A person's hand stretches out towards a kettle which stands on a platform which is part of a large solar stove outside in the sun.

And I’m not talking about an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree. In this blog I’m going to review a book that was published back in 2011 but is still very relevant today. The book is called 212 Degree Service: The 10 Rules for Creating a Service Culture by Mac Anderson.

This book is a fantastic and quick read. You have to read it from the perspective of creating an environment of service for both your employees and your customers. And employ the idea that your employees are just as important to your organization as are your customers.

Although there is a little redundancy in Anderson’s points, I think that was done purposely to reinforce the concepts.

Anderson starts with a simple scientific idea, “At 211 degrees, water is hot. At 212 degrees, it boils. With boiling water, comes steam. And steam can power a locomotive. And…it’s that one extra degree that makes all the difference.”

It’s a basic notion; the idea that each and every effort, each additional nod to an employee, and every additional outreach to your customer counts.

Anderson notes 10 tenants of service and this is what I took away from each point:

  1. “It starts at the top.” A great leader understands that his or her stewardship is what it takes to turn a good company into a great company. The leader’s main focus is to set the tone, create the culture, establish the brand, and carry that brand through everything that is done. Without brilliant leadership, that extra degree will never be attained.
  2. “Your customers must come second.” Your employees are number one and this is because they become the gateway to your customer base. By looking for ways to reward employees and serve them like a customer, you establish an organization of exceptional service. Employees are the ones that execute the brand, from leadership to customer service, from finance to marketing. So hire the right people and trust them to do their jobs.
  3. “Engage the hearts and minds of your employees.” A vision that employees can follow on a daily basis is critical. Anderson quotes Jim Harris, “When something captures your heart, you are driven to succeed. Heartpower is the core of any successful enterprise. Capture the heart, and you have captured the employee. For without a vibrant, beating heart, any enterprise is sure to die.” This is very poignant in that the vision of the company must be compelling and understandable. Build the fire within and make your employees your greatest asset. Establish an environment of open communication, empower employees to make decisions, and invest in training and development.
  4. “Make your culture your brand.” No matter how you build your brand, you have to do it with your employees in mind. So just like staff or product training, your employees must be trained on the brand as well. The brand must be extended from the top all they way down the chain. Nordstrom is a great example of good branding. They focus on customer service and it starts with employee loyalty and acceptance of the brand. Set lofty goals that can reasonably be accomplished by your employees. Whether you are a product or service brand, hold your staff accountable to meet the organization’s expectations. That will set and keep you on the path to success.
  5. “Understand the “how of wow.” What I learned from this tenant is that after you lead by example you have to make your customers fans of your brand. I write a lot about Apple…because they live and die by the “wow” factor. Consumers believe in why Apple operates the way it does… and the “why,” rather than the “what,” is why people follow the brand. Customers become ambassadors of your brand and that right there is a huge victory.
  6. “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” In today’s economy people have too many choices. They are bombarded with information. One bad impression results in a sale to another brand. So again, take care of your employees so that they take care of your consumers to deliver what they really want.
  7. “Identify your moments of truth.” Jan Carlzon from Scandinavian Airlines said, “Every moment, every contact must be as pleasant and as memorable as possible.” Once you have a service mentality created with your employees that carries down to your consumer. Get input from your customer and adjust to what needs to be fixed. And again remember that your customers are saturated with information and they have to use their gut feelings to make their decisions. That’s why the first contact matters the most to create a sense of authenticity. It’s all about engagement.
  8. “Don’t assume…ask.” A former Microsoft executive said, “Service is not a list of off-the-shelf solutions, it’s a constant process of discovery.” You can’t try to force your customers to believe what you think. Its simple: you need to ask them for their feedback and then adjust your strategy to their needs. Use surveys, focus groups, and questionnaire cards at every point of the sales cycle. Listen to your customers and be on point with their needs to help sustain the brand and make them customers for life.
  9. “Celebrate success.” Have fun. Revel in your wins. It’s the best thing that you can do for your employees. It’s the trickle down effect. And if anything it will create buy-in across the entire organization. For everything accomplished, awards are king.
  10. “Reinforce. Reinforce. Reinforce.” This is the key to the realization of your goals. Spread the word and your message and never let down. Keep things simple, memorable, and communicate it often. Track your process. Determine areas of improvement, set realistic goals, track, monitor and communicate results. Change faster than your competitors and you will reap the awards with your customers.

Every degree counts.

You may purchase this book at Amazon. Or watch a Mac Anderson’s movie on YouTube.