heart my job“When we focus on money over mission, we risk losing both our customers and our talent.”— Misti Burmeister

In my recent blog post, “Give Your Customers a Reason to Thank YOU,” I discussed how the little things we give or do for our customers translate into exceptional service, loyal customers, and bottom-line results.

When we approach business with the spirit of giving, not only do we earn our customers’ loyalty. We also inspire our employees. Most people enjoy helping others. Our team members want to feel like their work positively impacts customers. So when we empower them to provide top-notch service, we end up with happier customers and happier employees.

On the flip side, when top performers are unable to provide superior customer service, they feel like they’ve been set up to fail. And that’s terrible for morale, productivity, and retention.

Case in point: When I sat down for dinner with Sarah, a former flight attendant, I was struck by her passion for customer service.

“We used to get ‘point cards’ from our frequent flyers when our service was exceptional,” Sarah told me. “On several occasions, I would hear my boss say, ‘The plane hasn’t even taken off yet. How did she already get one?’”

Sarah was even inducted into the Flight Attendant Hall of Fame, a distinction reserved for those selected as the Flight Attendant of the Year five years in a row.

When I asked about the secret to her success, Sarah explained, “I drank the Kool-Aid. I bought into the quality of service my company was striving to reach. I wanted to be part of such exceptional service, to make peoples’ day and to feel good about my work.”

Listening to her, I wondered why such a talented, driven woman in her early 50s would take an early retirement package from a job she clearly loved.

Sarah explained: “I won all of those awards because I take pride in giving quality service. But then we went from being able to give away lots of little things, to nickel-and-diming everyone. When I started saying ‘sorry’ more than ‘you’re welcome,’ I was done.”

By limiting Sarah’s ability to do her job well, the airline lost an exceptional employee.

The same thing happens in corporate America all the time. Your best and brightest employees want to do a good job, to feel proud of their work, and to serve others. If they’re not getting that sense of purpose and fulfillment from your company, they’ll find it elsewhere.

When we focus on money over mission, we risk losing both our customers and our talent. But when we put people first, the bottom line takes care of itself.

Join the Conversation: How do you empower your employees to deliver the best possible customer service?

Misti Burmeister, best-selling author of From Boomers to Bloggers: Success Strategies Across GenerationsHidden Heroes and Power Suck.

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