Scott McKain: Service

You know those moments when you imagine that the people you see as heroes become your friends. Meeting Scott McKain and now having him as a dear friend allows me to live out that dream several times a year. The man is truly ICONIC – so it’s no surprise that is what he has titled his latest book. If you have not read his work or are unfamiliar with his work, that needs to change right now!!!!

Scott spends much of his life helping the world’s best brands, get better! His insights into customer service and consumer experience are soooo powerful. That’s why I picked a boring and overused word, and thought I would see what Scott had to say about it! In Episode 8 I talk to Scott McKain who shares his insight into the word “Service”.

Listen in on our conversation and enjoy being a fly on the wall to our discussion. is where you can find the plethora of his brilliance.


Find out more about Scott McKain here:

The full transcript

Phil Jones: I’m on. So here we are with another episode of “Words With Friends”. Today I have Scott McKain. The real Scott McKain. So Scott, welcome to the show!

Scott McKain: Phil, thanks. We are here at moving day at my office, sorry things are so messy behind me. I’m not very formal here today, but it’s a great day, any day to spend time with you is a great day, so thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Phil Jones: I recently interviewed Leslie Ehm on the word “authenticity”, and we were talking about how showing up in a way that’s real, and that’s what I love about the background that you have there right now, is this is real. This is Scott in his real life, making stuff happen. Scott, the word we’re going to be talking about today is the word “service.” Why do you think I’ve picked you, of all people to discuss the word “service?”

Scott McKain: I appreciate that you thought of me for that, because there are so many dimensions to that word. There is the “service” that employees provide to their customers. There is the “service” that leaders deliver to their teams. There is the attitude of “service.” There is the execution of “service.” There are so many applications for that word, and it’s such a deep and profound word. I’m grateful that you thought of me for that, because it’s a very important word to me, and I know to you, as well.

Phil Jones: Yeah, completely. In picking that word, it made me think about a great Jim Rohn quote which was, isn’t to do with the road to greatness. I think it’s, “Service to many is the key to greatness,” was how that was put about. I think that we live in a world where we get confused sometimes by what service really is. So through your eyes, and with your experience, what does the word “service” mean to you?

Scott McKain: I’m really glad to hear you say that, because it seems that many times when we think of service, we think of putting ourselves below someone. That the service of others puts them on a pedestal, or somehow, in an almost subliminal way, suggests that they are more important than we. I think true service is something that is delivered in more of a peer-to-peer type relationship. Just because I am serving you, does not mean that I perceive that I am inferior to you. I think one of the things that we have to do about the term “service,” is to imply, or to give greater emphasis to the aspect of the dignity of service, and the aspect of what a great tradition that it creates. Your Jim Rohn quote is spot on. The other one that you hear so much is when the late Zig Ziglar used to say, “You can get anything in life you want if you help enough other people get everything they want.”

Phil Jones: They want, yeah.

Scott McKain: You can’t do that without serving them. So I think those quotes are very parallel in terms of implying about the importance of the dignity, and the critical nature of service.

Phil Jones: To echo that point, as well, is when I interviewed our mutual friend Bob Burg, Bob talked about how, instead of saying the words, “No problem,” after somebody has done something for you, the echo of the words, “my pleasure,” leads toward the fact that service is something that should be given from a position of joy, or from a position of, certainly, peer-to-peer, more so than anything that is subservient. Why is it that when something is subservient, it is still a derivative of the word “service?”

Scott McKain: That’s a fascinating point. I love that. You bet. Also, we hear about servant leadership. Sometimes I think we misunderstand what that means, because the traditional application of “servant” is one who is below. One who is beneath, and I think any … nothing could be further from the truth in terms of how it really needs to be applied, and how it really needs to be executed.

Phil Jones: I speak with a lot of companies, and I try to ask them what is it that makes them different. We have a web development company as part of the portfolio of businesses that I own, and often we’re trying to get companies to say what is it that makes you different. The common echo that I get back is, “Well, it’s our service.” Period. That’s the end of conversation. “Our service.” The thing that makes almost every business in the land different is their service, and they all say the same thing. So much so that some people pride themselves on their service. I imagine going to that like it’s a party. This is our priding ourselves on our service kind of party. How does a business go about actually doing something that is demonstrably different? Or a way of them articulating what it is within their service-

Scott McKain: You reminded me of something, that project that we did, Phil, a while back, one of the major financial wire houses, institutions, asked us to find out what separated their A+ performers from their A- performers, which I thought was very perceptive. Because it’s easier to take an A- and move them to an A+, than it is to take a C+ and make them an A. Right? One of the major differentiating factors was that the A- producer talked about what made them different was client service. Funny part was, 80% of them said that’s what made them different. If 80% are saying the same thing, I’m no math major, if 80% of us are saying the same thing, it probably does not make us different.

