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How to Build Passion for Service Excellence?

A documentary case study approach to demonstrating a passion for service excellence. See the difference when people want to provide exceptional service. Learn that when you’re passionate about your work, making a positive first impression, giving a warm greeting, or responding quickly to questions will flow naturally. This article is designed to help learners develop their positive attitudes to service, build their passion for service excellence and improve their face-to-face and phone service skills.

How to Build Passion for Service Excellence?

Content Summary

Be passionate about your work
Make a positive first impression
Build friendly relationships
Know your product
Understand needs and deliver solutions
Turn complaints into commendations
Key Learning Points
Target audience
Methods of use
Training needs and desired learning outcomes
Discussion questions
Activity 1: Review
Activity 2: Creating a Powerful First Impression
Activity 3: Developing Service Excellence

Every organization needs great leaders and staff to deliver the best results, and these skills can be learned from real-life case studies in best-practice organizations. This article demonstrates a range of skills and examples to get people at all levels excited about their jobs and motivated to achieve results.

This article documenting the best practices in an online recruitment business, a travel business, a city government, and a school. The strategies and skills to be learned will improve the standard of excellence throughout your organization and help your workforce shine.


Every staff member within an organization needs a firm understanding of what excellent customer service is and they should feel passionate about delivering it. Three case studies of organizations that excel in customer service reveal the essentials required in managing internal and external clients to ensure strong relationships and repeat business. Employees need a strong knowledge of their products and services, develop positive rapport with customers, deliver on promises, and act constructively with complaints. Become an organization that clients want to do business with, speak positively about, and are happy to return to again and again.

Be passionate about your work

MELINA SCHAMROTH: People love coming to work when it’s something that they really believe in.

PATRICK LEAHY: I love working at SEEK because it’s a place where people have a great passion.

KATYA HACKMAN: We’re all quite passionate about what we do, and I think it shows a lot

When you are passionate about work It shows in how you serve customers with the work we do and how we service the customers.

SADHANA SMILES: Quite often you will see the passion in people’s eyes and as a client, as a customer you kind of go, “Wow this person’s really enthusiastic about what they do.”

LADE OLEYEDE: If you have a passion for what you do you just glow.

SHERYAL WILLIAMS: Yes. Someone is here 24 hours to help you and talk to you. We just go out of our way to help people. We can organize that.

KAREN PALENZUELA: It’s actually caring about what you do, and that’s where our customer service shines through. (KAREN ON PHONE TO CUSTOMER) Yeah absolutely.

BRONWYN LINTOTT: Because we’re so passionate about what we do, we have pride in our work. We love our job.

GLENYCE JOHNSON: Do a job that you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.

Make a positive first impression

KEVIN WALLER: It’s all about setting that first impression. And the reality is, we spend a lot of money creating this image that we’re trying to portray. And then, if we give a bad first impression, then all of that has been wasted.

Warm greeting

SHERYAL WILLIAMS: Good afternoon, Brisbane City Council, this is Sheryal.

PAUL DODD: I guess it’s just the smile in your voice.

KASSANDRA: All right, let me try and find their number for you, Ms. Collins. Do you mind holding for a moment? Thank you.

CATHERINE CHAPPELL: First impressions of us is that we’re a happy, positive organization so that we try and answer quickly and with that smile in our voice that we always have.

SADHANA SMILES: If somebody comes up to you and they shake your hand and go: “Hi, nice to meet you. Welcome. How can I help you?”

ASTRID JANE: Lovely to meet you both. Thanks for dropping in.

SADHANA SMILES: You’re more likely to do business with them.

Fast response

SADHANA SMILES: It’s important that all businesses understand that you must deliver solutions very, very efficiently.

JUDE MUNRO: What would responsive customer service look like in my job? Well, it’s responding to the customer inquiry quickly.

GLYNIS RANGER: It’s bad if a candidate’s sort of hanging on while that call center operator is trying to find somebody for them to talk to.

JUDE MUNRO: It’s making sure that the customer really gets what they want immediately.

Professional image

BRIGID CAREY: One of the things we tried to do is make it look like a SEEK office because we are all proud of the brand. And there’s a creative team who will look at our website and try and improve it for our users.

SADHANA SMILES: The website needs to be clean. It needs to have easy accessibility. It needs to provide information very, very quickly to people.

KATH STEPHENSON: Karolina has really made the reception area a really welcoming place for people who come in.

KAROLINA REMBOSKA: Would you like a coffee or tea?

KATH STEPHENSON: We’ve got all our brochures put out on the table and a lot of people will come in and flick through the brochures while waiting.

SADHANA SMILES: Simply because of the way that you’ve been greeted, because of the way that the office looks, it’s neat, it’s clean, it’s tidy.

