A smile. A thank you. An apology. One may argue that any of these gestures are better than a mediocre interaction with a service provider. Or, one may suggest that acknowledging a customer by being pleasant, showing appreciation or making up for a mistake is an adequate demonstration of treating the customer appropriately.
What should we expect from a front-line employee, a maître d’, a call centre representative, or a table host at a fine dining restaurant? Does the level of service need to differ if we are doing business with a corner store or a high-end establishment? In other words, should the level of service matter regardless of the value of the transaction?
The answer must emphatically be “yes”. Service matters at any level, in any currency, whether the purchase is large or small. The experience created by one individual is the key differentiator from the customer’s perspective. The collective “moments of truth” of hundreds, if not thousands of encounters with your brand directly impacts your bottom line and business reputation. If you are concerned about word of mouth, good will, or you are finding that your customer loyalty is on life support, then “good enough” is no longer “good enough”.
Every day, thousands of customers worldwide find themselves frustrated or disappointed by a poor service experience. However, an “average” or “good enough” scenario should be equally concerning for any enterprise. Taking care of business, i.e. serving the customer, is a transactional approach. Adopting a service mindset, however, is a different proposition altogether.
Consider the example of a five-star hotel at a pristine, sought-after location…an establishment that has left no stone unturned when it comes to creating the ultimate luxury vacation experience. Despite the opulent surroundings, you immediately sense upon check-in that the staff are simply “going through the motions”, providing you with a run-down of amenities and daily activities. You arrive in your room only to discover that the air conditioning is frigid (no matter what setting you choose), your bedding is soaking wet due to the condensation caused by high humidity and the valuables that you just placed in the safe cannot be retrieved after numerous attempts to unlock the door. You call the front desk and describe your concerns and remain in your room for almost two hours while a staff person tries to no avail to fix the safe. The reception matter-of-factly “apologizes for the inconvenience”. On the first day of your stay, you begin questioning your decision as well as the likelihood of returning in the future.
Good enough? Hardly.
Contrast the above with the following situation:
An elderly woman who frequented a local family restaurant with her husband for more than twenty years receives a welcoming smile as she is shown her table. On this particular afternoon, staff immediately notice that she came in alone. They learn that her husband had passed away a few days prior. Feeling lonely and sad, she went to “their place”, comforted by the servers who had become family. The manager and several staff sit with the customer for several hours, reminiscing about positive times while taking care of her meal and dessert. They present her with a card, personally signed by each team member, offering their condolences and noting special memories they had shared with the couple.
Good enough? Exceptional.
Transcending the ordinary to create the extraordinary is a decision, not merely an act. It has little to do with the amount of money a customer spends and everything to do with validating and appreciating the relationship.
Interestingly, many organizations are investing heavily in sophisticated technology that measures and tracks customer preferences, behaviour and level of engagement in order to build relationships and cater to customer needs. Ultimately, however, their efforts will be meaningless if customers discover that the art of service is nowhere to be found.
Today’s savvy clientele isn’t satisfied with “good enough”. With a myriad of choices, customers expect caring and considerate service, timely responses, positive experiences and quick resolutions when problems occur, whether on-line or in-person. Above all, customers value genuineness, attentiveness and honesty; evaluating every experience based on first impressions and on-going interactions.