From 1978 through 1983, FedEx assured us that they were the right choice when “it absolutely, positively had to be there overnight.” That’s was a big, bold promise, and to keep that promise FedEx needed to have every employee on board. An apathetic driver, a lackadaisical clerk or an error-prone programmer could mean that FedEx would violate that promise and lose their customer’s trust.

There are many legendary stories of how FedEx employees did everything from buying a plane ticket with their own money and flying with the customer’s package to its final destination to the driver whose truck broke down and she had to convince a driver from a competitor to take her on her last few deliveries of the day. And then there was the driver trying to get the airport with a loaded truck and the ramp agent who was waiting for those packages. The main road into the airport was shut down due to a tractor-trailer accident and every other road was at a standstill because of the closure. The driver and ramp agent struck out on foot, carrying every package the last mile to the airport.

No one called a manager. No one got permission. They just did what they needed to do to honor the company’s promise.

While I don’t think that level of commitment to customer service is the norm, FedEx isn’t alone.  

I was eating dinner in a restaurant in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom this week. At the table next to me, one of the patrons made a sweeping hand gesture at the very moment the waiter was about to set down her glass of red wine. It was not a complete disaster, but her shirt and shorts got a pretty good dose of the wine. Without batting an eye, the waiter offered to have someone go to the shop across the street and get her another pair of shorts and T-shirt.

Again, he didn’t ask a manager. He didn’t get permission. He just wanted to make sure the guest felt good about the encounter, when it was all said and done.

Would your employees do that? Would they spend company money to make a customer happy? Would they spend their own money? Would they stay late, give out their personal cellphone number or walk a mile (literally or figuratively) to take care of one of your customers?

In today’s uber competitive world, having acceptable customer service is table stakes. If you want to truly win your customer’s loyalty, you and your team are going to have to go above and beyond on a regular basis.

And it’s not going to happen by accident. If you want your clients to brag about your organization’s commitment to their satisfaction, you’re going to have to plan ahead and build it into your 
employee training, recognition and customer communication.

Training: From your values to your employee handbook to new employee orientation, you are going to have to reinforce the level of customer care you expect from your team. Give specific examples so they can imagine themselves in that situation.

Recognition: The fastest way to get your employees to behave in a certain way is to publicly reward that behavior. It gives your team tangible examples to aspire to, and the public recognition makes it very clear that it isn’t just lip service.

Customer communication: Imagine how the FedEx employees felt when the organization went public with the “absolutely, positively has to be there overnight” promise. They shouted it to the world. At that point, customers had every right to expect it and the employees understood it was their job to make it happen. 

In today’s world of rating, reviews and social media posts, can you afford not to expect your employees to deliver world-class customer service?