The thing we noticed about the A+ performer was, they put meat on the bones. In other words, they didn’t say, “Our client service made us different,” what they said is, “The way that we do ‘this’ to serve you, makes us unique in the marketplace.” So they would be very precise, and very specific about a particular activity that they were doing. For example, sponsoring million dollar round tables, or CEO round tables. Part of the way that they served one another was to connect other CEOs that they were the financial advisor for, with others at that same level, and create a round table. Had nothing to do with investing, had everything to do with helping their clients, and serving one another.

I really learned a lot from that study that we did, because it really taught me that those that perform at the highest level don’t just say, “we serve,” but they find unique ways to do it, and they describe that uniqueness, that distinction, very precisely, and very accurately.

Phil Jones: I can’t leave that hanging there without diving further. You gave one example there of where companies have done things to demonstrate a level of service. Through your experience, you must have catalogs and dozens of examples of where people have done the same. So give us maybe some of the lesser known examples, where people have “put meat on the bones,” to use your words.

Scott McKain: Sure. Educational programs for their children on money management, because they identified that one of the unique things about many of the folks of affluence is that if the affluence wasn’t inherited, the lives of the children were dramatically different than the lives of the parents when they were that same age. In other words, they didn’t grow up with wealth and affluence, they earned it in the progress of their lifetime.

So one of the major concerns that they were having is, “How do I teach my kids humility, and how do I teach them the value of a dollar? How do I teach them respect for money, when they’ve grown up with such a significantly greater amont of affluence than what I grew up with?” For these financial advisors to sponsor programs for these young people, to help teach them that, to help the parents transmit that, was extraordinary.

Another thing was, and this will appeal to your heart as well as mine, was a Book of the Month club. In other words, have reading groups of these very affluent leaders, and the financial advisor would provide each of them with a particular book every month. The assignment was to read the book, they would get together, they would discuss the book. That’s part of what I found so compelling about all this, is as they were delineating these activities, it wasn’t that, “We’re going to beat the market by 2%.”

Phil Jones: Right.

Scott McKain: The kinds of things that we could do to serve you in a well-rounded way, not just specifically to our particular industry, or field of endeavor. That’s, I tell the story of this cab driver in Jacksonville, Florida, it’s been one of my keynote stories, one of my signature stories for many, many years, and I-

Phil Jones: You’re still using that?

Scott McKain: Taxi Terry. Yeah, I still am. You know that what, Phil, you know, it’s funny, I started not telling it in my speeches, figuring everybody was tired of hearing it, and people would come up going, “I told all my friends you were going to tell this story!” I felt like the singer that doesn’t perform the hit song.

Phil Jones: No, I get you, man. I get you.

Scott McKain: You know what I’m saying? People kept saying, “You gotta keep telling that, because even if we’ve heard it, we want to hear it again,” which is awfully nice. Well, anyway, one of the things that he did was he had an iPhone mounted on a bracket on his dash that was set to for Jacksonville. Now, look, I know I can look the weather up on my own phone, but the thing that I didn’t anticipate when I first rode with him, was how many of the people that get into his cab at the airport are there for a golf trip. So he provided something that was unexpected, that was of service to his customers, but it also would begin a conversation: “Here’s what the weather’s going to be while you’re here,” and they could talk about the weather. Then the more that you could stimulate conversation, the more ways that he could uncover to be of service. As opposed to get in a cab, shut up, get there.

Phil Jones: This is somebody who deliberately made a weather conversation purposeful and useful.

Scott McKain: Oh, exactly right.

Phil Jones: Yeah.

Scott McKain: Because part of the enjoyment of his customers after they got out of his cab, had nothing to do with the cab ride, but after they got out of the cab, part of their enjoyment of the trip was weather dependent. “What’s it going to be like when we’re out there golfing? What’s it going to be like?” So he could have a conversation, which also, many times, led to, “How are you getting to the golf course?” Right? “I can come by and pick you up.” Rather than you just step out of the hotel and take whatever taxi’s sitting there, now you’ve had a conversation. Now we know you’re playing golf. Now we know . . . so being of service and providing something to the customer that was unexpected. I don’t depend on cab drivers for meteorological information, but yet it was a nice thing for them to provide, and it also led to more business for him.

