To Empower or Not to Empower?
By Hal Becker
Thursday, 28th August 2008
The business buzzword over the last 10 years or so is empowerment -BIG DEAL! Everybody says that they do it...yet no one really does it right except for Ritz Carlton Hotels. But we'll get back to them later.

In my travels as a speaker, we do programs for all types of companies or associations and everywhere I travel, I hear this line. "Our company or organization is different, we are unique and we are a little different than our competition". My answer to this is simple: All companies that I have ever seen have these similar qualities.

They are all for profit or non- profit. They either sell a product or a service or a combination of both Their best customers spend the most with them while their worst customers nickel and dime them to death, and the customers who had a problem where the company overreacted to their situation, now just became one of their best customers..and probably for life! Sound familiar..it should because business is business. it is simple straight forward and easy to do GOOD business.

Now for one of my favorite topics, the "Mission Statement" Does your company have one? Most do, and most are junk! In fact I can take almost any mission statement and stick it on the wall of a Dunkin Donut and it will apply for them too. They all say the same thing, we believe in customer satisfaction, and will take care of our customers. We value our employees and promise to be good to them. Blah, Blah, Blah. We also Mission Statements don't do anything...but People do!

So why the Ritz Carlton, simple! They have the greatest mission statement that I have ever seen. First off, it is a three fold plastic coated card that each employee MUST carry with them at all times. Right on the front it says "We are Ladies and Gentleman serving Ladies and gentleman". What that means if you wanted to be treated as such, then act accordingly. Inside the card has 20 different sayings or phrases, but my favorite is number nine.

It states "Any employee who receives a guest complaint owns the complaint"! Simple and powerful which summarizes empowerment at it's best. But wait boys and girls, I haven't even got to the best part yet. So read this very carefully because it speaks volumes about the organization and the message they want to get across to their employees and their customers.

First line employees such as busboys, housekeeping, food and beverage personnel have the authority to spend up to $2,000.00 to satisfy a customers needs. Managers have the authority to spend up to $5,000.00! You are probably saying at this point WOW, that is a lot of money. Is it? If it is how much are your customers and employees worth?

The concept or business model is very simple, look for a triple win.

Number 1:That is your employee wins by feeling good and was able to take care of the situation by themselves without running all over to find a manager or someone else who can just say "Take care of it"

Number 2: The customer wins because they weren't bounced all over the place and their problem was taken care of immediately with no hassle.

Number 3: The company wins because they will now keep a satisfied customer who will probably tell a bunch of other people about this little problem and who great the company was in handling it. We call this "Word of mouth advertising" . Naturally, that is the best and in many times the cheapest from of advertising.

Don't believe me yet? Well how many ads have you seen about the great service Ritz or Nordstrom Department has? None! It is all created by the customers. Oh yeah you will also notice the Ritz and Nordstrom advertise less than their competition. The reason is simple. The outstanding service you receive is part of their culture. The employees and the customers both know it and to be honest...expect it!

So here are the basics:

  • Give your people on going training on customer service.
  • Empower them, not with sayings or slogans but with tools, such as money or action related concepts.
  • Treat your employees well and then in turn will do the same for your customers.
  • Have your managers involved and observing their subordinates.
  • As an owner or CEO, be there, walk around, see what is going on for yourself and become part of the process.
About Hal Becker www.halbecker.com

Hal Becker is a nationally known expert on Sales, Customer Service, and Negotiating. He conducts seminars or consults to more than 140 organizations a year. His client list includes IBM, Disney, New York Life, Continental Airlines, Verizon, Terminix, AT&T, Pearle Vision, Cintas, and hundreds of other companies and associations.

At the age of 22, he became the #1 salesperson among a national sales force of 11,000, for the Xerox Corporation. Six years later in 1983, he survived terminal cancer only months after launching Direct Opinions, one of America's first customer service telemarketing firms that facilitates more than two million calls per year with offices throughout the U.S.A. and Canada.

In 1990, Hal sold Direct Opinions to devote time for consulting and presenting lectures around the world.

Hal is the author of "Can I have 5 Minutes Of Your Time?" which is now in its 18th printing and is used by many corporations as their "Sales Bible." He has also authored two other best sellers "Lip Service," one of the nations foremost books on customer service, and "Get What You Want," a fun, upbeat and fresh approach to negotiating.

He has been featured in publications including The Wall Street Journal, Inc Magazine, Nations Business and hundreds of newspapers and Radio/TV stations around the world, and is currently syndicated in over 45 newspapers and magazines.

Hal has received the Toastmasters International Communication and Leadership Award. He is one of only eight people in the world to be given this honor.

Inc. Magazine has voted Hal as one of the nation's top speakers in the Area of Sales and Customer Service. He is also a CSP, or Certified Speaking Professional, which is the highest earned designation presented by the National Speakers Association.

After battling terminal cancer, Hal founded the Cancer Hotline, a non profit organization that provides support and assists cancer patients and their families. He donates proceeds of his books to this cause.
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