It’s not the most attractive image, I know. But I got up from the table with something stuck between my teeth. I walked through the dining room to the front counter looking for the little cup filled with toothpicks. After circling the front desk and reception area a few times, I gave up and asked the young woman behind the table if they had toothpicks.
“Of course we do,” she sniffed, clearly bored with my ridiculous question. “They’re right here.”
With that, she bent down, opened a cabinet under the counter, and brought the delicate little wine glass full of toothpicks out from underneath the counter.
“You hide the toothpicks?” I asked. “Why? Do your customers keep stealing them?”
“No, they keep knocking them over.”
“Why don’t you just put them in a container they can’t knock over?”
She shrugged and studied her nails, making it crystal clear she’d already spent way too much of her precious time on such stupidity.
A week or two later, I was looking for a birthday present for my wife. I walked into a beautiful (and expensive) woman’s clothing store and looked around for the perfect thing. The saleswoman approached.
“Good morning,” she said brightly. “Are you looking for a gift?”
“No,” I thought. “I’m looking for something for myself. Do you sell these slingbacks in a size 13?”
Don’t worry, I didn’t say that out loud. I just smiled and said nothing.
“Are you looking for something special?”
“No,” I thought again. “I’m looking for something ordinary. Am I in the right store?”
I wandered around for a few more minutes and left empty-handed.
The last time I checked into a hotel, the young man behind the counter apologized to me that they didn’t have the room with the view and the king-size bed I had reserved.
“We’ve given you a twin bed on a low floor. Okay?”
“No, it’s not okay,” I answered. “I reserved this room months ago.”
“Yes, of course,” he said, poking at some buttons on the keyboard on the counter. “But we’re oversold. Your room has a twin bed. Okay?”
“No, it’s not okay,” I said again.
“But we’re oversold,” he squeaked. “Okay?”
I won’t torture you with the rest of our conversation. Suffice it to say I got an upgrade (although not the room I wanted) and he never stopped saying “Okay.”
Put the Service Back in Customer Service
In a day when so many businesses are losing income and closing their doors, I find it shocking that so many of the people who represent the companies we do business with are not better trained to do their jobs. Worse, they’re not properly trained to please their customers. Hell, it seems as if they weren’t trained at all.
So many business improvements cost lots and lots of money. Construction, redesigns, new technology, new logistics, new product development, and new service lines all require both significant investment and plenty of hard work. Ironically, building your brand by teaching your front line staff that their job is to always make it “All About Them,” is both easy and inexpensive.
Of course, you take some of that time to complain about how technology is interrupting your business. You take more time to whine about all the new competitors you now have to deal with. And you spend even more time when you kvetch about the way business is changing.
But do you take the time to make sure your employees understand how you expect them to interact with your customers?
Do you take the time to train your staff to create wonderful experiences for your clients?
Do you make the effort needed to provide your people with the information they need to please your consumers?
Often, it’s not the new players who are stealing your customers, but your existing staff that is neither helping maintain your existing clients nor enticing new consumers to do business with you.
It’s not big data. It’s little moments.
It’s not the competition. It’s the cooperation.
It’s not technology. It’s civility.
Put the Customer Back in Customer Service
Make your business “All About Them,” and you’ll let your customers know that THEY are the focus of your business. And you’ll find that that’s what they come back for regardless of what your competition is doing.
One of my clients develops and operates memory care facilities. Their goal is to make every day special for the customer – even if they think it’s the same day over and over again. the entire facility, its services and the staff are all designed around the client. So simple.
Thanks for reminding all of us ( who read your blog ) the importance of good, old-fashion kindness and thoughtfulness in the ever-changing world of customer-service. Your suggestions need to be the mandatory foundation of it.
It truly is ‘all about them’ – Thanks Bruce !
I had a great experience a few weeks ago. A friend was in from out of town and I wanted to take him to a particular restaurant. According to Open Table they had nothing available for 8pm, but I decided to call and see if I could get a table. The maitre ‘d said, “I’ll tell you what… get here at 8, you might have to wait a few minutes, but I’ll get you in.” We were going to be late, so I called to let him know we were still on our way. Same guy picked up the phone and when I identified myself, he said, “oh hey Seth, are you still coming?” He said it like he was really looking forward to seeing me. When I get there, he gives me a nice greeting says, “I saved a great table for you.” After a couple hours of catching up with my old college chum, our bellies full of good food and wine, I thought it best to thank our maitre ‘d with a nice tip. After all, I was going to want to come back tooth’s place and get the same VIP treatment. The next day, I was thinking that they probably blocked off a few tables from Open Table so that customers would call for reservations. He then acted like they were full up but he was going to do me a solid and get me in. The charming manner over the phone and in person came naturally to a Beverly Hills maitre ‘d. He knew how to make guests feel special and I’m sure he worked that routine with all the calls and maybe pocketed an extra $100 in cash a night. And while he was profiting, so was the restaurant, because I will be back. If you’re a cynic you could say he played me, but No he also made me feel like a big shot in front of my friend and what more could I ask for, on top of a lovely meal in a beautiful setting? For a few hours, it was all about me and worth the price of admission.
preach brother preach
Well now you are singing my tune! For 29 years I’ve been singing this one. A decision must be made at the C-Suite level that all those “Moments of Truth” you refer to are what add up to a great, memorable, remarkable customer experience. At the moment of truth 3 things can happen – you experienced two of them. – a moment of MISERY can occur, a moment of MEDIOCRITY can occur or a moment of MAGIC can occur. To consistently create moments of MAGIC requires the right hiring, the right onboarding, the right supervision, the right amount of appreciation and guidance, the right kinds of rewards, the right kind of leaders and the right kind of culture.
Some companies do this in effortless fashion because the entire company culture is steeped in the All About Them Consciousness. Getting that to happen to takes a commitment and vision of that happening that seeps through the entire organization.
What’s the first thing that’s cut from any budget when looking to save a few bucks? Training. Soft Skills. Coaching. Like anything else when the priorities are out of whack the people that get left out are those that get paid the least – those that touch the customer.
And by the way – let’s ditch the war language. As long as people are on the “front line” we are pitting them up against the customer instead of with them. Our customer-facing people deserve more – but when management doesn’t participate and embrace their needs we leave it up to chance – the chance that we hired a person who instinctively knows how to do the right thing. Would we do that with any other part of our business? Not likely.
While to situation is SO much better than it was when I started my singing my song – it still needs work – in almost every company .
99.9% of the time I agree wholeheartedly with your columns and even two-thirds of this one. Unless I read your comment wrong, I think the lady representative in the store acted exactly as I would have wanted. You were looking for a birthday gift and she asked “are you looking for a gift?” I found that harmless and helpful. And then, when you had a negative reaction she had another great question, “are you looking for something special.” I found both helpful and well-intentioned. Sorry for your bad experience.
That’s a good point, George. I hadn’t thought of it that way. Thank you for adding additional insight to my experience.
This could be the subject for a book. You might devote one chapter to those who do demonstrate great customer by showing us that it’s…
All About Us!