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.