I must be getting old; I’m certainly getting grumpy.

First, my new ‘mate’ at Carphone Warehouse, Gaz, thought that I’d gone into his shop to try and be his friend, rather than to buy a new phone.  When it came to payment he finally stopped calling me ‘mate’ and, after a quick look at my credit card, said “Thanks Stuart.” If he’d called me Stu and given me a high five, I wouldn’t have been surprised.

Then, later in the evening, my wife and I went to a local restaurant. After a 10-minute wait at the bar, the head waiter, presumably Gaz’s brother, waltzed over and asked, “So, how ya doing, guys?” Well, not as well as we would be if you’d come to see us 10 minutes ago and called us Mr and Mrs Cross!

The waiter gave us the menus and my wife asked him about the soup of the day. The look of shock and tension on his face suggested that she’d asked him the final question on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. He quickly decided to phone a friend, and went off to the kitchen to confirm that the soup was, in fact, tomato and basil.

Some of my Canadian friends joke that Air Canada’s strap line is We’re not happy till you’re not happy and I’m beginning to feel that many organizations go out of their way to fulfill that motto.

Service leadership, however, is a potential source of competitive advantage for many businesses. John Lewis, Singapore Airlines, Lexus and First Direct have all built their success on their ability to provide their customers with friendly, caring, accessible and knowledgeable people who can deliver expert advice and support.

This means that you should hire for attitude and then develop the skills, not the other way round. The danger is that you fail to put sufficient effort and focus into either your recruitment or the development of your people, with the result that Gaz and his ‘mates’ become the face and the brand of your business.

In a desert of poor, ineffective customer service, a service leadership strategy can help you create an oasis of customer loyalty.

In what ways could a superior service model help your business?

© Stuart Cross 2013. All rights reserved.