The Victuous Cycle

Terry CainBy Terry Cain

EVERY EMPLOYEE, EVERY MINUTE, EVERY DAY…Making memorable moments for our customers…yeah, right!!!

This idea of ‘culture eating strategy for breakfast’ applies to having a consistent customer experience via a consistency in the culture. Our cultures have cycles of virtue and cycles of vicious. Which cycle are you in?

The Virtuous Cycle of service embraces the above headlines along with the attitude that goes with it. We are personable (meaning we are relationship-oriented) and we acknowledge the person on the other line, or on the end of the e-mail, or through a web event as a real person. We call them by name, we say please and thank you, and we verify that we served them the way they would like to be served and expect to be served. We do this internally and externally, creating positive vibes around the customer experience and it’s a part of our culture.

The Vicious Cycle of service is just the opposite. Exceptional service is completed only by super heroes who know how to skirt the systems with heroics, offering an attitude of service externally while often beating people up internally to do so. This cycle may seem like a “hit” initially, but in the long run it’s a “miss” because it burns people out and the culture diminishes into cynicism, a tender underbelly of company-bashing at the water cooler. Employee engagement is inconsistent and so is the customer experience. Employees are working hard at the transactional elements of their jobs, not the relationship or personal nature of doing business with people, and their attitudes show that.

Most of our businesses are somewhere in between, what I call the VICTUOUS cycle. This cycle embodies the fact that even the best cultures have great people who fail once in awhile. In the Victuous cycle of service we are called out on our bad days and we own it and we fix it. Our customers call us out for our attitudes, and we get the chance to build the relationship by providing service recovery.

Creating and sustaining a customer-centered culture is a day-to-day, minute-by-minute process. While many companies focus on maintaining a Virtuous Cycle, there’s no shame in finding peace in the Victuous Cycle. After all, being perfect is impossible and doesn’t speak to the human side of relationships.

Join Steve Church and me at the Services Leadership Institute on April 1st 2015, as we deliver an hour on customer-centered cultures, leadership, and how we can advance our cultures from wherever they are!


As vice president, Global Customer Engagement, Terry Cain manages the strategic planning and execution of Avnet’s global customer engagement, measurement, and experience. Terry’s career began in the warehouse with Avnet over 25 years ago. Growth in technology enabled Terry’s growth in product management and leadership of one of the regional sales organizations, then in corporate shared services, operational excellence, now customer engagement.

Terry studied psychology at Indiana Central College, earned a Lean Green Belt from ASU, Process Master from Hammer and Co.; Master Instructor for Prosci Change Management; and is co-creator of A Culture of Service Excellence taught at Avnet. He serves as guest faculty at the WP Carey School of Business, Eller and Kellogg Schools of Business and is on the faculty of Argyle Customer Care Forum, NG Customer Experience, Consero Customer Care, CX Fusion, Services Leadership Institute and Field Service USA. His board service includes WP Carey Center for Services Leadership Advisory Board and CPLC Parenting Arizona (prior Chairman for two years). Terry is a member of CXPA, plays golf and music and resides in Tempe, Arizona, with his wife, Rebecca, and has one adult son, Jonathan.

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To learn more about the Services Leadership Institute visit the Center for Services Leadership website.

Interview with Dr. Doug Olsen, Faculty Director of Services Leadership Institute

Doug OlsenIn preparation for the 29th annual Services Leadership Institute (SLI), March 30 – April 1st,  2015, we sat down with Doug Olsen, SLI Faculty Director and Associate Professor of Marketing at W.P. Carey School of Business, ASU, to talk about some of the highlights of this year’s program.

1. This year marks the 29thoffering of the Service Leadership Institute. I would imagine that some of the key issues have changed considerably over this time.

A. This is unquestionably true. Initially the goal was to realize some of the fundamentals regarding what steps it takes to create service excellence and SLI was at the vanguard of this movement. While we still make sure that this base is covered, over time some of the issues critical in top professional service have evolved considerably and the sessions have advanced to reflect this.

2. Are there any that are particularly notable?

A. While I am hard pressed to think of any of the sessions as not being particularly cutting edge, there are a number that really stand out in this regard. Gary Bridge always brings current issues pertaining to the integration of technology into service delivery. Gary has such a strong background in the technology field, but more than anything, I am always amazed at his ability to present information that is contemporary, as well as some information that is at least five years ahead of the curve.

Steve Brown will be talking about moving companies along the service continuum – from the addition of basic services, such as technical support, to services that seek to provide a host of core competencies for the client organization in response to fast changes in business environment and evolving customer needs. This is something that a number of companies are struggling with as they seek to grow their profitability and enhance customer retention.

