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Are Service Zombies Killing Your Business?

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

I couldn't resist the reference with Halloween on tap this week. When you consider the mindless service that some organizations provide, it isn't a stretch to say that customer service out there can be scary.

Most often it is a breakdown of people and process that fuel service disasters. I was working with clients in healthcare and higher education last week and they mentioned that their service had almost become commoditized, which puts added pressure on people and environments to differentiate in the marketplace. When products are considered "equal" (whether true or perceived), everything that surrounds them becomes key to differentiation.

So back to zombies.

I can't decide which is more off-putting - a zombie munching on an unsuspecting suburbanite's brains or the bloodless service of a disengaged front line associate. Most days it's a toss up for me as without engaged team members service becomes transactional, boring, and mindless.

People create service and are the face of most organizations. If you believe your product or process is all that matters, then you are as potentially doomed as the horror movie protagonist who chooses to run back into the house rather than to the car in the drive way.


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So what does it take to move from horror show to guest-focused? Let's dial in on three key moves.


Most horror movie monsters move mindlessly through transactional motions. That is an equally terrifying strategy for service. You can see this lackluster service throughout organizations that should know better, but are mired by teams who were not selected with the customer in mind. This is not a difficult strategy, but one that requires grit to implement. You simply must stop hiring team members who don't fit your organization and don't love people. Even those who don't directly serve or communicate with people must see the end user in mind and be proud of their ability to help people. For example, a chemist who formulates pain relievers must be able to look down the supply chain to the child who needs the product she is creating. You also must ensure that your team is more interested in the people who may walk in the door than their phones or other distraction. You must select with purpose, train with enthusiasm, and engage with heart if you want your team to deliver even the basics of amazing service. This falls squarely on the plate of organizational leaders and must be a priority.


Typically zombies are on the hunt for brains - but for lunch, not innovation. In the case of most businesses, they are nearly negligent in how they ignore their team's ideas.

When was the last time you shared your customer feedback with your team or asked them to help problem solve an issue?

Your team has every answer you need and knows about roadblocks for customers that you haven't realized are there yet. Most organizations - especially large ones - do a terrible job of sharing customer feedback all the way down to the front line where it can do the most good. Without this kind of transparency, it is unlikely that the entire bandwidth of an organization is actively engaged in customer centricity. Stop guarding your data like a miser - rather share it and put your whole team to work creating innovations for your consumers, guests, and customers.


It is easy to think about the daily tasks and chores that go into delivering products and services. Within the horror genre, survival is everything; however, typically during the best horror movies there is ultimately a big EUREKA moment that leads to the final plot resolution. Your team has to do many things from cleaning spaces and equipment to delivering sandwiches on time. Your team has dozens (if not hundreds) of tasks to complete in a day. Whether they are scanning a computer system for bugs, counting a cash drawer, or cleaning up the sales floor, these are crucial to keeping your business moving. But so what? Why should they care if these small tasks are completed? This is where you need to connect them to a larger purpose. If you work at a restaurant, sure you cook the steak, but you are also brining families and friends together. Those working at a car dealership are selling freedom. Realtors ultimately help people find the home that will become the focal point of their lives.

I am often asked how to get those working in front line roles more excited to take care of people. I believe connecting them to their purpose helps them find the motivation to serve with care and give that little bit extra.

So while horror movies can be scary, your service shouldn't be. Work with your team every day to engage their minds and hearts in innovation, problem solving, and their purpose.

Thanks for keeping your customers at the center of everything you do.


* Written by a real human, not A.I.


Tony is an award winning speaker and author on the topics of sales growth, customer experience, and leadership. Tony speaks to thousands annually and has been featured on ABC News and Fox News. He is available for business planning, motivational keynotes, leadership workshops, and employee service skills training.

Tony is the founder of Ignite Your Service and the Chief Experience Officer for 4xi Global Consulting.

Tony is available to help with your Customer Experience and Employee Engagement Strategies, inspirational keynote talks, team training and development, and executive leadership coaching.


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