SIMON O’KELLY: People walk in and they feel automatically welcome.

Build friendly relationships

SHERYAL WILLIAMS: The friendship a lot of the staff have built up with clients and our internal and external customers is fantastic.

SADHANA SMILES: Building relationships with your clients is so important because they’re the ones who are going to give you ongoing business.

Build relationships with your clients. They will give you ongoing business

Compliment client’s choice

BELINDA RICE: It focuses on the South Island
BELINDA’S CUSTOMER: Oh. I love the South Island.
BELINDA RICE: Okay. Beautiful.

PETER MIERS: Great choice, a great destination. I actually went there last year. Do you want to do the sightseeing one? Or are you interested in the trekking version?
PETER’S CUSTOMER: A trekking version would be interesting.
PETER MIERS: The trekking? Yeah, yeah that’s good.

Show interest with questions

ASTRID JANE: You can actually go into the bridge and have a chat with the captain at any time of day.
ASTRID’S CUSTOMER: Oh I think that’s terrific. I’ve done a little bit of cruising myself and I’d like to talk with the captain.
ASTRID JANE: Oh, okay. Where have you been in the past?
ASTRID’S CUSTOMER: Oh I’ve been cruising around South East Asia.

PETER MIERS: What do you do?
PETER’S CUSTOMER: Ah, I’m in the restaurant business.
ASTRID JANE: So where do you keep your yacht?

Speak with enthusiasm

PETER MIERS: There’s a limit to what you can prepare in these sort of isolated regions, but you know, our clients are constantly surprised at the quality of the meals, given where they are.

KATE CROUCHER: Hi Alex, it’s Kate calling from Peregrine Adventures. We do have some fantastic voyages that would be great for your clients that could quite possibly save them a bit of money.

SHERYAL WILLIAMS: Yes, I understand. No, it’s not a problem. Certainly. That’s lovely.

Care about your clients

SIMON O’KELLY: One of the things we’re good at here is understanding that people are individuals.

LOUISA DAY: People get nervous traveling to a place they have never been before, and it’s our job to reassure them.

KATYA HACKMAN: I think it shows, especially in the Customer Service Department. All of us know a bit of background info on all of our clients.

SHERYAL WILLIAMS: We even have consultants that go to customers’ places to assist them. They don’t have to, but they always take an extra step to assist and help customers.

Know your product

SADHANA SMILES: If you don’t know the product inside out if you don’t know the benefit

Know your product inside out. Know value to the client or the value it’s going to bring to your client, and all you can talk about really are what we call the ‘features’ of the product, people are going to go, “Well you know what? You sound like the other person who’s trying to sell me something very similar.”

KATH STEPHENSON: Regardless of whether you’re a front-line selling person, or working in IT, you still learn about all the different destinations.

GLENYCE JOHNSON: We have a fortnightly gathering where somebody will do a film show on where they’ve recently come back from.

SAN KHOO: The thing about Madagascar is the animals there are quite unique. They’re totally endemic. What you see there you don’t see anywhere else in the world.

SAN KHOO: Not everyone can go everywhere. It’s one way of teaching people about different parts of the world, parts of the world we run tours to. But also, more importantly, I think, it’s inspiring people.

SAN KHOO: We went up to Perinet National Park, where the rainforest is. All that area there was quite arid. Travel is about inspiration. We thrive on inspiration.

ASTRID JANE: We take a trip every year, so everyone gets to experience, you know, the trips that we are selling and operating. Then we’re prepared to share our knowledge.

ASTRID’S CUSTOMER: And the ship that leaves here, that’s a Russian ship is it?

Handle questions confidently

ASTRID JANE: Yes, that’s right. We’ve got two vessels, which are the Peregrine Mariner and the Peregrine Voyager.

ASTRID’S CUSTOMER: And has this got a double skin to it, the hull?

ASTRID JANE: Very good question. They are designed to travel in this region. So they’re ice-strengthened at the front here.

BELINDA’S CUSTOMER: Is it all in a bus?

BELINDA RICE: Yeah, so when I say bus, it’s a small mini-coach, so very comfortable. It would be airconditioned.

ASTRID’S CUSTOMER: Did you say a wet suit is provided?
ASTRID JANE: Wet weather clothing, so jacket and pants.
ASTRID’S CUSTOMER: Not a wet suit?
ASTRID JANE: No need for a wet suit.

PETER’S CUSTOMER: How long is the journey from Bangkok to Paro?
PETER MIERS: It’s about five hours. But it’s a beautiful flight into Paro.

Influence with positive images

PETER MIERS: Very dramatic, you’ve got hillsides and valleys on both sides and it feels like the wingtips are touching the hillsides on the way through. It’s quite a nice way to get there.
PETER’S CUSTOMER: During the month of May, what conditions am I looking at?
PETER MIERS: That’s a really good time to be trekking. It’s starting to warm up towards the summer. There’s one night where you spend up at about 3,000 meters, so it’ll be cold that night.