Phil Jones: So the lesson in that, though, is initiative, right? That’s kind of what it is. It’s thinking one, two, or three steps ahead of what might be in the requirement, the thought, the need, and maybe helping understand what somebody else needs before they even need it themselves.

Scott McKain: Yeah. Especially that. What helps your customer eventually helps you.

Phil Jones: Right.

Scott McKain: It might not be so readily apparent. I think that’s where a lot of leaders, and a lot of organizations fall short, is they don’t do exactly what you said, which is take it two or three steps out. It’s not checkers with the next move, it’s more of a chess game of, “If I do this, how can I?,” it’s thinking several moves out, and most of us don’t do that.

It’s that, wow, if we do this, what’s our immediate return, without … It seems to me, the true attitude of service is not that, “If I do this, I’m going to get an immediate return.” “If I say this, then you’re going to do more business with me.” It is, “How do I help you so that we establish a rapport, a relationship, something beyond mere transaction?” Service is what helps us transcend transaction. That’s the fundamental key, it seems to me, for so many organizations today.

Phil Jones: In a retail environment, what you often see is a customer service department, or a service desk in some way, which is a polite way, through my experience of presenting the complaints department. Why do you think that this is what we transpose service to, actually, the other meaning, is “the place you go to complain?”

Scott McKain: Great question. I think part of it is tradition. In the era previous where customer service, and the customer experience, was not as viewed as critical as it is today. It was just going to be to handle complaints. Just as many times sales people are taught to handle objections. I think many times too, I have yet to pick up the phone and call our energy provider of electricity and say, “Hey, the lights are on! Thanks!”

Phil Jones: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Again!

Scott McKain: “Thank you, I can see!”

Phil Jones: Six for six days on the bounce!

Scott McKain: Yeah, yeah, you know? Typically, I think is what we see is that many of the times that we do connect, when we do things right, customers don’t tell us. When we do things wrong, customers tend to complain. So dealing with that becomes more important. But yet, I also think part of it is the expectation phenomenon, as well. It’s the Pygmalion effect. If we anticipate that most of our conversations are going to be complaints, guess what we get. Guess what our antenna is up to receive. Therefore, that’s what we prepare for, and because we’ve anticipated it, that’s what we see, and what we get.

Phil Jones: We live in a world right now where businesses are focusing on what can they do to market more effectively. We have the world of social media blowing up and be a permanent conversation as to, “How can we more effectively market through social media?” Then, quite commonly, with things that I see that create either astronomical growth, or destructive failure within an organization, is a moment that was service inspired within an organization that either caused something to blow up, or to disappear.

Yet many organizations are focusing on the communication channel, as opposed to the thing that actually could happen, that causes that communication channel to become useful, or lacking service. Am I kind of coming at that from a weird angle? Is that something you see in your world too? Is there anything that Scott’s got to talking to that point?

Scott McKain: Gosh, that’s such a brilliant observation. I mean, I see so many organizations, unfortunately, that seem to focus, as you said, on, “What’s the next tweet going to be?,” and “How many followers do we have?,” as opposed to creating the kind of experience that would generate customers tweeting about them, right?

Phil Jones: Yeah.

Scott McKain: To me, the greatest social media, it’s the oldest saying in the world, but the best marketing is word-of-mouth advertising. Word-of-mouth marketing. Yet what we tend to do is to think about how we’re going to get that next tweet out there, and how we’re going to keep fogging stuff out to social media, as opposed to doing what, to me, seems to be the more profound and more important, impactful step, which is to say, “How do we create these experiences that are so compelling our customers want to tweet about us?” They want to talk about us on Yelp. They want to do those important kind of things that are infinitely more …

I’m looking for a dentist here in our new home area, and first place I go is Yelp. There’s one dentist who is right around the corner, and his reviews are absolutely fantastic. They are over the moon. But here’s the amazing thing: It’s not on his skill as a dentist. It’s not that the filling was perfect. It was that the office is so friendly. It is that, “He took the time to explain every procedure to me.” So my wife is calling, making us appointments today. Simply because customers . . . he created such a compelling experience as a dentist, his patients wanted to convey this. That’s what we should be doing.

Phil Jones: There’s a dentist example. You said that what businesses should be doing is to spend more time thinking about how they can create moments, or experiences that are worth, then tweeting about, sharing about, et cetera. I’ve got to ask you the question is how do businesses spend more time doing things that create moments that are worth tweeting about, or sharing?

Scott McKain: I certainly wouldn’t presume to tell them “exactly what to say”.

