The Top 5 Lies About Service Excellence to Watch Out For!

Paul Uduk

The idea of this article came as I was going through some business cards I’ve collected over the past five or so years. I was looking for cards I needed to thrash.

Management consultants call the exercise I was embarking on house maintenance. I was almost half way through when I saw the card a general manager in one of the second tier banks gave me at a seminar on Risk Management.

It was a card deserving of a bank’s top gun, it had all the details carefully listed including website, fax, telephone numbers, email address, name, and of course title boldly written: General Manager. I was about to thrash it for irrelevance, when I instinctively flipped to see if there was anything written at the back, and sure, there they were: The New Ordinary Bank, $5bn shareholders’ fund, $15bn in assets, 100 branches nationwide.

Nothing was said about marching confidently into the future with five million strong enthusiastic customers, and nothing was said about the army of dynamically engaged people that would see the bank through. So the first top lie is: customer retention is irrelevant, while the second top lie is: the people are replaceable.

Customers and employees are two sides of the same coin. They are variously referred to as external and internal customers and great organizations go to great lengths to win their hearts and minds. Mediocre organizations pay lip service to customer and employee retention and engagement. Mediocre organizations retain the best parking slots in their premises for their top brass. At their car park you’ll see signs that say ‘‘cars parked at owner’s risk’’ boldly displayed. Great organizations instinctively know that the little things matter, like reserving convenient parking for customers, and like promoting their people when due. They know that the only thing that matters is the law of action. Action wins, not the words we say because we can lie with our words but we cannot lie with our actions.

The third lie is: our size matters, the fourth lie is: the popular press and our corporate communication unit say we are great so we are indeed great, and the fifth and last lie: we have been around for a thousand years so we are unconquerable.

All the lies in the world will not make you great. A wise man once said, the fact that someone is willing to lay down his life for an idea does not necessarily make the idea correct.


If you wish to know how great you are, just go and ask your customers and employees. Only the marketplace determines who is great and who is mediocre. The marketplace rewards great companies. The society at large respects great companies and their leaders.

Recently I attended an event in Lagos where the best and brightest, and the highest and mightiest were invited. It was the sending forth of Tony Elumelu, the former Group Managing Director of United Bank for Africa. It was there I understood how society apportions respect and dispenses honour. The CEOs of some supposedly high flying companies were not recognised as the high and mighty filed in. To the compeer, the companies the CEOs represented are inconsequential, deserving no attention. It didn’t matter that most of them are quoted on the Stock Exchange.

To the customer, the size of your balance sheet, the type of car your CEO drives, the dêcor of your CFO’s office mean nothing. Whether the floor of your reception area is made of marble or granite is certainly immaterial to the customer, all they to know is what you have in store for them, and how you make them feel.

To the employee, the only thing that matters is that all your actions tell them they are valued. Letting your people have the first crack at the latest opening in the organization says more than all the tonnes of verbiage you put in between the covers of your glossy annual report.

Size will not save you, ask GM. The popular press will desert you, ask Merril Lynch, Lehman Brothers and Long Term Capital, Enron and Author Anderson. That you are as old as Methusella and have had a glorious past is irrelevant to the market place, ask SONY, the once untouchable electronics icon.

Peter Crosby once said, ‘’If we take care of the customers and the employees, everything else takes care of itself. It is hard to find an organization that both customers and employees regard with continuous affection and appreciation.’’

Martha Rogers reminded business people and readers in The Conference Board article, ‘One Customer at a Time: Competing in the Interactive Age’ to brace up for competition as ‘’everybody everywhere wants your most valuable customers and will approach them from all channels and geographies in ways unimaginable just a few years ago. So, like it or not, yours is a global enterprise.’’ The internet means people can shop anywhere anytime so even people in your neighbourhood will avoid you because of mediocre service and shop somewhere else as the five top lies will not save you.

Reprinted with permission. Source.