Create realistic expectations

PETER MIERS: You’ll need a fleece or two
PETER MIERS: But most of the time you’ll be able to get around in maybe just a T-shirt and a light jacket, something like that.
PETER’S CUSTOMER: In the daytime.
PETER MIERS: Yeah. There are quite a few long traveling days maybe say 6 to 8 hours driving on some days.
PETER’S CUSTOMER: Are there a lot of shops and restaurants there, in the country?

Provide relevant details

PETER MIERS: There are some, yeah.
CUSTOMER: What is the local food there?
PETER MIERS: Well it’s mostly… It’s like Tibetan food, or like Nepalese. You know, they’ve got a strong sort of influence from those places. So you get lots of pasta and rice dishes and the flavors and so forth are fairly moderate.

Understand needs and deliver solutions

KAROLINA REMBOSKA: Providing excellent service is about listening to what people are after.

SAN KHOO: It’s putting ourselves in the customer’s shoes. So if I was a traveler booking on a tour, what would I expect?

BELINDA’S CUSTOMER: I would like to go back with my young family. Do you do anything with kids?
BELINDA RICE: We do! We’ve got some great family trips. Now, so how old was your child?
CUSTOMER: He’s going to be four.

SIMON O’KELLY: Every customer is different and every customer may need a slightly different approach.

PETER MIERS: I’m just looking at dates. We don’t actually have dates in May but in April. How flexible can you be?
CUSTOMER: That’s quite good, April, yeah.

SIMON O’KELLY: That’s the easiest way I find to describe good customer service is having a very flexible approach to the person that you’re talking to.

RYAN TURNER: I want to make sure that everything goes smoothly for them from the time they start to the time they come home and they have a great time and they want to travel with us again.

Turn complaints into commendations

GLENYCE JOHNSON: The philosophy we adopt is that every complaint must turn into a new booking.
SIMON O’KELLY: We use the feedback, make adjustments where necessary, but also try to turn the client around so that they want to travel with us again.

MELINA SCHAMROTH: If a great experience happens, people will tell a couple of people. When a bad experience happens, that’s when the grapevine really gets going.

Great experience > people tell a couple of people.
Bad experience > grapevine gets going

SADHANA SMILES: People like to talk about negative experiences. They’ll tell ten people, and they’ll tell another ten, another ten, another ten.

GLENYCE JOHNSON: We need to find out why there’s a complaint, exactly what… how we can fix it, and we need to make sure that we manage that client incredibly well.

LIVIA CASTWOOD: So, I’ve just received this complaint today. It’s a new complaint, and I’ve had a read over it and I’m feeling a bit nervous about giving them a call.




SIMON O’KELLY: Just apologize, empathize, and then just run through, you know, what we can do to assist them.

SIMON O’KELLY: We’re very proactive with it. We actually pick up the phone and talk to the client, regardless of where they are in the world.

LIVIA CASTWOOD: Hi Donna. My name’s Livia, I’m calling from Peregrine.

SAN KHOO: The thing to do is to hear people out. To listen to what they have to say and see what their gripes are, and very often people just want to be listened to.

JAY MCEVOY: When there are complaints, we will empathize with them, sympathize with them,

Understand where they’re coming from

Offer solution ASAP

Give them a time to call back with the answer

Understand where they’re coming from. And then try and give them a solution as quickly as possible and if you can’t give them a solution, then give them a time that you will call them back with an answer.

SHERYAL WILLIAMS: Good afternoon, Brisbane City Council. This is Sheryal. Oh, I am sorry to hear that. Can I have your name, please? I love being on the phone. I love somebody ringing up really frustrated: “I’m sick of this!” (ON PHONE) Okay, and how long’s this been going on? Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Well, let’s see if we can get this sorted out for you. (INTERVIEW) And then at the end of the call, being able to satisfy them, calm them, and help them, and at the end, they say: “Thank you very much.” That’s my job and I love it.

