From the book, "Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic":

“Services are performances. From the customers’ perspective, the people performing the service are the company. A careless bank teller is a careless bank. An arrogant waiter is an arrogant restaurant.”

Few things evoke as much negative emotion in otherwise kind and gentle souls as a bad experience as a customer. Focus in your mind on your last really bad customer service experience and you can sense the tension in your neck growing along with the rise in blood pressure. That bad experience becomes “the company” for us.

The Aetna Rep who yelled at me for seeking clarity on how a claim was handled is the face of this firm to me. (I escalated that one and was correct.)

As managers and leaders and individual contributors who serve external and internal customers, we intuitively know that every encounter we have … or our people have, is an opportunity to represent the organization. Why then are good customer experiences the minority and great customer experiences a rarity? The fault is ours … for poor hiring, for failing to establish and reinforce values, for lack of accountability … and for generally not giving a shit enough to make sure our organizations are properly represented by people who care and who serve.

The phone representative who agreed with me that Frontier Communications was pretty screwed up, is the face of Frontier to me.

All of the strategy plans, reorganizations and training sessions in the world won’t make up for the failure to respect and serve and honor the customer. It’s arrogant and deceitful to believe you as a leader are representing the interests of your stakeholders if you fail to create remarkable customer experiences through your team members.

Poor customer service is an outcome of a series of flawed and sometimes fatal decisions by people not invested in a cause beyond biding their time and collecting a check.

The battle axe of a grumpy, rude receptionist at the local Doctor’s office is the face of that practice.   

We are all of us at times consumers of healthcare services. These purchases find us at our most vulnerable, our most frightened and even our most ignorant. We are placing ourselves and our family members in the hands of strangers … shedding our clothes and dignity and hoping our trust is not misplaced. While there are some institutions that get this right more than they get it wrong, few that I’ve encountered do it on the scale of Mayo Clinic. I’ve no doubt from my time there that it starts with careful hiring for the right values … and comes from an unyielding commitment on the part of everyone in that institution to reinforce the core values.

Mayo is remarkable in part, because they recognize that every encounter is the face of Mayo. From the workers in the cafeteria to the receptionists greeting and serving patients to the nurses, doctors and administration, the performances are choreographed to serve customers.

What do your team’s performances say about you as a leader and about your firm?

This blog originally appeared at

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