Phil Jones: Well played. Well played.

Scott McKain: However, may I suggest, I think one of the, the three-word saying that many businesses need to be asking is, “And then what?” I mean, we hear so much about the customer journey. I was in a program the other day, and they were talking about the customer journey. But at no point during that conversation did they ever say, “And then what?” Right? To me, the great organizations in terms of delivering that, are constantly asking that question. The customer walks in our enterprise, and then what? The customer calls us on the phone, and then what? And being very precise, and very specific. And Phil, I’ve told you this privately, so I hope you don’t mind me saying it on this, is that one of the things that really inspires me about your work, and your books, is it is very precise, and very thoughtful in terms of “And then what?”

Phil Jones: Right.

Scott McKain: In other words, when the customer says this, or the prospect says that, specifically, what do we say? What do we do? I hear all this about the customer journey, and it’s all strategy and no tactics. Strategy is critical, but if we don’t have … a recent study by the Retail Marketing Institute said that 70% of frontline employees cannot answer this question: “Why am I, as a customer, better off to do business with you, as opposed to the competition?” Now if 70% of our own employees can’t tell a customer why they’re better off to buy from the place signing their paychecks, than the competition, we haven’t told and helped our internal customers, our employees, know exactly what to say.

Phil Jones: Thanks for the then, echo back towards exactly what to say. Even that one made me not-

Scott McKain: You know what? I think it’s compelling, and powerful, and really, really important.

Phil Jones: Thanks, buddy. Thanks. That wasn’t where I was going with it. We must have seen the other side of this coin as well, where what’s happened is businesses have done something where the intention has been to deliver service, yet they’ve just categorically failed. They believe what they were doing was under the viewpoint of saying, “This is good service.” Yet, the receiving end, or the recipient of that service would arguably believe that, that would be different. You must have seen stuff like that.

Scott McKain: Yeah. I believe there are three levels at which any business interacts with its customers. What most businesses have overlooked is that they’re progressive.

Phil Jones: Right.

Scott McKain: Instead of lumping it all together as “service,” or “experience,” and we tend to use those terms interchangeably, and they’re not. So there’s three levels, I believe are, number one, process. In process, you consist of the elements of the transaction. Whether we’re talking about product, or service, B to B, or B to C. What are the elements that are non-negotiable?

Phil Jones: Okay.

Scott McKain: What are the elements we have to get right every single time? Because if we don’t, nothing else matters. If United Airlines said, “We don’t crash often,” I have no reason to fly them, right? I mean, that’s something they have to get right every time. If they don’t get that right every time, nothing else matters. For the flight to leave reasonably on time, I’ll make exceptions if there’s weather, things outside of their control, but they’ve got to leave reasonably on time. The bag has to arrive at the same destination I do. There are a list of things that we could say are the non-negotiables.

Okay, so once they get that right, now we move to service. Service, to me, in terms of business, are those things that we can do to make dealing with us more palatable, more efficient, more friendly. So when the flight attendant gives me a cup of coffee and sincerely asks how my day is going, that’s great. That, to me, is customer service. Now, if the plane is crashing in the ocean, I don’t care how hot the coffee is.

Phil Jones: Right.

Scott McKain: So service only has traction, once we’ve taken care of level one, which is processing. Now level three, to me, is the experience which adds personalization and emotion. When I feel that you’re doing it for me, not just for the masses, but when you’ve made some kind of personal connection, and along with that, you’ve created some type of emotional connectivity, to me, that’s where loyalty is created. That is where greater business is created. Here’s the reason why: Why would I be loyal to something towards which I have no feeling? If I have no feeling, there’s no real reason for me to be loyal. Which is why, and I’ve heard you say this, “If all you are is a price play, then customers aren’t loyal to you, they’re loyal to your price.” Somebody lowers the price, and goes, I mean, so that’s why that works that way.

But now, if you’ve given me some kind of emotional and compelling reason for us to be connected, the deeper the connectivity, then the greater the loyalty. So I think part of what happens in terms of what you were identifying with the problem, is that they haven’t taken care of level one.

Phil Jones: Right.

Scott McKain: They don’t have the processing right. So now, they’re trying to teach service, and service techniques, and a service attitude. But you know, if FedEx says it’s going to be here by 10:30, if their delivery guy is smiling when he delivers it at 1:00, that service with a smile really just kind of infuriates me. I don’t want you to be smiling when you’re late. I want you to be apologizing when you’re late.

Phil Jones: Yeah.

