The Herculean Dropped Orange Effort
Updated: Sep 13, 2019
Great customer service. What makes great customer service? Is it difficult? Does it take some great Herculean effort, like 'delivering a dropped orange from the parking lot to a customer three states away effort' customer service? I don't think so. Common sense, uncommon courtesy (known formerly as common courtesy), giving the customer what he or she requests and a smile (and if you really want to blow them away, throw in some eye contact) can make for exceptional customer service!
Is your experience at quick service restaurants, dry cleaners and retail stores often like waiting in line at the BMV? Do you often get, "that'll be $3.65" followed by a blank stare? How about getting the evil eye when you ask for salt and ketchup with your order? I get that a lot. Is it me? Am I just that menacing or unfriendly looking? Perhaps, but I suspect it happens to others. Heck, my wife Marilyn is always friendly and charming and it happens to her.
Every time I get the blank stare and evil eye, I have two thoughts. One, why do I ever come back to this place? And two, I feel sorry for the owner of this establishment. Does he or she have any idea that this person behind the counter is KILLING his or her business? No amount of great ad creative or ad expenditure will ever overcome that customer experience.
For some reason I have lots of dry cleaning stories related to customer service. Good and bad. A number of years ago, when I was a young radio account executive, I had to go out of town for a very important pitch to a national advertising agency in Chicago. I wanted to wear my best suit. I took my suit to the dry cleaner that I used frequently. The largest dry cleaner in town. The suit was promised to be ready by Wednesday at 5 pm, the day before I was to leave for Chicago. I showed up at 6 pm Wednesday and, no suit. I was clearly peeved, but told them I would be back in a couple days to see if they found my suit. I returned Saturday morning and they had found the suit. I said thank you and explained to the man behind the counter what had happened Wednesday, told him it greatly inconvenienced me, and ask them what they could do for me to make up for it? He looked miffed that I asked and said, reluctantly, "I could give you 10% off the charge for dry cleaning that suit". They charged $6, at that time, to clean a suit. So he offered me 60 cents for my time and trouble. I was a regular customer; they had been laundering all of my shirts and doing all my dry cleaning for several years, and they offer me 60 cents? I never went back. If they had just picked up the $6 cleaning price, they would have kept a happy customer. $6 cost them thousands of dollars in dry cleaning, as we lived in that neighborhood for many years. And I've told that story at least 50 times to my friends and staff; their potential customers. Did that cost them more than 6 bucks? I suspect it did.
Fortunately some businesses have it figured out. In true dry cleaning story #2, it's the same scenario: I take the suit to my new dry cleaner for an out of town trip. I want to take the special suit. It is promised by 5 pm Wednesday. This time, I go home, start to pack and realize that absent-minded me forgot to pick up the suit! Look at the clock, it's 7:15. I know the store closes at 7, but I call anyway. Peter, the owner answers. "Peter, I know you are closed, but is there any way I can get my suit tonight?" . His answer, "take your time, I'll see you when you get here." He made a customer for life.
Courtesy. Is it difficult? Shouldn't be. I have had many Uber drivers recently practice courtesy. They get perks for being highly rated by their customers and they have figured it out! They actually say "hello Gary, how are you today?". And when they drop you off, you hear "Thank you, enjoy your evening". I still remember an airport shuttle driver from 20 years ago, Stan, say " please make sure you didn't leave your phone or camera, check your seat...you'd be surprised how many people leave them behind. Wouldn't want you to get on that plane with out them." Or Gloria, at my dry cleaner, who says with a terrific smile "well good morning Gary!". She makes you want to have a good morning, no matter your morning mood! The above examples are really just people being courteous and friendly, and it often blows you away because it is so uncommon.
Give the customer what they want. A media buyer once said to me " you wouldn't believe how many media sales people can't read. They must not be able to read, because most of them can't follow my simple requests. In my request for proposal, I asked for the proposal to be submitted by noon on Tuesday. In the proposal, I tell them exactly what I want from them...ratings, sometimes qualitative info, and rates for specific dayparts. Sometimes I need to read through a 25 page power point to glean the information I actually requested. I need to buy 7 markets by Thursday morning and I don't have time to LOOK for the info." Note to ad reps, give them what they want, on time and upfront. If you want to add sales points, make them brief and AFTER the specific parameters requested. Give the customer what they want!
For courtesy, HIRE RIGHT. I know it must be incredibly challenging to hire low wage employees (often students and part-timers) who often don't care and don't want to be there. As a business owner or manager, take the time to get the right people. Make sure you find the ones that DO CARE and DO WANT TO BE THERE. No matter the skill level, your business thrives or dies based on the people you hire and your ability to keep the good ones. Courtesy usually shows through within 3 minutes of meeting an applicant. Eye contact either happens or doesn't happen in the first three seconds! Although the employee is not yet skilled, they can still be polite. And think of the thousands of dollars you'll lose OR MAKE by getting your front line employees right. There is one quick service restaurant franchise today that is hugely successful and fast growing (OK, Chik-Fil-A). They have a great product, but I believe it is their customer service that shows through. It is exemplary and not over the top. Their employees are just POLITE. And they smile.
Give the customer what they want. Allow your employees to make the right decision. Many companies have a culture of not letting their employees make any decision. Big mistake. Don't let the $6 decision cost you thousands.
The above stories are mine, but many of the concepts were learned by reading a couple great books that I recommend: Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles and How to Win Customers and Keep Them for Life by Michael LeBouef.
Here's to your success!
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