Kenney Machinery Employees Learn Customer Service Best Practices from French Lick PGA Pros

French Lick Earlier this season, Kenney Machinery Corporation held our annual company-wide meeting at the French Lick Resort in southern Indiana.  In addition to being a valued customer of Kenney Machinery, French Lick Resort is one of the premier destinations for golfers in the entire Midwest.

With four award-winning courses, a golf academy, pro shops, and a golf learning center featuring an indoor driving range, there isn’t much that a dedicated golfer can’t find at French Lick.  The stellar reputation of the golf scene at the resort is due in no small part to the leadership of two long-time staff members—PGA Director of Golf Operations Dave Harner and Golf Professional Emeritus Jan Tellstrom.

Dave and Jan were kind enough to share some of what they’ve learned in their very successful careers with Kenney Machinery employees in a presentation entitled “6 Key Mindsets for Providing Outstanding Customer Service”. Here’s some of the highlights of that presentation:

Mindset #1: Work from a position of strength and generosity

According to Dave and Jan, people tend to make the most mistakes in life when they’re negotiating or working from a position of weakness. In business, this happens when a company focuses on short-term success instead of on long-term relationships. This mindset sometimes causes a business to fiercely guard their bottom line, even at the cost of customer satisfaction.

Jan illustrated this point with an example of a restaurant that charges a customer ten cents for an extra packet of ketchup. Even if the food is excellent, what the customer will probably remember most about their experience is that they were charged for something as small and insignificant as a ketchup pack. On the other hand, a business that works from a position of generosity will encourage and empower their front-line staff to make decisions that will enhance a customer’s experience (like giving away a pack of ketchup for free).

Mindset #2: The customer is more important than the company

The second key mindset for delivering outstanding customer service mentioned by Jan and Dave is that while having good products is important, what really makes or breaks a business is making the customer feel like they are valued. A business can have the best product or service in the world, but if they don’t do a good job delivering it and making the happiness of the customer a top priority, they won’t be around long.

Mindset #3: Customer service as a profit center

While most businesses do a good job getting the initial sale from a new customer, many business drop the ball when it comes to understanding the marketing value of delivering great customer service. Dave demonstrated this with an example involving a hypothetical scenario in which a golf course refuses to give a golfer a rain check after it starts raining when he has played 13 holes of an 18-hole course. By doing that, the course is missing an opportunity to bring that golfer back for another visit during which he might spend money at the pro shop, or bring someone new to the course with him. In addition, the golfer might complain to his friends about the fact that he didn’t get to play all 18 holes of the course, instead of telling them about how he got to go back to the course for a second visit at no additional charge.

Mindset #4: Every interaction is a moment to shine

People don’t remember data, but they remember stories—that’s the key to understanding mindset #4 according to Jan and Dave. A business needs to help its front line staff create positive stories that their customers will remember and repeat to other people. Every time a customer interacts with an employee—whether that interaction starts off positive or negative—it represents a new story being written. The actions of the employee will determine if the story is a happy one that helps generate goodwill toward the business, or a frustrating one that no amount of money spent on marketing and advertising can undo.

Mindset #5: Lose every fight

Mindset #5 is about the fact that in business, in order to truly “win” a fight with a customer, you need to lose. Dave illustrated that point during his presentation to Kenney Machinery employees with a story about a customer at the French Lick golf pro shop who was constantly asking for discounts on golf shirts.  The issue came to a head one busy Saturday when Dave was trying to prepare a golf outing for over 100 people, and in the middle of all the hustle and bustle, the customer came in and once again began complaining about the price of the shirts.  Instead of arguing with the customer, Dave told him to just take a few shirts.  The customer grabbed five shirts and walked out the door.

Many businesses would consider this “losing”.  However, as it turns out the customer in question was a retired Ford Motor Company worker, and through his influence he was able to help set up a golf outing for over 100 employees of the company.  This never would have happened if Dave had been focused on a short term “win” with the customer.

Jan pointed out that in this day and age, the philosophy of losing every fight extends to the online world as well. Rather than argue with customers in a public forum on social media, businesses need to de-escalate the situation and take the conversation offline where it can be resolved privately.

Mindset #6: Lead by example

What you do is more important than what you say when it comes to leadership, and that’s what Dave and Jan’s sixth mindset is all about. For example, if a customer is littering, an employee could chastise the customer and tell them to pick up their trash, or the employee could pick up the customer’s trash for them in their presence. The latter action clearly demonstrates to the customer that their behavior is not acceptable by giving them an example of the proper action.

By incorporating Dave and Jan’s six key mindsets for providing outstanding customer service into our daily operations, the employees of Kenny Machinery Corporation will be able to continue the tradition of excellence that has made our company so successful for over a century.