Ace Hardware, the chain of retail stores known for its helpful service, is a perfect model for how to create amazing customer service by first amazing your employees. They want to be known as the most helpful hardware stores on the planet. That’s how they compete in a very competitive industry, going up against the big guys. And they win.
Ace is very serious about this. Helpfulness underpins the entire culture of this company, which has been around since 1924. It is the reason they still exist. They hire the right people to fit into their culture and train them both technically and on how to deliver their particular brand of helpful service. Management and employees treat one another with dignity and respect, and employees treat their customers in a similar fashion. The secret to their success — and the success of other companies — is that their customer service philosophy begins with commitment to their employees.
I am a big fan of Southwest Airlines Chairman Emeritus Herb Kelleher’s philosophy, which is another example of what happens when your customer service starts with your employees. He believed that if employees felt valued, they would value customers (also known as passengers). When customers are treated well, they become repeat customers. And customers’ repeat business makes shareholders happy. This philosophy begins with employees, and it works.