Go for the gold (level of service)

Paul Butler, Newleaf Training and Development. Submitted photo

I remember my mom and dad saying to me as a teenager when I was unsure about what I wanted to do for work: “Whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability.”

It was years later before I truly understood the foundational wisdom on which that comment was based but it was a comment that served me well in my service to others — at work or in my personal life.

So, on the basis we only have one life on this earth, why not go for greatness? Why not try and be the very best version of yourself? Why not determine to do whatever you do, to the very best of your ability? My observation as an employee in Europe and North America is that organizations do not want to lose people who want to give their best effort at work — to put the shoulder to the plow — to provide superb internal and external customer service.

At Newleaf Training and Development, we have a staff training program called Customer-Centered Service and, within that program, we present what we call the “3 Levels of Service — Bronze, Silver and Gold.” It’s a simple concept to understand, but we’ve just found its just not commonly practiced.

As an employee, you have a choice as to how much to give of yourself to your work. Just doing what’s on the job description could be regarded as ‘Bronze’ service. We’ve all experienced an interaction with a work colleague who just does the bare minimum. Someone, rather cynically, once said that most employees do just enough to not be fired. It’s not that we were unhappy with the service we received. We were just … satisfied with the level of service. That’s it — we were just … satisfied.

Prior to coming to America, I was a regional finance director with Hilton International Hotels and I supported about 50 hotels in Western Europe. At each month’s end, the controller of each hotel presented his or her financial reports to us as a regional team. A ‘Bronze’ controller would just present the reports. They were accurate. They were clear. The balance sheet balanced. But all we got was the reports — nothing more, nothing less.

‘Silver’ service is when the person goes a little above and beyond — you could say, they exceed expectations. It’s almost like “service with a smile” or “bells and whistles.” Coming back to my regional role again, these controllers would interpret the numbers for us. They’d save us time by amplifying where the problem was (i.e. the banqueting department was behind budget and that’s what is pulling the results down). That kind of ‘Silver’ service was helpful. The controller exceeded my expectations.

But ‘Gold’ service is what we’re all after from each other, isn’t it? ‘Gold’ service is where we anticipate needs. ‘Gold’ service often comes down to someone, personally making a decision to go the extra mile — it’s very difficult to institutionalize within an organization as so much of it comes from the human heart.

Back to my hotel example: These were the rare controllers who would not only provide numbers I could rely upon, they’d direct me to where the issue was and they’d offer solutions to those problems. In short, they’d anticipate my needs.

So, in summary, as an employee, you have a choice whether to provide Bronze, Silver or Gold service to your colleagues and customers. At the Bronze level, we’re really just satisfying the need. At the Silver level, we’re exceeding expectations. At the Gold level, we’re anticipating needs.

Teams and organizations need employees to be giving gold-level service — especially in a world of work where change is the only constant and where competition is ever increasing.

If you’re a supervisor of others, ask yourself how you can turn the organizational pyramid upside down and provide gold-level service to your direct reports. If you’re a business owner, how can you engage the hearts and minds of your employees to move beyond the minimum?

My experience has been that people tend to support what they create. Start by asking for their ideas on how the organization can provide gold-level service to their customers, to vendors, and to each other.

So, whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability. See, I did listen to you, after all, mom and dad.

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia (newleaf-ca.com). The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal. For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected].

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