Shep Hyken\'s Customer Service Blog

Guest Blog: How to Give Your Service Mantra Real Meaning

This week on our Friends on Friday guest blog post my colleague, Jeff Toister, explains why creating a customer service mantra is essential. When it comes to your customer service promise and vision, every member of your organization must be in alignment. – Shep Hyken

A customer service mantra is a powerful part of any service culture. It’s a statement that describes the type of service everyone in your organization should strive to provide. Having one can give your employees clear direction.

I like to ask audiences I speak to for examples of companies with customer-focused cultures. A lot of companies make the list every single time and they all have service mantras:

  • Zappos: Powered by Service
  • The Ritz-Carlton: We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.
  • JetBlue Airways: Inspire Humanity

Employees at these companies are absolutely obsessed with customer service. They take pride in their brand, support their coworkers, and go out of their way to help customers. Somehow, employees at these companies always seem to do the right thing.

This might lull you into thinking you can create a customer service mantra for your organization and Presto! you’ll magically have a customer-focused culture too.

But simply having one isn’t enough.

The real secret of these amazing companies is their mantras have deep meaning for employees who use it to guide their daily actions.

Here’s how you can give your service mantra real meaning too.

Step 1: Clarify the Meaning

I once worked with a credit union that had recently created a customer service mantra. The credit union hired me to assess how well employees knew the mantra and recommend some next steps.

My study found that 95 percent of employees could recite the mantra word-for-word!

That’s pretty impressive, but there was still a big challenge. Nobody agreed on what the mantra actually meant! Even the credit union’s CEO disagreed with his top executives on the meaning.

It’s critical that everyone understands what the mantra means so they can use it to guide their actions. One way to do this is through the use of stories that exemplify the mantra.

For example, you may have heard the story about a Zappos customer service representative spending 10 hours on a call with one customer. It’s an extreme example, but it tells the story of what the Powered by Service mantra means.

Another great way to clarify your mantra’s meaning is to offer training to help all employees give consistent answers to these three questions:

  1. What is our mantra?
  2. What does it mean?
  3. How can I contribute?

Step 2: Empower Your Employees

Many people think of employee empowerment as giving people authority to serve their customers, but that’s only part of it.

Empowerment consists of three things:

  1. Authority
  2. Resources
  3. Procedures

One of my favorite brands is In-N-Out Burger. Their service mantra consists of just three words: Quality, Cleanliness, and Courtesy.

In-N-Out employees have the authority to take care of their customers. For example, there’s a not-so-secret secret menu where they’ll make your burger just the way you like it so long as they have the ingredients.

They also have extensive resources in high-quality, fresh food and plenty of staffing to keep each story running. In-N-Out also has carefully documented and trained procedures for nearly every facet of its operation that ensure a consistent and high-quality product and experience.

Step 3: Reinforce, Reinforce, Reinforce

Chances are you had a combination locker in high school.

Back then, you could open it in seconds without even thinking. But what about now? Assuming the combination hasn’t changed, most of us couldn’t get our lockers open no matter how much time we’re given.

That’s how our memories work. We retain information we consistently use and forget information we no longer need.

This means the only way to ensure your employees remember the customer service mantra is to repeatedly reinforce it. There are three big ways to do this:

  • Model it, so employees see you lead by example.
  • Communicate it often, so employees hear it repeated.
  • Align it with strategy, so employees must live it.


Creating a customer service mantra is essential, but the only way it will guide your employees’ actions is if it has real meaning.

Jeff Toister is a consultant, trainer, and author of The Service Culture Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Employees Obsessed with Customer Service.

For more articles from Shep Hyken and his guest contributors go to

Read Shep’s latest Forbes Article: The Best Loyalty Programs Go Beyond Rewards





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