The Customer Comes Second: Put Your People First and Watch 'em Kick Butt

The Customer Comes Second: Put Your People First and Watch 'em Kick Butt


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060526566
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 08/20/2002
Edition description: Revised
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 166,832
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.01(d)

About the Author

Hal Rosenbluth's company has been profiled in many of the nation's leading publications, including The Wall Street Journal,the Harvard Business Review,and Inc. magazine.

Diane McFerrin Peters is director of corporate communications for Rosenbluth Travel. Both are popular lecturers.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

How It All Begins

Most people can't sleep the night before their first day of a new job. They probably decided two weeks in advance what they'd wear. They can't wait to get started, meet new people, see everything, do great things.

After all the anticipation, their first day is usually a big yawn. They find themselves hidden away in a room somewhere, filling out forms. What a mistake! First impressions are lasting. Is that how most companies would like to be remembered? I doubt it. That's not the perception we'd like to create.

First days at our company are a little different. Every person who joins our team, regardless of position, department, level, location, or line of business, begins their career by spending the first day at work with their immediate leader. The day is spent having one's leader provide a personal orientation to the company. Leaders talk about values and work ethic, as well as introduce the new associate to everyone they will be working with. Typically, the leader will take the new associate to lunch or have a group gathering to celebrate their arrival. While every leader has a handbook on all critical information that needs to be imparted, each leader is free to do so in his or her own way. The key is to make the associate feel comfortable and welcome. With very few exceptions (like accelerated implementation of new business) every new associate, together with others who have recently joined the company, come either to our World Headquarters in Philadelphia or to our European Headquarters in London during the first quarter of their employment.

A lot of people never get to see their headquarters. They may never meet the top officers. Here, they do both. They also learn about what's really important in the company. And they have fun.

There are substantial benefits to this program. No doubt, it's a morale booster. It encourages buy-in from the start. It also prompts buy-out, which is important. Giving people an in-depth look at our culture lets them make a well-informed decision about whether or not this is the right place for them, and that helps us.

A new associate orientation program is a valuable tool to maintain culture as a company grows. Everyone gets the story straight. Everyone hears the same message. It starts people off on the right foot. It's really a tool from which all companies could benefit. I'll explain the way our program works.

The day begins with time spent learning about one another, followed by a historical look at the company they have joined. Next, we immerse the group in our people-focus, discussing the importance of perception and teamwork and the value of differences. We look into ergonomics and safety, communication and change.

We then focus on our clients, studying their expectations and concentrating on quality. Next is a business overview to ensure all new associates understand the goals, objectives, and workings of our business, which is built around our clients. We conduct an overview of the company's structure, so people know where to go for what they need. Finally, we spend some time on elegant service and elegant language (more about these in Chapter 6).

We immerse our new associates in the company's philosophies and values and they begin to see their role in the future of our company. People are always surprised to learn that they've been brought to headquarters just for philosophical training. Once we tell them how important these principles are to our company, they begin to see the emphasis we place on our values.

Next, the group tours our headquarters, stopping to meet as many individuals as possible. Then on to the culmination of the program, afternoon tea -- with a twist. Our new associates are served by officers of the company. This is by far the most memorable portion of the program. People continually approach me years into their career, to tell me how much of an impression the tea made on them.

There's a service message behind the choice of a tea for the activity. A cup of tea can come from a vending machine, it can be tossed to you in a diner, or it can be elegantly served to you at a high tea. The tea is just a product; the service surrounding it makes all the difference in the world.

By serving our new associates, we're showing them that we're happy they're part of our team, they're important to us, and our people come first. We talk about what we believe in. We discuss what's on their minds. Nothing is off-limits.

Once when I was serving tea, a new associate asked me how much money I make. I told him when it's a good year I make a lot and when it's a bad year I take it on the chin. Another asked me what I would do if I weren't CEO of Rosenbluth. I told her I'd like to be the Philly Phanatic because I'm a closet clown, and I love baseball. But most of the questions are about the future of the company.

One point we make very clear is that it's their company now, and each time they begin a comment or question with "Your company ... " I correct them and have them start again, saying, "Our company ..." I think it's important for them to feel a sense of ownership from day one.

While this is our core orientation, we have used a variety of approaches through the years to ingrain these points. For example, our orientations have included skits designed to elevate service, where small groups create the worst service experience they can think of. With scowls on their faces, they talk about all the terrible service episodes in their lives. The group decides which service experience is the worst and then embellishes it, making it as ugly as it can be. Next, they return to their groups and make their service story a positive one, improving on it in every way they can imagine. Then they perform the good-service experience in a skit.

Table of Contents

Part 1The Power of People
1How It All Begins3
2Happiness in the Workplace7
3Finding the Right People28
4Perpetual Learning: A Secret Weapon53
5Service Is an Attitude, an Art, and a Process73
6The Creation of a Culture97
7The Birth and Nurturing of Ideas115
8The Gardening Process128
Part 2Inventing the Future
9Inventing the Future147
10Technology as a Tool157
11Look Around You184
12Open Partnerships194
13Blazing New Trails209
Afterword: A Lot to Digest221
Epilogue: A Changed World225

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