Customer Service Skills:
The Jonny Story

I am an author and a professional speaker. I travel all over the world speaking on the topics of Motivating and Retaining your Employees, Building Customer and Employee Loyalty, and Regenerating the Spirit in your Workplace. Several years ago I was asked to speak to 3000 employees of a large supermarket chain in the Midwest, an experience which led to one of the most heartwarming blessings of my entire speaking career.

Recently in my presentations I have been focusing on the idea of "Adding a Personal Signature to your Work." With all the downsizing, re-engineering, overwhelming technological changes, and stress, I think it is essential for each of us to find a way we can really feel good about ourselves and our jobs, and one of the most powerful ways to do this is to do something that differentiates you from all the other people who do the same thing you do.

Some of the examples I share are a United airlines pilot who, after everything is under control in the cockpit, goes to the computer and at random selects several people on board the flight and handwrites them a thank you note for their business. A graphic artist I work with always encloses a piece of sugarless gum in everything he sends his customers, so you never throw anything from him away! A Northwest Airlines baggage attendant decided that his personal signature would be to collect all the luggage tags that fall off customer's suitcases, which in the past have been simply tossed in the garbage, and in his free time he sends them back with a note thanking them for flying Northwest. A senior manager with whom I worked decided that his personal signature would be that whenever he sends his employees a memo with news that he knows they won't like very much, he staples a piece of kleenex to the corner of the memo!

My personal signatures are evident throughout my presentation -- no matter where I am speaking in the world, I always line the walls of the room or ballroom with many bright-colored, laminated flip charts of quotations in my handwriting that relate to the topic of the presentation. Some are intellectual, some are funny, some are spiritual, and some are just common wisdom. It not only sets a wonderful, relaxed, colorful atmosphere for learning, but it also enhances the learning because people find thoughts which appeal to them to take away as a reminder of the message.

I also give to each audience member a small card that says on the front, "Thank you for CARE-ing" with a picture of a CARE package. On the back it says, "Spread Contagious Enthusiasm--Pass It Along," and I ask them to give the card to someone who makes a difference in their life within the next 48 hours. After sharing several other examples of how people add their unique spirit to their jobs, my challenge to them is to get their creative juices going to come up with their OWN creative personal signature. Since I am also a writer, I always give my home telephone number to everyone in the audience, encouraging them to call me and let me know what they have decided to do so that I can share it with others in my speaking and writing.

About 3 weeks after I had spoken to the supermarket employees, my phone rang late one afternoon. The person on the line told me that his name was Johnny and that he was a bagger in one of the stores. He also told me that he was a Down's Syndrome person. He said, "Barbara, I liked what you said!" Then he went on to tell me how when he'd gone home that night, he asked his Dad to teach him to use the computer.

He said they set it up in three columns, and each night now when he goes home, he finds a "thought for the day." He said, "If I can't find one I like, I think one up!" Then he and his Dad type it into the computer, nine times on a page, and they print out at least 200 pages each night. Then he cuts them out, signs his name on the back of each one, and the next day "with flourish," he puts a thought for the day in each person's groceries he bags, adding his own personal signature in a heartwarming, fun, and creative way.

One month later the manager of the store called me. He said, "Barbara, you won't believe what happened today. . . . . When I went out on the floor this morning, the line at Johnny's checkout was three times longer than any other line!" He said, "I went ballistic, yelling, 'Get more lanes open! Get more people out here,' but the customers said, 'No no! We want to be in Johnny's lane -- we want the thought for the day!' "

He said one woman even came up and told him, "I only used to shop once a week, and now I come in every time I go by because I want the thought for the day!" (Imagine what that does to the bottom line . . . .) He ended by saying, "Who do you think is the most important person in our whole store?" Johnny, of course!

Three months later he called me again, "You and Johnny have transformed our store! Now in the floral department when they have a broken flower or an unused corsage, they go out on the floor and find an elderly woman or a little girl and pin it on them. One of our meat packers loves Snoopy, so he bought 50,000 Snoopy stickers, and each time he packages a piece of meat, he puts a Snoopy sticker on it. We are having so much fun, and our customers are having so much fun!" THAT is spirit in the workplace!

It never ceases to amaze me whenever I tell this beautiful story how little it takes to regenerate the spirit in a workplace. Johnny took what many of us might consider to be a not very important job and he made it important by adding his own personal signature. My challenge and yours -- if young Johnny can do it, there is no reason why each one of us can't do it, too. Imagine the new spirit of self-esteem, commitment, and fun which could permeate our places of work if we each, like Johnny, found a way to add our special, unique touch to our job!

This story is excerpted from CARE Packages for the Workplace--Dozens of Little Things You Can Do to Regenerate Spirit at Work by Barbara A. Glanz, McGraw-Hill1996.


About the author


For free articles you can use in your company newsletters and an archive of dozens of immediately applicable “Ideas of the Month,” go to Barbara Glanz, CSP, works with organizations that want to improve morale, retention, and service and with people who want to rediscover the joy in their work and in their lives. She is the author of Balancing Acts — More than 250 Guiltfree, Creative Ideas to Blend your Work and your Life (Dearborn 2003), Handle with CARE — Motivating and Retaining Employees (McGraw-Hill 2002), CARE Packages for the Workplace -- Dozens of Little Things You Can Do to Regenerate Spirit at Work (McGraw-Hill 1996), The Creative Communicator (McGraw-Hill 1998), CARE Packages for the Home (Andrews McMeel 1998), and Building Customer Loyalty (McGraw-Hill 1994). As an internationally known speaker, trainer, and business consultant who has a Master’s degree in Adult Education, Barbara lives and breathes her personal motto: "Spreading Contagious Enthusiasm™." She has presented on six continents and in all 50 states since 1995. For more information, she can be reached directly at 941-312-9169; Fax 941-349-8209; email:; website:

©2003 Barbara Glanz Communications. All Rights Reserved

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