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The “Make Mom Proud” Standard for How to Treat Your Customers

How can you implement policies that improve your customers' lives? Picture your mother!

They share freely. They have our back. They are there, in good times and bad. They always have our best interest in mind. They are brave.

This describes our moms.

It also describes companies who follow her lead in how they grow their business.

The lessons we learned as kids stick with us. And often they have our mom’s face all over them. Her lessons, her rules, and her sayings are still in our heads. You probably grew up that way too, with a simple and clear understanding of what to do and what not to do. We were taught to share, trust each other, play nice in the sandbox, and treat others like we’d want to be treated. And those lessons remain some of the best advice we’ve ever been given.

Applying Mom’s Lessons to Business

They also remain as some of our most sound advice for how to behave in business. The companies that “Make-mom-proud” grow by living those lessons. They remove practices that might curb the extension of care, or limit employees to act in good conscience. They work to remove boundaries and pressures that prohibit customer-driven decision making. And they challenge themselves to walk away from practices that aren’t congruent with their values.

Their actions “make mom proud” because they honor the human at the end of their decisions, establish a balanced relationship with customers and partners, and put employees in a position to act at work like they’d act at home. Like they were raised.

I grew up Italian, the third of seven kids. We lived a loud and crazy life. But we had a set of behaviors that guided us, which we learned by watching our parents. Their character was on display in how they acted. And their actions, more than their words, showed us the path to follow. Actions that came from selfless intent. Unwavering persistence to make things right. And nourishing encouragement from people who thought of our best interest first.

The women in my life were particularly animated. My mom Lydia would sew until all hours of the night; fashioning custom-made Halloween costumes for each of us, and teeny tiny Barbie© doll dresses for my sisters and I. My dad’s mom Ermalinda rarely sat down for a meal she had prepared. Hovering around the perimeter of the table, she would carry large plates of food spooning it onto our plates whether we wanted it or not, exclaiming “Mangia!” “Mangia!” (EAT- EAT!)

And my mom’s mom Virginia would roll out dough every Christmas to make homemade ravioli. Never satisfied unless they were perfect for us, I watched her throw out mounds of dough that she had rolled out but deemed imperfect, even when it meant putting in hours to begin again. Neither grandma let us leave their homes without handing us a bag of groceries, scooping whatever food they had in their pantry for us to take home. They were selfless. They were nourishing. They were perfectionists. They thought of us first.

These are the behaviors that have become the standard for me, and for most of us, for how to act in our lives. These characteristics are what we strap to our backs and take with us into business. We strive to apply the lessons we learned as kids to the way that we behave at work. As both employees and customers, we gravitate to companies who create environments that encourage and celebrate these behaviors. These are the “Make-mom-proud” companies that we should celebrate and learn from.

As we learn their paths, it’s important to note is that each of the Make-mom-proud companies did not achieve this state overnight. It took one action, then another, and then another, to give people permission and examples to model. That’s why in this book we offer a simple way to help prompt these actions. A lens to guide your company decisions, by thinking of one person in particular at the end of each of them…your mom.

Imagine Mom as Your Customer

So, take a minute. Picture your mom. What’s she doing? Picture her picking up the phone to call an 800 number. Then picture her waiting. Picture the frustration of the wait and then her joy as someone connects. And then picture her face…as she’s asked to repeat all the numbers and facts that she punched in before waiting on hold. Picture her life at the auto dealership. Or walking into a retail store. Picture her nervously waiting for a doctor’s appointment. Picture her trying to figure out how to program her phone.

Of course, it’s not that simple. It’s not the asking of the question: “would we do that to our mother?” that elevates behavior and companies. Conditions must be right for the asking. Leaders must encourage and establish a safe environment where asking that question is celebrated and rewarded.

When asking this question is genuinely enabled, it can benefit every part of your organization. For individuals and the frontline, this “mom lens” can help recalibrate personal responses with customers. Inside small teams, it prompts engagement and collaboration to improve operations and reduce complexity for customers. For leaders, it can be a litmus test to align actions that the company will, or will not take to grow.

We need to take how we are treating customers personally. Thinking of our moms at the end of our decisions helps to get us there. That’s why I suggest that you imagine her in moments when you’re making decisions or taking personal actions. The image of her, of what she’s meant to you, and what you’ve learned from her can be a powerful and instant reality-check. It can make us pause.

Excerpted from Would You Do That To Your Mother? The “Make Mom Proud” Standard for How to Treat Your Customers by Jeanne Bliss with permission of Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © Jeanne Bliss, 2018.

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