James M. (Jim) McGrew is chief marketing officer (CMO) for Ogletree Deakins. Previously, he was legal counsel and the director of human resources (HR) for Emeril’s, a renowned restaurant group led by Chef Emeril Lagasse and headquartered in New Orleans. In this interview, he describes what goes into truly outstanding customer service and its connection to employee engagement.

JATHAN JANOVE: How do you know if your organization provides great customer service?

JIM McGREW: Observe and engage your customers. It’s not what you think your level of service is—it’s what they think. Do they rave about you and their experience? Are they planning to return? Or is their support tepid? Find out.

JJ: Emeril’s has a reputation for the highest level of service. How do you achieve such a distinction?

JM: The experts are the talented people in the restaurants, but it seems to me that it can be boiled down (pun intended) to three things:

  • The first is a quality product or service. Without outstanding quality and service, you can’t be at the top.
  • The next key to great service is tremendous attention to detail. The folks at Emeril’s have a fanatical devotion to the “little things” that make the dining experience truly special.
  • Finally, it’s critical to provide personalized customer service that is focused both on providing a great experience and proactively solving issues or concerns—in other words, making people feel special and appreciated.

JJ: What role does employee engagement play for companies desiring to achieve the highest rung of customer service?

JM: Employee engagement is essential. Management and employees represent the brand to the public. Instead of just being focused on the routine of daily work, employees should come to work focused on what they can do to make a difference and forge deep bonds between their customers and their company. Only highly engaged employees are likely to have this focus.

JJ:  How do you get such engagement?

JM: This is something I continue to learn year after year, but to me, it’s very similar to great customer service. You focus on creating a great place to work where employees feel excited and proud to be part of the organization. Does your company have a great internal and external reputation? Is management paying close attention to what employees need and what makes them happy or unhappy? Does leadership truly listen to ideas, issues, and concerns and create learning and growth opportunities for employees? Are employees given opportunities to excel and receive recognition when they do? As CMO at Ogletree Deakins and formerly as HR Director at Emeril’s, my message to employees has been simple: “We’re all in customer service.” Whether it’s directed to our customers or clients, or each other, great customer service is critical to success.

JJ: What advice would you give a leader who desires a high level of employee engagement in order to produce great customer service?

JM:  Get to know your employees. Learn about their interests and families. Take an interest in them as human beings. Learn and remember their names. You’ll be amazed how appreciated your efforts will be. In addition, if you can, spend time in the field. Learn about the actual work employees do and how they do it. Ask them, “What can we do to improve?” Solicit their ideas. Listen to their concerns. My experience is that it is okay if you disagree so long as you listen carefully and respectfully. Also, give employees opportunities to take the lead. Acknowledge and recognize their successes. Find opportunities for them to grow in responsibility and knowledge.

JJ:  Anything else?

JM:  Thank them!—Just like you do your customers. Without them, you simply cannot execute your vision for the business.

JJ:  You’ve worked in different fields and industries. Would your advice change based on the field or industry?

JM:  In terms of the details, possibly; but in terms of core principles, no. You’ll want to observe, learn from, and be attentive to the nuances of your field or industry even though the core concepts will be the same. It comes back to attention to detail. In your particular company or organization, what specifically can you do to create an environment where employees feel excited to come to work? If you create that environment, you’ll have established the foundation for great customer service.

Jim McGrew is Chief Marketing Officer of Ogletree Deakins. He can be reached at james.mcgrew@ogletreedeakins.com.

Jathan Janove, a former Ogletree Deakins shareholder and Director of Employee Engagement Solutions, is the Principal of Janove Organization Solutions (www.jathanjanove.com). Through consulting, executive coaching, and training, he helps organizations maximize the human potential within. He can be reached at jjatpdx@gmail.com.

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