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Published:October 6th, 2007 08:07 EST
Recapturing the Service Mojo!

Recapturing the Service Mojo!

By Simon Bailey (Mentor/Columnist)

This week marks the celebration of National Customer Service Week here in the United States. As you know, I`m passionate about service. And if you`re a regular reader of our Brilliant Carats, you also know that I think customer service is not what it used to be. Yes, I miss that old school " customer service " what I call Service Mojo.

The word mojo " comes from the Fula language (spoken by two-thirds of the people in Cameroon, Africa) and means power ¦influence ¦advantage. So what is Service Mojo? It is a service spirit that empowers employees to influence the customer by delivering Brilliant Service experiences that create a lasting competitive advantage for the organization. Service Mojo is the antithesis of mechanical, rote service that has no spark, no energy, no passion. It`s the difference between an authentic smile from the heart and one that is wired because management is watching. It is employees who make a difference because they want to rather than have to because it`s their job.

Individuals who possess Service Mojo provide intuitive and instinctive service. They don`t have to check a handbook, go through a training program or get permission from a senior manager to go the extra mile for the customer. Organizations that exhibit Service Mojo take care of the people who take care of the customer, and they loosen the reins to allow employees to use their personality and strengths to provide customized service. Employees in these companies know they are valued and appreciated, and they willingly step up. When front-line service employees have a want to " that is matched by the organization`s thank you, " they create Brilliant Service experiences for customers that leave a lasting imprint rather than a temporary impression.

Just how important is Service Mojo? Frank Blake, the new CEO of Home Depot, stated in a recent Associated Press interview that a renewed focus on customer service will generate long-term growth. Furthermore, in PriceWaterhouseCoopers` Annual Global CEO Survey, 16 percent of the 1,084 CEOs surveyed indicated that better customer service would be one of the tactics used to grow their business within the next 12 months. These senior executives understand that having a great product isn`t enough. To grow and thrive, you must have Service Mojo at every level of the organization, from the top to the bottom.

So who has the Service Mojo? I`m glad you asked. In the October 2007 issue of Fortune Small Business, there`s a story about Nurse Next Door, a Canadian home healthcare company with $10 million in annual revenues. Fortune says, When the company stumbles, it delivers a ˜humble pie` " a fresh-baked apple pie accompanied with a note that reads in part, ˜We are very humbled by our mistake and sincerely apologize for the poor service.` " Now that`s Service Mojo! The company has spent $1300 on pies but says it has kept customers worth $90,000 in annual sales from leaving.

Let me tell you about two other organizations whose Service Mojo I`ve personally experienced. (I know I use a lot of examples from the hospitality industry, but realize that I travel at least 150 days a year. And, since I worked in the hospitality industry for years, I know Service Mojo when I see it!)

I recently stayed at the Westin Times Square hotel in New York City and was blown away by the service. Yes, the room was state of the art, and the food was stellar. But it was the staff, not the building or the amenities, that was the essence of Service Mojo. For example, I hadn`t been in my room more than 15 minutes when a staff member called to ask if the room was to my liking and if he could help me in any way. Later, I ordered room service and experienced the same attention to detail. The kitchen staff followed up about 20 minutes after the food was delivered and offered to bring anything else I needed. That`s Brilliant Service " service that comes from the heart and the head.

The other organization is ¦are you ready? Delta Airlines.

Are you surprised? As you may recall, I have an interesting (to say the least) history and relationship with Delta (see Brilliant Carats 48 and 51). The airline recently emerged from bankruptcy with a new swagger, and yes, it might be early, but it appears they`ve recaptured the Service Mojo they once had.

Delta`s new service spirit is evident in its employees. On a recent flight, the captain came out of the cockpit prior to departure to welcome the passengers and thank us for flying with Delta. Now, let me add a disclaimer that not all Delta pilots do this. But I regularly fly four other airlines, and I`ve never seen a pilot do this before the flight. Believe me, it makes for a Jerry Maguire moment. " Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Delta had me from ˜Hello.` " Would you rather have " your customers at hello " or goodbye "?

I`ve also noticed the flight attendants, gate agents and other employees seem to have the old Delta spirit back. There`s a pep in their step and an authentic commitment to delivering on the new Delta " promise instead of complying with some flavor-of-the month customer service initiative. There are four people in particular who have positively impacted my recent Delta experiences: Laurie Casso, Marie Gueterriz, Roger Royston and the team at the Orlando Crown Room, and flight attendant Tracy Kappes. In my opinion, they`ve helped Delta recapture its Service Mojo. They have the power and the influence to make a difference in the life of one customer.

But here`s the thing that really showed me Delta is serious about customer service: I had a cross-country trip with a tight connection and a change of planes in Atlanta. The evening before the flight, Delta called me and offered to book me on an earlier flight so I`d be certain to make my connection. Can you believe it? In 20 years of business travel, I`ve never had an airline offer to do that, let alone proactively communicate it to me.

Where has this Service Mojo spirit at Delta come from? The top! Recently retired Delta CEO Gerald Grinstein led the company through its impressive financial recovery by starting with himself. Grinstein, already making only a fraction of what his counterparts in the industry made, took a self-imposed pay cut and gave up millions in bonuses and incentives. Furthermore, he gave 39,000 non-executive employees raises and stock incentives when the company emerged from bankruptcy in the spring of 2007. Now that is smart management! I totally agree with rewarding the people who are closest to the customers. Why? When employees believe that the company values what they do and they feel that love in their paycheck, it makes coming to work a joy and giving Brilliant Service a treat.

So the million dollar question is: how do you (or the organization you represent) find your Service Mojo? Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Hire for attitude and train for success. Training doesn`t fix what HR doesn`t catch.

  2. In the new-hire orientation program, indoctrinate people with the history of your organization. Make it fun and test their knowledge.

  3. Invest in learning and development for front-line service employees. According to the American Society of Training and Development, organizations spending an average of $900 per employee on training and development experienced the following returns on their training investment:

    • 57% higher net sales per employee;

    • 37% higher gross profits per employee;

    • 20% higher ratio of market-to-book value.

  4. Challenge managers to cancel some of their meetings and spend more time experiencing the organization`s service the way customers do. That`s the fastest way to determine what`s working and what needs to be fixed.

  5. Loosen the reins on front-line service employees and grow commitment rather than insisting on compliance.

Simon Asks ¦Do you have the Mojo?

Simon can be reached at 972-899-3411, by e-mail at or by visiting his website at or

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