A culture of saying yes: Corporate culture models from ice cream to banking to eBay

 A culture of saying yes.

There’s an ice cream parlor 40 minutes from our home –  a delicious enough destination that the drive is no deterrent.  The ice cream’s made on premises, the awnings and décor both retro and creative. And the people who work there are nice.

Or nice-ish.

What they lack is a culture of saying “yes.” Without a culture of yes your customers will, well, start to say no.

I discovered the lack of this culture the way any other customer would:  by asking for something slightly offscript. In the course of paying for ice cream I had ordered for our family and guests (a $23.40 bill), I mentioned that my kid wanted to use a gift token their violin teacher had given her

The cashier’s answer: “that token is only for one scoop, and every sundae you ordered was two scoops, so there’s no way to apply it.  Sorry.”

So much better if he had ended with a “yes”:  “Absolutely, we can credit the value of a scoop upgrade.”     That way,  an 80 minute round trip, and 6 minutes inhaling our ice cream, doesn’t become colored by a single, unnecessary negative.

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But does “yes” scale?

 The importance of building a corporate culture of “yes” is a straightforward and basic concept when we’re discussing the world of nostalgia-themed ice cream stores and the like.   I need to concede, however, that when we get into the automated online ecommerce world, it gets a bit less straightforward.   In some businesses – eBay and its subsidiary PayPal come to mind – not everybody is a customer; some c sad to say, are posing as customers but are actually plain old  (or should I say, hypermodern) thieves, out to rip those businesses off.   And a fortress mentality, in particular parts of the operation, has to rule—not just for the benefit of the company itself but for the benefit of other customers as well.

And yet, and yet…  when a true, human customer –the kind who writes actual sentences or speaks them into the telephone – contacts a company,  even one of these continually under assault companies, that contact needs to be handled by a representative from a culture of saying yes.

Banking as a model

This balance is hard to maintain in the extreme edges of online commerce, so if we’re hesitant to entirely embrace the ice cream parlor analogy here, what does work as a model?  Well, think about a great customer-centered bank or credit union.  It has security procedures.  Extremely good, careful procedures.   But it doesn’t repeatedly ask for ID from the customers who come in every day.  It waives the overdraft fees for good customers.   It has a culture of saying yes to customers.  And no to the bad guys.

By Micah Solomon – keynote speaker, customer service speaker, customer service consultant, and #1 bestselling author of “Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization.” Visit with Micah at http://customerserviceguru.com. Or, click here for your own free chapter  of Micah Solomon’s #1 customer service bestseller, Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization (American Management Association/ AMACOM)

About The Author

2 thoughts on “A culture of saying yes: Corporate culture models from ice cream to banking to eBay”

    1. Thanks, Joni! Very well put. The steps to implementing a culture of saying yes are never easy, but they’re crucial. They involve making it clear what your mission is in memorable words that everyone in the company buys into, following those beliefs in hiring, in employee support, and in documenting of and reinforcement of standards.

      Micah Solomon
      Building Five-Star Customer Organizations–
      for bottom-line results
      http://customerserviceguru.com
      Follow: @micahsolomon
      New blog: http://collegeofthecustomer.com — subscribe for great stuff
      #1 bestselling business author:
      Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization
      Keynote speaker, workshop leader, quick-results adviser.
      “The new guru of customer service excellence is Micah Solomon.”
      — The Financial Post

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