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The “Other Dimension” Necessary to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary

Sure, you hire your people based on job function, but shouldn’t you also be hiring on job essence?

Shep talks with Steve Curtin who says, “Employees consistently execute mandatory job functions for which they are paid, yet they inconsistently demonstrate discretionary customer behaviors, which are known as ‘voluntary job essence.'”

In other words, your employees may be doing what they were hired to do, trained to do, and are paid to do. What they are less clear about is why they’re doing it, and how they’re doing.


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By way of example, Steve talks about waiters in a restaurant. Their job function may be to take orders and deliver the food to the guests. That’s easy to understand.

However, if the waiters were clear about their job essence, they might also:

  • Express genuine interest by making eye contact
  • Smile
  • Add energy to their voice
  • Convey authentic enthusiasm
  • Be respectful and be discretionary when they approach the table
  • Provide the guest with a surprise

There are many things waiters, or anyone who has a customer-facing role, can do to elevate a transactional experience into one that is more relational. And the way to do that is by being intentional as you interject essence into the various job functions you were hired to do, trained to do, and are paid to do.

Another way to demonstrate job essence, in addition to the attributes listed above, includes displaying a sense of urgency and paying attention to details, such as Disney employees (or “cast members”) do as they pick up trash as they walk the park.

Tasks are determined by your job role. The behaviors you choose to exhibit are determined by you. For instance, employees may be trained to use customers’ names, and they may be trained to smile, but they still need to choose to demonstrate those behaviors.

Steve does not believe that customer service standards are being raised, and he gives a specific example as to why.

Employees at one of the retail stores he frequents are indifferent to his presence. All of what the employees are doing on the job becomes incredibly transactional. All of the employees are doing exactly what they have been hired to do, trained to do, and are paid to do. Yet this is only one dimension of their job function. The reason that they are miss the more important function (job essence) is because their immediate supervisor lacks this all-important information.

The more important dimension of the employees’ role may be to inspire confidence, to delight customers, or to create a promoter. But it definitely has nothing to do with bringing in carts, stocking shelves or sweeping the floor!

There is a way to operationalize exceptional customer service so that it occurs reliably over time by design rather than by chance. And that is by being intentional, deliberate and purposeful about incorporating job essence into every job function.

Steve Curtin, author of Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary, has 20 years of experience between hotel operations, sales and marketing, training and development, and customer service roles working for Marriott International, one of the premiere customer-focused companies in the world. Steve now devotes his time to speaking, consulting, and writing on the topic of extraordinary customer service.

 What questions will this episode answer?

  1. How can you raise an interaction from a transactional to a relational experience?
  2. What is the difference between job function and job essence?
  3. Why is job essence such an important part of the role?
  4. How can you determine which candidates for a job may have an understanding of job essence?
  5. Why don’t more employees demonstrate job essence?





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