Scott McKain: I think it is not understanding that pyramid, those three levels, and not understanding that if you don’t take care of level one, level two doesn’t help me very much.

Phil Jones: I hear you. What’s your view on automation, and artificial intelligence, and the role that, that plays in service and consumers?

Scott McKain: I think transparency is going to be the key moving forward. That was part of what, we’ve all seen the video of Google calling, making the appointment at the hair salon. The thing that strikes me is they didn’t show the 9,000 ones that failed in all likelihood. I think the key, it’s going to be interesting as it progresses, but my knee jerk, gut level reaction, is that the folks that will utilize it best are the folks that are very transparent about its utilization.

Phil Jones: Right. By which you mean they’re saying, “Hey, I’m a robot, and this is what I’m doing, and I’m here to be at a, here to help and support you.” Okay.

Scott McKain: “I’m here to quickly serve you.” But my lord, how many times do you call someplace and you just go, “Representative.” Right? To help me gather more, and none of the options fit.

Phil Jones: Right.

Scott McKain: So, God forbid that we have more of that. I hope it gets smarter. I hope it gets better. But we’ll see.

Phil Jones: We also live in a world though, right now where the romantic in me listens to everything you’re saying about deliver great service, get level one right, get level two right, get level three right. Then what you enter into is loyalty and all those beautiful sweet spots. Then we see examples in today’s modern world, where there are heavyweight organizations, that receive high levels of loyalty through not delivering excellent customer service. Through largely being convenient or having tied up through almost monopoly the ability to be at a corner of that business.

We’ve seen examples of it where United Airlines blew up as being able to be awful at customer service, yet three weeks later, they’re still in business in the same way they were previously, and lost a grand total of zero customers. Uber in the press for having bad service towards their employees. Three weeks later, they’re reporting record growths. I’ve tried to deal with some of the major organizations, say for example, like Amazon, with the purpose of being able to deal with the service issue I have as a consumer within them as a business, and I don’t get the level of service that I would expect as being reasonable from my local corner bakery. So the world is different, and the world is changing. Why is it that these heavyweights can create role models, and get away with things that aren’t necessarily to your version of what good service would be?

Scott McKain: That’s a very complex question. My very simplistic answer is twofold: Number one is there … we are learning that there are an extraordinary number of us who are customers, who are defining service in terms of convenience.

Phil Jones: Okay.

Scott McKain: So if they drop it off at my door, that is my definition of service.

Phil Jones: Fair.

Scott McKain: We have to understand that. That service, I own the federally registered trademark on the term “ultimate customer experience.” Part of what I say with that is that it’s a different experience based upon the individual customer. So for you and I, it might be this emotional connectivity, for others it might be it’s quick and it’s easy.

Phil Jones: And I didn’t have to talk to a person. Right, yeah.

Scott McKain: But the second aspect of that is, I think it also, I think we failed to really comprehend how much it illuminates what a horrible job so many other competitors have done in establishing an experience that is so compelling that we choose it over convenience. That is something that we tend to overlook. If I can’t create a more compelling experience for you than going online and clicking, then I don’t deserve you-

Phil Jones: That’s a really fair point.

Scott McKain: Right. I mean, at the end of the day, Phil, if they could put a computer on stage and have an AI voice deliver content instead of having you or I come to the meeting … if we can’t create a more compelling experience than that, then we don’t deserve the business.

Phil Jones: If I got an AI voice to do your voice in my place.

Scott McKain: Very good. If I could have your accent, I mean.

Phil Jones: Okay, let’s take it away in another direction. There’s a belief that we know that we have to be in service to others in order to be able to achieve greatness. Yet, the majority of people that I bump into looking to progress their careers in some way, have a “me”, or a self-centered, approach to what they want to be able to achieve. So it’s all about achieving my goals, my ambition, being my true self, et cetera.

Where do we think that changed in the masses? Because there was a period of time where people knew that their success was dependent upon the number of people they helped. Now what we’re seeing, and I don’t see this as a generational, or an age dependent thing, I see an of-this-moment-in-time type of thing, is that there’s a level of entitlement, and the other people should be able to dance around my needs and my goals. Do you see where that pivot may well have happened?

Scott McKain: You know it’s, yeah, in a way. I was very fortunate. I was a national author of a student organization my freshman and sophomore years of college. I laid out of college those two years to serve for this organization. Part of our job was to meet with those corporations that help fund the student organization. So I had a chance at age 21 to sit in the board room of General Motors, and have a private conversation with the Chairman of GM, whose name was Thomas Murphy at that time, he was the chair at that time at General Motors.

