Sales Communication Customer Service Coaching Meeting Planners Learning Tools
Workplace Communication Humor Articles Media Calendar
• Speaker  • Trainer  • Consultant  • Coach  • Facilitator  • Emcee  • Storyteller
How I learned
Customer Service
As An Officer
June, 2006
A Seven-Point Program
for Mastering
Customer Service Leadership

By Craig Harrison, DTM, AL, Past District Governor

Did you know that Toastmasters provides a 7-point program for mastering customer service? It takes less time than a 4-year degree and can be pursued in your home club?  True, it's not publicized in any Toastmaster documentation, but I am a graduate of this program. Allow me to explain.  Over 42 months I served in all seven club leadership positions and, in the process, became an expert in customer service!  Here's how.

Sergeant Salutes Guests

I initially became my club's sergeant-at-arms. It was in this position that I was responsible for making guests feel welcome.  I arrived early before each meeting, set up the room, made sure our guest register book and literature were set out in anticipation of guests.  I insured our sign was affixed outside the door and I wore my badge to identify myself for our customers — the strangers visiting for their first time, as well as our existing customer base, our members.

Then, as timid and tentative guests arrived I made them feel welcome with a smile, an outstretched hand and a genuine interest in them.  Toastmasters taught me to treat guests like visiting royalty. I anticipated their needs for comfort, safety and information, and provided each. I told them how happy we were they joined us, how they were under no pressure to speak, introduced them to an experienced member to sit by their side during the meeting, to answer any questions they had.

My sergeant-at-arms duties also showed me the importance of my duties as they related to the rest of the club.  Without my supplies in place, there would be no gavel to bang or lectern to speak from.  It also helped me to think in terms of others, as I remembered how scary and intimidating it was for visitors like me who came for the first time.

Secretary: Members' Pipeline to World Headquarters (WHQ)

Next I became my club’s Secretary. In this role I helped document members' transactions with the club, District and WHQ through my correspondence. I used my written communication skills to fix problems, correcting errant information and assisting other officers in their paperwork, insuring officer lists were accurate and submitted properly, and more. In this role I was responsible for clear communication and a service orientation to insure members received value from their membership, all the while strengthening our Area, Division and District by keeping our club in compliance. My Minutes from officer meetings became the record of our decisions on behalf of our members. I created a paper trail for my customers — our club members — who joined, transferred or rejoined after a hiatus.

VP-Membership: Paying Attention to Retention

It was six months later when I served as VP Membership that I really honed my listening skills, a key aspect of effective customer service. As the club's VP, Membership I began to understand my club members’ goals and their needs and how I could help address each.  By listening to what was said I came to understand how they thought, what motivated them and how we could help them succeed. Their success was my success. I became an expert at retention as I worked to keep each member engaged and happy as a customer of the club. I also began to pay attention to problems that periodically arose in meetings or among membership and applied myself to solve these problems to the satisfaction of our members. Their moments of truth became opportunities for me to champion their needs and help the club serve each member. By caring for each member I was selflessly serving their needs.

VP-PR: Promoting Solutions to Others' Problems

Soon thereafter I was elected to be my club's Public Relations VP. I was now charged with attracting new members. I began to think again in terms of my other customers — non-members who had needs I could fill. They had fears and I had remedies.  They had desires and I had outcomes. Or as past International Director Joe McBride DTM puts it, "they had itches I could scratch."  I promoted the Toastmasters programs with pride as I recognized a world that had yet to experience the benefits I was receiving as a member.  Solving peoples' problems, giving them confidence, new skills, new resources and opening their world were all forms of customer service. I reveled in providing the solution to their problems through promoting our Toastmasters club.

Treasurer: Investing in the Success of Others

When elected Treasurer I began to safeguard our members' investment in the club. Through fiscal responsibility I ensured our club was able to purchase supplies to educate, recognize and support each member.  By insuring our dues were collected and submitted on time I served our club’s contestants, insuring they and our club remained in good standing so they could experience the joys, growth and glory of competing. I felt like an unsung hero as I helped our club manage its finances so as to hold an open house, host a contest and underwrite a Youth Leadership Program for a local middle school. My reports during business meetings reinforced the value members received through a detailing of their benefits when I described how our club dues were spent helping them and others experience success. I also understood each member's fiscal preferences: some preferred paying with check, others cash. Some sought an invoice, others simply a receipt. My goal: to accede to their needs to make it as easy as possible for them to remain members in good standing.

VP, Education: The Answer is Know

As I began my term as the club's VP, education I was feeling like an upper classman. I was using my past experience as a speaker and an officer to help my fellow members.  As VP-E I was responsible for serving the educational needs of each member, and yet each had different needs. I came to understand the underpinnings of Customer Relationship Management, wherein I treated each member the way they wanted to be treated. I made sure to know how to help each member.

Some aspired to complete their CTM by June 30 and had a few speeches yet to deliver. I could help them succeed through my scheduling.  Other members were trying to complete their AL and CL and I could help each with their ambitions. A Toastmaster from South Africa was visiting the San Francisco Bay Area in a month and hoped to give a speech while visiting our club.  I arranged a theme meeting coinciding with this speaker's topic and we built a program around his visit.

As an experienced officer I could provide "value added" to my members through my familiarity with Toastmasters’ various educational materials. I could identify resources such as advanced manuals to assist them, and point them toward district roles and opportunities where they could flex their newfound communication and leadership muscles. I could help them be happy customers, achieving their goals and all the while helping our club pursue its critical success factors of CTMs, ATMs, retention and growth.

President: Leading a Customer Relationship Management
(CRM) Firm

It was when I was elected president that I realized I was actually leading a service organization. Our officers were entrusted with running an organization to meet the diverse needs of our membership. Staging quality meetings, helping our members achieve their goals and providing a supportive team to advance these aims was my responsibility. I empowered each officer to advocate for our new and continuing members. I communicated dutifully with my Area Governor and District Officers to keep apprised of programs, trainings and special events. And like a good manager I made sure my officers received training and support so they could support club members in turn.

Through serving the seven officers roles at the club level I learned the core values of customer service:
  • Treat others the way they want to be treated
  • Listen intently
  • Focus on quality
  • Think in terms of your customers
  • Communicate clearly in word and writing
  • Advocate for customers to help them succeed

Yes, in my own way I now feel I have a degree in customer service. It's as if I have my CTM, my CL and now my CRM too. And just the other day a District Officer asked me if I was ready to assume a new district role. Ah, graduate school beckons at the Toastmasters Institute of Customer Service.

Professional Speaker Craig Harrison DTM, a member of Lakeview Toastmasters (2767-57) in Oakland, CA, helps make customer service fun and easy for his clients.  Visit www.VoiceOfCustomerService.com for more tips on improving your customer service orientation in and beyond your club.

Book Craig for your next Regional or District Conference. He has Keynotes, Plenary and Breakout sessions for leaders, speakers, business professionals! For more, visit www.SpeakAndLeadWithConfidence.com.

Go to Home Page

To schedule an engagement,
contact Craig by email: Craig@ExpressionsOfExcellence.com
or by phone: (510) 547-0664.

Subscribe to Expressions of Excellence™
Craig's Free Monthly E-Zine on Customer Service & Communication Skill Building.