On the heels of the 2009 summer camp season, our team huddled together in our office in Silicon Valley and we hit on a major theme moving forward. 2009 was a tough year for many companies–and this was true for lots of camps out there–computer camps, sports camps, any type of summer camp, really. We fared better than most. Some camps are no longer standing. We’re still standing–and we might say, thriving. And we’re appreciative.
We made a little money. We tightened the belt while still running amazing camps. But we still had this feeling that we wanted to take our company to a whole new space. We thought, “We worked hard to survive the Great Recession, so how can we thrive in 2010? What are we going to do differently to take it to another level?”
One of our initiatives? POSITIVELY OUTRAGEOUS SERVICE. Southwest Airlines is one of my favorite companies…and we already have a bit of a whacky culture anyways. So, we stole the POS acronym from them. (Full disclosure.) But I cannot expect my staff to provide POS if I don’t live it myself. Today, I made Cuban coffee for the team and went around the office with a cart.
We don’t want to feel good about what we’re doing. We want to feel great about it. Most of our moms, dads, campers and staff know that we have a passion for service, but we always think we can do better. In this case, I think my team was excited about the fact that I would go out of my way to make them coffee, and serve it to them personally. They didn’t ask for it, and didn’t expect it. And that’s the basis for how we define POS.
OK, back to POS. Here are some things we already do. We’ve been doing things this way since iD was born. It’s just part of our DNA:
- We don’t have a phone tree. When you call us up, our benchmark is to pick up the phone within 3 rings.
- I personally don’t have an office. I sit with the client services group. It keeps me in the know, and close to our clients. It allows me to listen, and to act fast.
- When a client emails us, I expect the email to get answered the same day. Max 24 hours.
- Out at camp, we expect personalized diplomas from our staff.
- We expect our summer staff to assist with luggage for our overnight campers.
- We expect our technology instruction to be energetic, informative, and unlike anything the students have done before.
These are simple examples of some of our current expectations–and things we do very well already.
So, where do we want to go this year? Here’s what Positively Outrageous Service means to us:
- We know we want to routinely perform “the unexpected.” (Think delivering coffee at 3 PM on a random afternoon!)
- We want people to talk about our organization and our brand. (The CEO of iD made coffee and carted it around!)
- We don’t want to pre-define POS in concrete terms. It limits our creativity. (What will I come up with next?)
- We do, however, want to illustrate samples of POS for our internal departments and summer staff, so individuals can visualize what the possibilities are.
- We want our employees to feel empowered to deliver POS–to take some risks and have fun along the way. (It was fun today. It gave people a reason to laugh.)
- POS can come in many forms, but the bottom line is to thrill the client in new and unexpected ways. (It is OK to thrill your employees too!) Sometimes it might cost a few dollars to make a client happy. But it is not about money. Is is about going the extra mile on behalf of the client or camper–and not treating them like another number or commodity.
POS, to us, is something that comes to our team naturally. It doesn’t bend us in unnatural ways. We can only deliver POS if we already have a strong culture of service–and if all the people in the company “get it.” So, be careful who you hire! We have an awesome foundation already. The team has to want it, and understand it. And be smart enough, and sensitive enough, to deliver it.
I am meeting with my client service group weekly to ask each individual how they have delivered POS. I want to see the proof. I want the stories. And I want people to talk about us. This attitude extends out to our summer camps as well. The spirit of service is partly why we survived 2009, and will thrive even more in 2010. A lot of companies talk about great customer service. Most of it is blah blah blah, right. Truly, few companies get it. We do.
And, if you have any doubts about POS, please remember this. You can always call Captain Curry. The Captain heads up our Client Services group. Really. Don’t believe me? Give us a call. We’ll pick up in 3 rings or less. If we don’t, I owe you a coffee!
Hope to see you out at camp!