Key Learning Points

See the difference when people want to provide exceptional service:

  • Be passionate about your work
  • Make a positive first impression
    • Happy voice
    • Warm and Positive greeting
    • Fast response
    • Professional image
  • Build friendly relationships
    • Compliment client’s choice
    • Show interest with questions
    • Speak with enthusiasm
    • Care about your clients
  • Know your product, it helps you to:
    • Handle questions confidently
    • Influence with positive images
    • Create realistic expectations
    • Provide relevant details
  • Understand needs and deliver solutions
  • Turn complaints into commendations

Target audience

The article can for use across all organizations including government, corporations, small businesses, educational institutions, associations, and service providers. This article can be used to develop and inspire:

  • Service, sales, and call center staff
  • Customer service managers, team leaders, and supervisors
  • Boards and committees of management, and senior leaders
  • Teams and all staff
  • Small business owners
  • Consultants, trainers, and coaches
  • Academics and lecturers
  • Students undertaking business studies

Methods of use

There are a wide variety of uses depending on development needs, desired to learn outcomes and available time, including:

  • Training call center, service and sales staff
  • Induction programs
  • Workshops and seminars with a sales and/or service focus
  • Lectures and debates about business and service success
  • Mentoring sessions
  • Coaching one-on-one or in small groups
  • Private study at work or at home
  • Online learning
  • Strategic planning sessions for teams

Training needs and desired learning outcomes

An excellent program with a wide variety of uses:

  • To develop more responsive and passionate staff
  • To develop expected standards of service delivery with clients
  • To develop a consistent organizational professional image with clients
  • To develop an ethos of commitment to customer service
  • To inspire people to improve quality and service delivery
  • To develop a better understanding of the keys to success when dealing with clients
  • To re-energize and motivate people towards achieving excellence in customer service
  • To provide a ‘best practice’ model for dealing with customer complaints
  • To provide an inspiring start to a staff planning day
  • To improve the skills of sales and service people
  • To motivate sales and service staff to develop their product knowledge

Discussion questions

  1. How can customer service staff be encouraged to become passionate about what they do?
  2. How do you assess the first impressions of your customers? Do you have any measures?
  3. How can you and your team make a strong first impression on your clients? What needs improving?
  4. In what ways can you and your team improve the speed and efficiency of delivery?
  5. What are ways in which all members of your team/organization can become more familiar you’re your products and services?
  6. What are the advantages of having good product knowledge?
  7. What are some successful methods of building friendly relationships with customers?
  8. What are the processes to ensure needs are understood and appropriate solutions are delivered to clients?
  9. What are some effective ways of dealing with complaints?
  10. Why should people in business welcome complaints?
  11. Discuss the attitudes to complaints at your workplace and how people can be motivated to welcome complaints.
  12. What is the best way to monitor the service standards at your workplace?
  13. What key points should be considered in managing a complaint?
  14. What are the features and benefits of three of your products and services?
  15. What could lead your clients to have unrealistic expectations and how can this be prevented?
  16. Make a list of “enthusiastic” words that could be used with your clients/customers in relation to your products or services.
  17. What is the difference between open and closed questions and how do they assist you to provide better service?
  18. List some good questions to ask your clients:
    • Show interest
    • Find out more about their needs
    • Solve a complaint
    • Close a sale
    • Build a long term relationship

Activity 1: Review

A practical exercise designed to enhance concentration and retention through note-taking during viewing. Make notes on key points covered in each of the sections of the program:

  1. Be passionate about your work
  2. Make a positive first impression
  3. Build friendly relationships
  4. Know your product
  5. Understand needs and deliver solutions
  6. Turn complaints into commendations

Activity 2: Creating a Powerful First Impression

A practical exercise designed to encourage staff to improve the impression they and the team give to other areas of the business and external clients and customers.

Brainstorm with the group relevant aspects of your work/business that lead to an impression – positive or negative. Include social media, online conferences, emails, publications, advertising, website, products/services, direct contact face-to-face, online, and phone calls.

Divide participants into small groups and allocate different items to each group to provide an even spread. Ask each group to evaluate the current impact and first impressions of the “item” and what improvement strategies they can suggest. Share the results and develop an agreed action plan.

Activity 3: Developing Service Excellence

A practical exercise designed to encourage participants to see the strong relationship between the organization’s success and public profile and their own actions.

Divide participants into small groups and allocate at least one of the activities below (or add your own to the list). Ask each team to present their ‘solution’ back to the group and encourage the use of a role-play demonstration as part of the presentation. Create a list of agreed actions that come out of the discussion.

  1. Consider ways to re-engineer your service/products to deal with a major crisis. What needs to change to ensure service levels stay high?
  2. Develop some ideas to help staff become more passionate about their work and the service they provide. Consider what should be done about those who feel less motivated to deliver to the agreed standards.
  3. Devise a product/service training program for customer service staff within your organizations so they are equipped to have a comprehensive understanding of your products and services.
  4. Devise a new Service Level Agreement and set standards and/or service principles around the service you provide.
  5. Recall an organization that recently provided exceptional service to you. Analyze what made it so special and develop ways to implement improvements at your workplace.
  6. What process could you implement to ensure you receive honest customer feedback?
  7. Think of a recent/typical customer complaint where the client left unhappy. Where did the customer service process go wrong? How could the client have been managed to improve the outcome and return for future business?