Here’s a riddle for you: What’s the difference between Southwest Airlines and Zappos?
The answer is… there isn’t a difference.
Sure, one is an airline and the other is an online retailer. But the important thing is that they’re both, first and foremost, service companies. They thrive on providing a level of service that turns ordinary customers into long-term, loyal followers.
“Zappos is a customer service company that just happens to sell shoes,” the company’s CEO once said. Or, as Southwest Airlines’ founder put it, “We’re in the service business, and it’s incidental that we fly airplanes.”
At MyITpros, we adhere to several principles that I believe define what it means to be a service company. I think you’ll find these principles worth considering whether you’re thinking about your own company and how you want to serve your customers, or about companies you do business with and the way they serve you.
You know how a company’s organizational chart is typically set up with the CEO at the top of a pyramid and all the other people below? In a company that’s driven by service leadership, it’s just the opposite. The base of the pyramid is at the top, and the leader is at the bottom serving the people who make up that broad base.
The idea of leading by serving is one we’ve taken to heart at MyITpros. Our culture of service starts at the top and guides everything we do. Or, to put it in terms of the inverted pyramid, our leadership starts at the bottom and serves upward. The more we grow, the more people in the company the leaders serve.
But it isn’t just individual leaders who exercise service leadership; ultimately, it’s the entire organization. As the leadership works to show the primacy of service in how the organization operates, the idea is to inspire all to be of service – to each other and to customers. We try to approach service that way every day.
In a service company, the customer comes second
When I first heard of “The Customer Comes Second” by the entrepreneur Hal Rosenbluth, I thought, “That’s weird!” But the title makes sense when you think about it. The idea is that if you really want to take care of customers, you need to first take care of the people who take care of those customers.
After all, it’s not the executive team that’s out on the front lines every day serving customers – it’s all the other people in the company, from the customer service representatives to the sales people, who are on the phone and on-site with customers day in and day out. So if you really want your company to serve others well, you demonstrate how service should be done by serving those employees.
At MyITpros, we subscribe to that belief, as well as to another counterintuitive idea: In our company, technology comes second. We’re a service company first and a technology company second, just as Zappos and Southwest Airlines are service companies first. Personally, I love client service, account management and relationship building; I’d be doing these things whether I worked with a technology services company or not. I think that’s true across our company, and I think that passion for service is what sets us apart and makes us successful.
People before profit
You’ve probably heard the advice “Do what you love and the money will follow.” I think it’s true, and it applies not just to individuals but also to organizations. A love of service leads MyITpros to make people – not profit – our priority. We continually invest in supporting and empowering our employees, and in serving our clients. We do most of our business on a fixed-fee basis, and we revisit those fees regularly to be sure we’re giving our clients a fair deal.
What we find for the most part is that when we put people first, profit inevitably follows. The greater the value of the service we deliver, the more revenue we generate and the more profit we enjoy. It’s easy for a company to get caught up in the idea that revenue is the most important thing – but our experience has been that it’s not. That’s why the idea that revenue and profit are consequences of good service is one of our guiding beliefs.
Being customer-centered and service-driven are qualities that we cultivate in our own company and look for in others. We’re eager to work with clients who share this focus, and with vendors and partners who see its value. What’s more, we’re always happy to share information and experiences about this approach to business success. I hope you’ll make a point to learn more about how it works in Zappos business culture and in Southwest Airlines’ operations. And of course, we’re always happy to hear from you and talk with you about our own experiences.
Bill McCharen, President
MyITpros prides itself on being a comprehensive resource for IT information as well as business development and best practices. We want to answer the questions you have- so feel free to contact us with any comments or questions!