John DiJulius | Customer Experience Blog

What would you do: A vision statement saved a company
December 12, 2012, 9:16 am
Filed under: Customer Experience, Customer Service, Verne Harnish

What would you do? Pretend you are the manager of a grocery store the Sunday before Thanksgiving. You have a line of customers with full carts of food, waiting to be checked out. Then your registers go down and won’t come back on! How would you handle it?


“Due to your inconvenience, all your groceries are free”  – Well, this really happened at one of the Harris Teeter stores, where employees could not process any customer transactions.  At first Harris Teeter employees served samples of turkey and ham subs, pimento cheese crackers and sushi rolls to the customers who were waiting in the long lines.  Ultimately, store officials told customers that their groceries would be free because of the long wait.


A company’s credo is more than a slogan – I am in the process of reading the book, The Greatest Business Decisions of All Time, by Verne Harnish and the editors of Fortune.  I came across a great example from 1982 when Tylenol was in one of the worst corporate crises possible. It was their vision statement that guided them through the ordeal. Someone had put lethal doses of potassium cyanide into Extra Strength Tylenol capsules sold in retail stores. Seven people in the suburbs of Chicago died.  Tylenol was doomed — or so it appeared. How Johnson & Johnson saved Tylenol is a story that’s widely regarded as the gold standard of crisis management.  Then CEO, James E. Burke, applied the company’s credo to all situations.  This credo went against the advice of their senior executives, shareholders, and the FBI. In the end, TTylenol went from being the market leader (over 30%) to 7% after the disaster, back up to 30% all within 12 months because of the way they handled it. My friend Verne allowed me to share with you the chapter “The Shareholder Comes Last.” It outlines the entire saga, and that chapter (as well as the entire book) is a must read.


 The Maids International (TMI) – TMI is a professional home cleaning service with locations all over the US.  They are a consulting client of The DiJulius Group and are dedicated to revolutionizing the home cleaning experience.  This past year they have made a lot of progress building a world-class customer service organization.  One of the first things we helped them with was the creation of their Service Vision Statement & Pillars (see below), which was created by the Franchisee Advisory Committee (FAC). Everyone left there excited about what they had created, but also understanding that the success of their rollout was dependent on every employee in the company seeing the importance of their role in making the service vision come to life with every customer.


Walking the Talk – A few months after we launched the SV company-wide, we had another workshop with the FAC. As we were talking about how well the front-line employees had bought into the service vision, one of the top franchisees, Wesley Dunn, franchisee in Durham, NC, shared a great story. Wes talked about how he went to a customer’s house to price a weekly cleaning and found an elderly woman who lived by herself in a small home that has a steep driveway.  While he was there, he noticed that she had an empty garbage can sitting at the end of her driveway.  So Wes brought it up to the garage for her, a simple act of kindness.  Wes went on to explain that as a result of this, every Wednesday night on his way home from work, he stops at this woman’s home to take out her one garbage can and every Thursday night on his way home, he stops to bring it back up to the garage.  It certainly isn’t about the money: her cleaning service is one of the smallest contracts they have. You can tell Wes was extremely proud to share this story. I asked him if thinks he would have done this same type of thing a year ago, before the Maids rolled out the Service Vision. He replied, “I would like to think so, but I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that I realized if I wanted my employees to behave like this, I needed to. It starts with me.”





A problem is an opportunity to be a hero 

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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