This year we are also very excited to have David Bowen joining us to examine some issues relevant to service culture. David is not only a world-recognized figure in service research, but also a new member of the ASU team now that ASU and Thunderbird have joined forces.

Also returning this year is Roger Hallowell. Roger was on faculty at Harvard, has written a number of influential cases in the area of services and is currently with HEC Paris. He is a highly sought after speaker in Executive Education circles and we are really thankful to have him this year.

3. Are there any other tools that stand out?

A. Definitely. Dr. Mary Jo Bitner, the Executive Director of the Center for Services Leadership, will be providing an examination of critical gaps in the delivery of services, a practical and powerful tool that can help managers identify what steps to take to make sure that their organization is properly aligned to have a strong service orientation.

Dr. Amy Ostrom will also be discussing issues pertaining to service blueprinting and giving individuals a chance to apply these skills. Service blueprinting has become an incredibly valuable tool for many organizations to identify key pain points faced by customers as well as internal pain points experienced by the service organization itself.

4. There is a lot of talk these days about developing a culture of service.  Is there anything at SLI this year that speaks to this?

A. I think there are a number of sessions that deal with this head on. While I will be talking about some of the key barriers to organizational change, Steve Church and Terry Cain from Avnet will be focusing on building a culture of service excellence.  We are also fortunate to have the embodiment of what it means to develop a culture of service excellence with Chris Zane, from Zane’s Cycles. The presentation from Chris is high energy and exceptional at driving home how the authentic delivery of customer care and consistent service innovation can lead to an incredibly competitive organization.

5. Is there anything else that you feel differentiates you from other programs dealing with the service experience? 

A. I think there are a lot of phenomenal people out there seeking to advance service excellence and I applaud all of these efforts. One of the things that we offer is providing an on-campus learning experience; the sessions are both in-depth and academically focused and are taught by top academic faculty and business leaders. This year is exciting as it is the first year we will be offering the program in McCord Hall, our new state-of-the-art building designed for our MBA and Executive programs.

The program also provides an excellent opportunity to make great professional connections. Attendees are people who are leading their companies’ effort in designing and delivering great service. SLI is a chance to connect with like-minded individuals, share recent successes and challenges. The interactions and networking with other participants are an added bonus that enhances the SLI experience. And you can’t beat the weather! It is the best time to visit Arizona.

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To learn more about the Services Leadership Institute visit the Center for Services Leadership website.

How much is too much? – Selling your service without overtaxing your customer

anika_kolberg_smallBy Anika Kolberg

We all have, at one time or another, wondered how something actually works – and then finally given up trying to understand it. The feeling that results is anything but satisfying.

From a customer perspective, this is basically what happens when customers are confronted with a complex yet necessary service: They have to understand it, because otherwise they cannot make a sound decision. However, understanding is hard and oftentimes frustrating. Services which can be described as “complex yet necessary” are so-called professional services, like financial, insurance, or legal services. Most customers lack the specific knowledge necessary to completely understand these services. For example, they may not know how interest rates might develop or how to interpret laws and regulations. Continue reading

Martin Mende on Coproduction of Transformative Services

Read an interview with the CSL Faculty Network Member Martin Mende, Florida State University, on Management INK blog: Martin Mende on Coproduction of Transformative Services. In this interview, Martin Mende discusses his research featured in the article “Coproduction of Transformative Services as a Pathway to Improved Consumer Well-Being: Findings from a Longitudinal Study on Financial Counseling” published in Journal of Service Research.

5 Ways Company Culture Can Improve Your Customer Experience

It was Mark Twain who said “if you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.” However most companies don’t onboard, educate and train employees thoroughly so when they tell “the truth” it can come out as verbal garbage (as displayed by…

Source: www.forbes.com

The ‘Alone Together’ Customer Experience Trend: From Starbucks To Hotel Design To Retail Banking

If you want to create a successful customer experience today, learn to accommodate customers who want “alone together” time. Whether they’re millennials, Gen X, Boomers or Silent Generation, this concept has grown quickly in importance to today’s…

Source: www.forbes.com

A Step-by-Step Plan to Improve CMO-COO Collaboration

You can’t serve customers if this relationship is dysfunctional.

Source: hbr.org

1. Develop a shared vocabulary and shared metrics.

2. Build a structure for collaboration.

3. Work together on a few customer journeys that matter.

4. See the customer journey all the way through.

5. Use Service Blueprinting!