Real Leaders

Leaders, Put Magic in Your Mission

Legend has it a man was driving his relatively new Rolls Royce across the English countryside. The luxury vehicle unexpectedly coughed, sputtered, and stopped running. 

Realizing it was several miles back to the nearest small town, he called the dealership where he had purchased the car for their advice. The friendly service tech got his location and promised to have a response in less than a half-hour. The man was a bit surprised since his Rolls dealership was two hours away. 

Twenty minutes later, a helicopter landed on the roadside near his Rolls, and a repairman got out and began to do mechanical surgery under the bonnet (a.k.a., hood). After a few minutes, the car was running perfectly again, and the helicopter departed as quickly as it had arrived. The man was very impressed by this James Bond-like over-the-top response.  

A couple of months later, he realized he had not received a bill for the miraculous roadside service. He called his dealership; they reported no record of a roadside repair. “But, where did the helicopter and mechanic come from?” he asked. The service tech suggested someone at the corporate headquarters might know and transferred him to the Rolls headquarters in Derby. 

Again, a friendly service person could not find any record of a service call and suggested he worry no more. As he was about to hang up, she warmly added, “Besides sir, Rolls Royce cars do not break down! They are built for the utmost perfection.”

Through the lens of this story, examine what it would take to create a magical myth that your offering was perfect, astonishing, remarkable, or practically a miracle. It starts with great pride in product and service coupled with the zeal to guarantee always to match your customers’ hopes, not their expectations. It requires elevating standards to the pinnacle of superiority. As my friend Shep Hyken would say, it also takes leaders who inspire employees to “be amazing or go home.”

Add Magic to Your Service Vision

How do service leaders foster a vision laced with magic? It starts with having a vision that excites, challenges, and points to a noble aspiration. 

Author Seth Godin sometimes asks his audiences to “raise your hand as high as you can.” After the audience complies, he adds, “Now, raise your hand a little higher.” You can predict the outcome. Everyone held back a little instead of complying with his initial request. 

Focusing on magic-making stretches employees to reach as high as they can every time.

Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company’s mission (or credo) contains “magic in the mission.” It reads: “The Ritz-Carlton experience…fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.” 

Armed with this vision, a waiter at the restaurant at the Crystal City, VA property had an associate go to the theater in the adjoining shopping mall to get a box of popcorn when a guest asked his son what he wanted for dessert. “Popcorn,” the young man said. And, moments later, a bowl of popcorn appeared. But here is the best part. When the guest returned to the same restaurant a year later, he was asked by a different waiter, “Would you want popcorn for dessert again, sir.”

Show Associates the Magic You Expect

A mid-seventies age customer of Umpqua Bank stopped by the nearest branch to request a stop payment on a check he had written to a firewood supplier. The supplier had promised to deliver a load of firewood and split it. The firewood was delivered, but the supplier claimed he didn’t have time to split it! “Go get an ax!” was the solution the supplier offered when the elderly man asked how he was to get the wood split. The bank retail service manager had to inform the customer that, unfortunately, his check to the supplier had already been deposited.

For most banks, that would have been the end of the story. But, that’s not how the “World’s Greatest Bank” does customer service! With two other associates, axes in hand, the retail service manager drove eighty miles to the customer’s home. They split and stacked the wood and swept the garage clean! You can imagine the emotional impact on the customer whose only source of heating was his fireplace. Will Rogers wrote: “People don’t learn from conversation; they learn from observation.” 

According to the official Rolls Royce history, when Henry Royce was designing the first Rolls Royce, a colleague suggested he “turn out a reliable car at a low price.” Royce had a vision of magic—“the best motor car in the world regardless of cost.” Henry Royce (and his partner Charles Rolls) led with such purpose and conviction that the dream became a modern-day reality, one not possible without inspiring the fledgling Roll-Royce team to dream big, raise their hands high, and work with a spirit of magic-making! 

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