The question that I asked him, and it was just the two of us, the question that I asked him was, “GM probably hired 5,000 people the week that you were hired. What enabled you to rise through the ranks to become the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of one of the world’s most distinctive organizations?” He said, “You know, it’s funny. I figured out my first week that I could never get promoted unless there was somebody ready to take my place. If there was no one who could fill my job, how in the world could they move me to another one?”

So he said, “It was almost, it was in my self-interest to develop a team that made me irrelevant, because that made it easier for me to be promoted.” He said, “Even though I was doing it for myself, what happened was when it got to the point that there were two or three of us that were going to be the next chairman,” they had to pick between the two or three. He said, “I had built this reservoir of goodwill throughout everybody that I had touched in the organization, that really wanted me to succeed, because I had helped them get promoted, and helped them succeed. So what was, in a way, my self-interest was also to their interest, and it helped me attain this position.”

Phil Jones: Love it.

Scott McKain: I thought that was, it really made an impact on me at 21 years old.

Phil Jones: That’s huge. I-

Scott McKain: So to-

Phil Jones: Go on. Continue.

Scott McKain: To follow up on that, the difference was, when Thomas Murphy went to work at General Motors, he probably imagined he would retire there. I think because of, I don’t mean this in a generational way, I just mean it in the changing face of business, for you to spend your career with one organization, many times is viewed as a detriment today. We see professionals who “stay too long,” with a company. And therefore, we don’t view building that reservoir of goodwill within the organization to our benefit, because we’re going to be leaving anyway. I don’t know how you solve that. I don’t know how you make that go away, other than helping people understand that there is this intersection between organizational interest, and self-interest, and customer interest. That point that you can find where those intersect, can be of great benefit to everyone.

Phil Jones: So true. There are some classic examples of that within the small business world, particularly within the service industries. Take, for example, hair care is, if a stylist leaves one salon and goes to another salon three blocks up the street, three miles up the street, there’s a good possibility a large number of people are going to move with the person regardless of the name over the door. Regardless of the pricing. Regardless of other things.

The thing that you just said, that was super profound for me was that success was created through creating a reservoir of goodwill. The assumption we made was that goodwill needs to be created within the same association, with the acceptance of truth right now is that people are always moving. Now, the fact that people are always moving, the overlap of these Venn diagrams, of all these different people moving, could be that one of the people who you created goodwill with in one company today, is the same person that is looking at whether you’re the individual for the promotion in an entirely different organization. In an entirely different part of the world. Or chances are, through one, to two, to three generations of network, then those paths are going to cross in some way.

So the thing in all about that, that possibly hasn’t changed, is that if more of us went out to say, “How do we create a reservoir of goodwill?,” then chances are it would be in service of our industry, or in service of our profession, or in service of our network, or in service of our country. That’s the only thing that’s changed. Also, the in service of our company. Love that.

Scott McKain: And it can still be in service of ourselves.

Phil Jones: Well, that’s the byproduct, right?

Scott McKain: Yeah, exactly.

Phil Jones: Back to the Zig Ziglar quote.

Scott McKain: I love how you’ve said that too, because it is the residual benefit. It is the byproduct. It is not the fundamental primary goal. Right?

Phil Jones: It never is.

Scott McKain: It’s like the people who say, “My goal is to be rich, or my goal is to lose weight, or my,” very seldom attain it, because it’s so nebulous. It’s when, “I’m going to do this,” that wealth, or happiness, or fitness, or whatever it might be, become the residual benefit of your movement in that …

Phil Jones: Right! No different to the world that I work in, when I work with sales professionals, or people that need to sell stuff more effectively, they’re scared of asking for money. Quite often what they think is, is the money is the goal, or they feel uncomfortable of asking for the money. The money is only yet the silent applause for a job well done. It’s not the reward itself. It says you did the thing you said you were going to do remarkably well. This is just a way of being able to keep a score as to how awesome you are.

Scott McKain: I love what you say too. It is the natural progression, right? I mean, if you’ve done everything else well, then that is just part of the natural progression, and the growth of the relationship, because if I don’t spend money with you, how do I benefit from all these wonderful things that you have …

Phil Jones: It’s the “and then what?,” to kind of come back around to what you were saying earlier on. Scott, we could talk on this stuff forever. You’ve been in the world of customer service, and creating distinction, and all the great things that you want to do. I’ve got a handful more questions. So I’m going to ask you one, and then I’m going to ask you three.
One is the, this giant segue between service and marketing, and this huge blurred line between the two. Do you see a blurred line, or any line at all, or is there a difference between those two things?

