The concept of “ethic” is a philosophy or perspective that is so deeply embedded it shapes
what a person considers “right” or “wrong.” We speak of a work ethic as an outlook that
drives initiative and ambition. Soldiers may not enter military service with a patriotic ethic,
but most quickly develop one. They get a lump in their throat when the flag is raised, or
patriotic music is played; they are quick to defend allegiance to the country when someone
speaks ill of it.

Customer service can be an “ethic”—shaping how customers are viewed and honored.
People who work for organizations like Chick-fil-A, Nordstrom, or Ritz-Carlton Hotels are
selected for their capacity to demonstrate a service ethic and then placed in a culture that
nurtures that ethic. It is much more than simply “drinking the company Kool-Aid.” A true
service effort is not like a uniform you do when going to work. It is expressed in service
to family, friends, and the community.

Service-centered organization value a philanthropic spirit. They celebrate service heroes
who go the extra mile. Such organizations are led by people who are generous in word
and deed. Employees who are greedy, territorial, and self-centered stand out as out-of place
and soon are just that.

I was working at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples. In my best “always-looking-for-a-story” mode,
I asked my waiter at breakfast what she liked most about working at the Ritz. Without
hesitation, she said, “It has made me a better mother and wife.” I was meeting with the
Vice Chair of Freeman Company, a company renowned for great service in the exhibition
and convention services industry. She came to our afternoon meeting in jeans having
spent the morning volunteering with Meals on Wheels. Research shows a strong
relationship between organizations with soul and their reputations with customers. The
reverse is also true.

What is your service ethic? How do your associates treat customers when no one is
looking? If they had a “too close to call” between taking care of a customer and making a
few more dollars for the organization, are you confident which side they would come down
on? How do they react when a colleague makes a condescending or disrespectful
comment about a customer? Do they hide their name tag in the grocery store line or do
they wear it with pride? Service ethic is not just about how associates feel about
customers, it is also about how they feel about themselves. Lead them to an obvious
service ethic by your example.