What the Marine Corps taught me about customer service

I am a big supporter of all those who are serving or who have served in all the branches of the United States military.  As a former Marine I understand what they have been through and all they have sacrificed for their country.  With Veteran’s Day right around the corner I want to take a step back in time and focus on a non technical topic.

For those of you not intimately familiar with the Marine Corps there is one basic mantra:  every Marine is a rifleman. Regardless of what your primary job is, you are expected to be intimately familiar with your rifle and be an accurate shot.

Being an accurate shot is more of a science than an art.  Believe it or not there are three simple things that you need to master to become a successful marksman.

  1. Hold your rifle the exact same way every time you fire
  2. Control your breathing
  3. Squeeze the trigger

I was thinking about this topic recently and realized how those three principles have continued to influence my thinking throughout my career.  Coincidentally they also tie in with the principles that we follow when providing support at OrcsWeb.  Hopefully you will find these principles invaluable in running your business and dealing with the most important aspect of your business:  your customers (which also includes your staff and fellow workers).

1. Hold your rifle the exact same way each time you fire

A small change in how you look down the sites of the rifle or how you place your cheek against the stock will result in a large change 500 – 1,500 feet down the range.  Most often this will result in you missing the bulls eye and sometimes you will miss the target completely.  The importance of consistency is the same when dealing with your customers.  If you want to have the best chance of staying on target with your customers and staff you need to be consistent.  Have processes, policies, and procedures in place to ensure that customers get the same experience every time that they deal with you.

2. Control your breathing

If your lungs are full or empty when you are trying to shoot then your body is screaming to release the pressure on your lungs or to get some oxygen.  In the exact same way you can’t be breathing while you are getting ready to shoot; the movement of your body is sure to throw off your shot.  Instead take in a deep breath and let it half-way out.  That allows your lungs and body to be in a relaxed mode and you are now ready to shoot.  This sense of calmness lets you relax and focus on the task at hand, significantly improving your chances for success.  When dealing with customers, take the time to step back, get a deep breath, and work with them in a relaxed and calm manner.  Getting angry and stressed with a customer is seldom beneficial and will often cause you to miss the mark in building a positive relationship.

3.  Squeeze the trigger

When shooting you should never jerk the trigger or anticipate when it is going to go off.  That will end up causing your shot pattern on the target to be all over the place giving you no sense of direction on what you need to do to improve your accuracy.  Instead you should slowly squeeze the trigger never knowing exactly when the firing pin will be struck so that you will always be lined up exactly on the bulls eye.  In today’s fast-paced marketplace people are often looking for an immediate response.  By taking a short period of time to consider all the factors and calculating your response, you significantly increase the likelihood of staying on target with your customers.

Like anything you attempt in life, you just can’t read about this and expect to be perfect every time.  We practiced with our rifles frequently to hone our skills and make them become instinct and second nature.  It is the same way with these three principles; you have to purposefully practice them, turning them into habits which in turn will increase the likelihood of the long term success of your business.

In review, the three main points that I leaned about customer service from my Marine Corps rifle training is to be:

  1. Consistent
  2. Calm
  3. Calculated

Put these principles to work when dealing with your customers and you are sure to find happy customers who keep coming back and telling others about their experience.  In the same regard these principles are sure to reduce your employee turnover.

Rick received an honorable discharge as a Sergeant after being awarded two Navy Achievement Medals over a period of six years of service.  He is currently a Senior Support Lead at OrcsWeb, a hosted server company providing managed hosting solutions.