Scott McKain: I sound like the typical author here, but I’ve just finished my new book that’s coming out in October …

Phil Jones: You wrote a book?

Scott McKain: .. and one of the things I’m trying to simplify for folks, it’s called Iconic. One of the things I’m trying to simplify for folks is how do customers judge you. At it’s most basic, it is the intersection between promise and performance.

Phil Jones: Okay.

Scott McKain: Now, you can go a whole lot deeper on that, between what do we promise, as opposed to what does the customer perceive that the promise is. But the customer is always going to evaluate you based upon their perception of your promise, but it is that matrix of promise and performance. Part of where I see the disruption of those two, of service and marketing, is that marketing makes a promise that is not congruent with the level of performance of service. When we see that incongruency as a customer, then the natural response is distrust.

Phil Jones: Ah. Like flying the friendly skies?

Scott McKain: Yeah, exactly. The worst thing that they could do, and United is a client, and I say in the book, and I’ve said to them, and I had their permission, in fact, to say it, is the worst thing they could do right now is to buy 10 million dollars worth of “fly-the-friendly-skies” spots, because the performance is not congruent with the promise. So what we have to do to really become iconic is to, the truly iconic, those who’ve been able to sustain or regain iconic status, are those who have absolutely become incredibly congruent with promise and performance. That is where the disconnection is between marketing and service. Is, as I said, when marketing promises something that service can’t deliver with performance.

Phil Jones: Got it. That requires a little further thought, but I like it, it means I’m putting up to read this book that you wrote. Okay. Three more questions.

Scott McKain: … you’re going to be getting a copy.

Phil Jones: Three more questions. I promise you, just three more questions. First question is, if there was something that you wanted to ask me on the world of service and that word that we’ve been talking about today, what might be on your mind, that I could shed some insights?

Scott McKain: You know, there are so many things that I could ask, and I appreciate you asking that. But I’m just curious, what is the best service experience that you’ve ever encountered? The one that really pops, and makes you go, “This is,” you know, if you were going to say, “I would define service as this experience,” what’s the first thing that …

Phil Jones: The first thing that jumps to my mind? I have such a plethora of very average service experiences that I’m sifting through at the minute to see if I can lift a good one.

Scott McKain: Which, by the way, gets back to your earlier point about why we call it the complaint department.

Phil Jones: Yeah.

Scott McKain: Because the averageness blends together, and we have those dis-satisfiers that really, emotionally, are gut-wrenching that we recall. Sometimes the ones that are really extraordinary, it takes a little longer to come up with.

Phil Jones: I think I can probably refer to something relatively recent. In our world of speaking, we travel a lot. This was me receiving service from a client, or the team in which the client had put into practice, more so than me receiving service as a customer. So the other way around. But what it meant that I was prepared to go on and do extra for the client as a result of this, was huge. So they got way more value for me as a result.

It was the simple fact of they had arranged for car service for me from the airport for my flight. They’d done all the basics to a ridiculously high standard to be able to track the flight, to understand where the delays might have been. The actual driver of the car had reached out to my personal assistant to say that, “I could see that Phil’s flight’s been significantly delayed, do you think he might want a certain something to eat or drink when he arrives, because many of the restaurants are going to be closed, and it’s going to be difficult to get him something. Is there something I can have waiting for him in the car?” Now, to have that foresight in terms of what it changed for me was incredible. Not only had that driver done that, she’d also then reported back to the hotel that I was staying and said, “I took the courtesy of the hotel know that you were going to be running late-

Scott McKain: Wow.

Phil Jones: … and there’s keys waiting at your arrival.” This is a car service. None of that was in their job description of saying, “Here was a level one thing,” but they stepped to do those things, and that’s probably the one that jumps front of mind more than anything here of just some thought things.

Scott McKain: I love that for many reasons, but one of which is it points out something about service that we haven’t talked about and it’s so overlooked, and that is we tend to think that we will provide service to our customers. They provided service to you. It would have been so easy for them to say, “We’re paying you for this gig. We’re-”

Phil Jones: “Figure it out!”

Scott McKain: “We’re giving you your extravagant, exorbitant fee. Get yourself here, get,” and instead, it was, service goes both directions. But look what happened. You’re talking about it now. You want to be of greater service to that client. You’d give more of yourself, because of the way they gave more to you. That’s-

Phil Jones: Huge.

Scott McKain: That’s a great story.

