Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

This Makes It Very Clear…

I was talking to one of my clients yesterday, the President of a large commercial landscaping operation called Austin Outdoor, about how to help his front-line folks take their customer service delivery to a higher level. Now mind you, this is already a great company that delivers consistently excellent customer service, but because they are a truly great company… they want to do even better. So as I was driving to the office this morning I was thinking about how to really send a clear message to all of his employees about the critical importance of always delivering amazing service when a powerful image came to my mind.

Imagine one of the Austin Outdoor crews working feverishly all day on making the landscape at a luxury resort look absolutely stunning. Then at the end of the day the manager of the resort inspects the grounds and asks all of the Austin Outdoor crew members to line up and hold out a handful of their personal bills. The manager then walks up to the first person and says, “Nice job today, the flowers look superb… here, give me your bill for your car payment, I’ll pay that one for you.” Then the manager steps to the next person in line and says, “You worked your butt off today, great job… let me have your mortgage bill, I’ll take care of that for you this month.” And so on down the line, taking one person’s electric bill, another’s car payment, another’s credit card bills… I mean, wouldn’t it be cool if one of your customers followed you around as you did your grocery shopping and when you got to the check-out they stepped-in and said, “Put away your wallet, I got this!”

To me this image is striking because it is true — your customers are exactly who pays your personal bills for you. Doesn’t that make you want to take your customer service up a few levels?

Hope this helped – take good care – John


  1. John Kichton says:

    Great idea! I went to a business growth seminar years ago, and kept one thing with me all these years (25+):

    Treat your customers like family. If you don’t, you wont be able to take care of your real family. That statement, along with many others has not only made me happier at home and work, and my customers feel special, but it has actually gained me some true lifelong friends! How can you beat that? Of course in these trying times, money is tight, but we had a “customer appreciation” party for all on our list. It really didn’t cost that much, a few hours of planning, phone calls (personal is much better than a generic card) and food. More than expected showed up and at the end of the day, not only did we build loyalty, but our customers had the opportunity to see us as “normal folks”. It has now become a biannual event that our customers actually look forward to! More than that, when we greet them at the store, the feeling is different. Not only do they know us better, they ask how our wives and families are.

    (On a side note, I am no longer allowed to pick the dates. My customers joke with me that if I do, they’ll bring rain gear. It poured at the second party, and despite that, everyone hunkered under the tents and had a ball. I’ll never live it down though.)

    No matter how big your business, remember your family.

  2. Great comment John — I very much appreciate the input!

  3. John… once again, you hit the nail on the head. Your customers are EXACTLY who pays your bills. Whether you own your own business or work for someone else, it is this symbiotic relationship between customer and service provider that has seemed to disappear in our culture. If everyone who provided a service to another applied the concept you wrote about in this blog their would never have to be a “compliant” department in a company!

    Thanks for making this concept so simple for people to grasp!

  4. Without the service, there is no service business.

  5. Bill Dellecker says:


    As you know, this year our team has adopted a “Focus on Fundamentals”, focused on Landscape Quality, Managing Expectations and Crystal Clear Communication. But you’ve managed to boil this down to the most Fundamental concept of all. Thank you!