the other took her luggage.  They found out where she was headed, guided her to a seat and printed her boarding pass. When she moved toward the long lineup to check her baggage, they quickly explained she would not be waiting in line and escorted her to a lounge to relax while they dealt with the luggage and the lineup. She wasn’t sure how it all happened but that it was exactly what she needed right at that moment.

Wouldn’t you agree THAT is excellent customer service?

It is easy to recognize excellence once it has happened but the trick is to have those actions top of mind as soon as the situation arises. As a business owner you may know what you want to happen in certain situations but are your employees on the same page?

Your corporate values must be successfully communicated to all involved. You can start with a Mission Statement, followed by a motto, policies and procedures. However, that only goes a short way in actually having those values brought to life. Your effort must be in ensuring that the words in your mission statement are turned into observable behaviours.

The WestJet website simply says “Owners Care.” Those WestJet employees certainly brought those words to life. They cared for my friend and the result was excellent customer service. (You can see their detailed Culture, Mission, Vision and Values at

As the owner, there are things you can do that will help you build a team that will deliver the desired actions. The first step is asking the right questions during the hiring process. Situational questions, in this case one that demonstrates caring ways, would help to identify relevant behaviours. Once hired that employee needs to be properly trained in how they can put that caring attitude to work. Then you must be sure to acknowledge and reward their actions when they occur and at their development reviews. I hope those WestJet employees were rewarded for their caring ways. I know the company will be rewarded by my friend’s loyalty.

Everyone likes to hear a wonderful customer service experience. Hopefully the next one you hear is about your own company.

– Cindy Ruth