Serving like a Sandbag Wall

The seawall surrounding my lakefront home finally started asking to be retired!  So, we used the opportunity to replace the fifteen-year-old wood seawall with a permanent granite seawall.  It required a construction crew pouring a deep concrete footer into the lake floor on which they laid concrete blocks veneered with granite stone.  The amazing part was how they kept the lake water away from their masonry work.  Building a wall on dry land obviously is much different than erecting one in a lake!

Before beginning their work, they built a tall sandbag wall out in the lake six feet in front of the old seawall.  They then pumped all the water out of the space between the sandbag wall and the old seawall.  While the floor of the space was still muddy, it enabled them to dig the foundation into the clay lake bed, pour the concrete footing, and then construct the wall. Passing boats leaving a wake in their path had no impact on the determined workers.

Customer service can be like that new seawall.  Customers need to be served in the middle of the rush of everyday chaos and distraction.  You cannot ask all the other customers to leave the store so you can focus on the one in front of you any more than you can build a seawall in a lake without having a way to keep water away from your work.  Auto races don’t stop the race so all the competing race car drivers can change a tire at the same time.  It means creating ways to shield you from distraction.  Sometimes processes can be a helpful run-interference resource.  Customers can be guided to channel their concerns in ways that facilitate your capacity to be attentive. But the best wall against loosing focus includes front-line employees who have zeal to serve and capacity to assist.

What’s your sandbag wall?  How can you prepare front line employees to stay calm in the midst of busy times and pressured situations?

How do little companies use customer service to take on the big companies?  Jessica Shambora explains how in her article on

About Chip&John

Chip R. Bell and John R. Patterson are customer loyalty consultants and the authors of several best-selling books. Their newest book is "Wired and Dangerous: How Your Customers Have Changed and What to do About it."
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