Phil Jones: Yup. That’s what it’s about, right? It’s creating stories that live past the moment. Two more questions. If there was a conversation happening about Scott McKain that you weren’t part of, that people were talking about you, and there was a word that they used to describe you, what do you wish, or hope that, that word was? If there was one single word to describe Scott McKain?

Scott McKain: It’s what I’ve modeled my business after, which is “distinction.” “Distinctive.” The presentations that he delivers are unique and distinctive. I mention in the book, I lost my first wife to cancer, and when we were going through that, I was out of the business for a while, as a caregiver, so I had to kind of relaunch my career.

Part of how I did that was to call those that book us, speaker’s bureaus, and one of the questions I said is, “What do you say about me when you recommend me to your clients?” Phil, the number one example, and I was honored, but terrified. The number one example was: “A good speaker, and a nice guy.” Now, I want to be a good speaker, and I choose to be a nice guy, but I can’t imagine the Vice President of Sales for Ford saying, “You know, at this year’s meeting, for a speaker, we need a really nice guy.”

Phil Jones: Yeah.

Scott McKain: They’re going to say, “Get me an expert on sales,” or “Get me an expert on the customer experience,” or “Get me an expert on how we stand out.” I was “a good speaker and a nice guy,” which is about as generic as it could possibly get.

Phil Jones: That was priding yourself on your service, yeah.

Scott McKain: Yeah. So I started, for me, I just started looking for ways. How can I make my speaking business stand out? Because I was a decent speaker that would talk about just about anything you wanted me to talk about. Months later, almost a year later, I had the blinding flash of the obvious that if I’m having this much trouble learning how to stand out, why shouldn’t I, there’s got to be others that are in this same boat, right?

So that’s when I started really researching and studying about distinction. What did it take to really create distinction in the marketplace? I would hope that there would be congruency between what my message is, as Jeff Bezos says, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

Phil Jones: Yup.

Scott McKain: Although hopefully, there would be congruency between the marketing that I do in terms of distinction, and the message that people would say about me if I’m not there.

Phil Jones: Nice. I like that. Final question is, what are you about? Where can people find out more about you? If they were looking for more, what might they find? Give me the run down on Scott McKain so others know how awesome you are.

Scott McKain: I jokingly asked a guy that one time, and he said, “Well, there’s a grand jury looking into it.” I said-

Phil Jones: Whoa! Whoa!

Scott McKain: Right. Scott McKain, and it’s M-C-K-A-I-N. is the website that tells you all about the speaking business, and the books, and all that kind of stuff. We have a website called, and we have tons of free resources there. There’s nothing there, on there for you to buy if you wanted to. It’s all the free resources that we hope that we can provide in terms of how to create, there’s an audio course on how to create personal distinction. There’s all types of posts, and podcasts, and blogs, and everything that you could download that provides that.

You know, Phil, one thing I’ve always thought is if I’m going to talk about the customer experience. If I’m going to talk about service. If I’m going to talk about standing out, I’d better walk the talk. So we figured the best way that we can do that is to provide as many resources that we can to help people, because if you do that, then it comes back. It’s trying to walk the talk of exactly what we’ve been talking about today. So that’s it and either of those. The brand new book, Iconic, comes out the first week in October, and we’re really excited about that.

Phil Jones: It looks great. I’ve seen the cover, and it’s fantastically beautiful.

Scott McKain: Well, you know, it all started with a client question. There was a client that had broken down the Create Distinction book. They had reading groups of everybody. They had really created distinction, and the CEO said, “What’s next? What’s beyond distinction?”

Phil Jones: They said, “And now, what?” That’s what they said.

Scott McKain: Yeah. “And now, what?” Right? So that’s where the book really started, was talking with them about it, and they created distinction locally. They wanted to become iconic. So then the definition for me is distinction is an industry specific. In other words, we’re distinctive within our group, within our industry, but iconic is we are so good, we become an example that spreads beyond just our individual discipline.

Phil Jones: Got it. Love it. Love it, love it, love it. Scott McKain, thank you for joining us on “Words With Friends”.

Scott McKain: As always, good talking with you.

Phil Jones: Thank you for chatting about service, and then I think you’ve been the most distinctive guest we’ve had so far, so thank you for that.

Scott McKain: You’re the man. Thank you.

Phil Jones: Catch you soon, buddy.

Scott McKain: See you soon.

Season 4

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Season 1

Your host:
Phil M Jones

Phil M Jones has made it his life’s work to demystify the sales process, reframe what it means to “sell,” and help his audiences to learn new skills that empower confdence, overcome fears and instantaneously impact their results.