Four Principles of Customer Service – Principal 3 : Community – CRM Success

We asked Gerry Brown to tell us a little about his Four Principles of Customer Service (CX  [Customer Experience]).  Culture, Commitment, Community and Communication. In this Blog we explore the third principle: Community.

There is always room for new ideas, and building a better foundation usually happens when we are open to new ideas and thoughts shared. We hope you enjoy the Four Principles journey with Gerry.


When it came to understanding more about how, where and why CX was so effective and important, I looked closer at some of the companies that really do have customer experience working for them, and found strong evidence of the Four Principles that are vital to the development and sustainability of a Customer Experience program. Just as a reminder these are; Culture, Commitment, Community and Communication. The power of these principles, both individually and in combination, is that they are founded on deep, basic truths that have broad and enduring applications. When integrated into our daily lives they provide a context and a framework that can mobilize people to develop the understanding, skills and patience to handle almost any situation. This is what it takes to bring home the bacon and is way beyond ‘lipstick on the pig’. You can’t pick these up at the cosmetic counter.

These Four Principles are simple and each is intentionally represented by just a single word that very much mirrors the important and real-life values, and how we approach the world as individuals. They can be, and are, used by all of us every day in our interactions with others; when we hold open doors, support worthy causes, apologize unreservedly and sometimes unnecessarily (in the UK and Canada) and (occasionally) smile at strangers. In a customer service environment, you really can’t make people do what they don’t want to do, or at least you can’t do it indefinitely or with everyone.

Any discussion involving principles and natural law will undoubtedly uncover a full complement of ideas and concepts that can apply to almost any eventuality. While we may all have slightly different interpretations of these specific principles, I also believe that there is universal awareness and understanding of their value, their relevance and their importance to the survival and growth of any business.

Let’s look closer at  Community, the third principle in our customer experience journey.

The Four Principals  3 –Community.

The digital age and social media have brought new meanings to the concept of community. As well as being a founding principle of the declaration of customer experience, a sense of community has been around since the beginning of time. The unchanging and most enduring quality of community is, as Paul Hawken says in his book Blessed Unrest, that “Community resides in its ideas, not in force.”

In customer experience terms, community resides comfortably and symbiotically with the other three principles. It is dependent on intertwining and bringing together the different parts of an organization to agree common goals, and ways of achieving them, in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration. When a business is successful in creating this internal spirit of community, then extending it to customers, partners and the wider geographic community just feels like a natural and rewarding thing to do.

Waitrose (John Lewis Partnership)

When you look at almost any UK customer satisfaction survey, you can always expect to see John Lewis and Waitrose high on the list. John Lewis is not only highly regarded reputationally, but is also highly profitable and the clue to why they are so successful is in the name “The John Lewis Partnership.” John Spedan Lewis, the founder’s son, introduced the first profit-sharing scheme in 1920, along with a representative staff council. These ‘radical ideas’ were based on seven basic principles, which are still the driving force behind the company today and are prominently featured on the company’s website. Their definition of community is that “The Partnership aims to obey the spirit as well as the letter of the law and to contribute to the wellbeing of the communities where it operates.” What part of this wouldn’t appeal to any right thinking and ambitious organization?

Sadly, most businesses fail to even come close to this due to their overdependence on misguided and clumsily applied ‘policies and procedures’, or ingrained resistance to change that hampers many of their managers and other employees.

Ace Hardware

Shep Hyken, in his book Amaze Every Customer, features Ace Hardware as a great example of an extremely successful, but perhaps little-known company whose community spirit is legendary. This has made it stand out against many of its larger, perhaps better-known DIY rivals in the US such as Lowes and Home Depot, and outpaces them in terms of revenue, reputation and employee growth. While primarily a US organization, they also have operations in much of Latin America and Asia, and wherever they go they make a profound and lasting impact on the community. In the USA since 1991, the Ace Foundation has raised over $54 million to help sick and injured kids.

The Ace store owner is totally focused on clearly identifying and standing out within their customer community, and being helpful for each and every person in that community. Their reward for this commitment is being ranked highest in customer satisfaction among home improvement retailers for a sixth consecutive year in the JD Power and Associates survey.

There is also an encouraging and welcome communal trend in the UK. A recent study by data analyst Kantar showed that, despite the challenges faced by local shops, the larger supermarkets were losing market share to them. James Lowman, of the Association of Convenience Stores put it: “Competing with the big boys is tough, but good independents can survive and thrive by finding a point of difference – often greater customer service and a much deeper knowledge of the community.”

The idea of community has limitless possibilities in terms of geography, participation and focus, but the power and reach of community in terms of its impact on customer experience is something that any business can and must aspire to, as a platform for growth, a forum for reasoned discussion and a contributor to the greater cause of the common good that a business, and its employees, can bring to life.

Look out for the next issue: Communication

About the Author

Gerry Brown aka The Customer Lifeguard, is on a mission to save the world from bad customer service. He helps businesses save customers at risk of defecting and breathes life into their customer service operations and customer experience strategy. Gerry provides straight talking, no-nonsense advice and practical solutions for customer experience adoption and has provided organizational leadership on people development, business transformation, customer engagement and technology enablement for some of the largest companies in the UK, Canada, and EMEA. These include Autoglass, The Royal Albert Hall, O2, Screwfix, Sage, BSkyB, Bell Canada and TELUS. Gerry is a Member of the Professional Speaking Association (PSA), the Global Speakers Federation (GSF), the Customer Experience Professionals Association and a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP). Check out Gerry’s book: When A Customer Wins, Nobody Loses!: A winning formula for building lasting customer relationships.

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