John DiJulius | Customer Experience Blog

The Burden of the Brand

Commandment III:

Non-Negotiable Standards

Experiential Standards Everyone Must Follow



Burden of the Brand – Would you ever expect to see a Disney cast member, in full uniform on break, chewing tobacco and spitting on the ground near the front entrance where guests are walking by? Doubtful. Or would you ever think a Ritz-Carlton employee, when asked, “Where is your ballroom room A?” to give a response like, “No, I work in housekeeping.” Highly unlikely! One of the most effective ways to elevate your company’s customer service level is by instituting Non-Negotiable Standards. (Commandment III in What’s the Secret?) I like to call them the Burden of the Brand


Never & Always list: If anyone is going to wear your uniform, name tag or represent your brand, there needs to be a small set of 6-12 actions/standards that your employees live by. These non-negotiable standards are also referred to the Never & Always list. They are actions that are more “universal” to your customer’s experience, meaning they are NOT tied specifically to any direct point of contact (i.e. phones, check in, check out) and they may or many not occur. The critical importance is, if they do occur, you have to be confident enough that your employees recognize and understand these non-negotiable standards, and you can bet the house that 100% of the time your employees would “never” do this and “always” do that instead.


If your company does nothing other than institute these, make everyone aware of them, and rarely see a “never” occur and consistently see an “always” occur, you are in the top 5% of customer service organizations! As you read through the list, you will see they are all simple and use common sense, but the majority of businesses and front-line employees execute the Never List and do not do the Always List. The following are some examples from The DiJulius Group consulting clients’ Never & Always list:


Exemplis Corp. is a leading U.S. manufacturer of contract furniture for commercial, healthcare, hospitality and office markets.




The Maids, the only professional housekeeping company for residential cleaning services throughout the country.




John Robert’s Spa top 20 Salon/spa in America




The DiJulius Group THE Authority on World-Class Customer Experience




Action Plan – With your Secret Service Agent team create a small set (6-12 actions/standards) that match the following criteria:

  • The standards are 1 – 3 words
  • Do not need any additional explanation
  • Not stage specific (i.e. do not apply towards phone, check in, check out, etc.)




What stress? Every night I sleep like a baby…
 I wake up every two hours and cry my eyes out!



John R. DiJulius III best-selling author, consultant, and keynote speaker, is the President of The DiJulius Group, the leading customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on customer experience trends and best practices. Learn more about The DiJulius Group or The Secret Service Summit, America’s #1 Customer Service Conference.

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