My husband and I went out for brunch this past Sunday, and the experience provided a good example of what sets apart “the men from the boys” when it comes to delivering great customer service.
Things started out reasonably well. We were greeted by the hostess and told our table would be ready in about five minutes. She was pleasant and we weren’t surprised that we might have to wait for a few minutes for a table.
Things had gotten off to a good start.
Handling Unusual Or Picky Customers
But, as is often the case, what sets those apart who deliver a great customer experience from those who deliver a pretty good or okay one, is this: how they handle unusual requests or picky customers.
I’m one of those restaurant-goers who always has an unusual request: I like to drink my tea HOT … not warm, but hot. I also use lots of milk in my tea. Can you see the problem yet? I’ll make it easy for you. Hot tea and lots of cold milk make lukewarm tea. The solution? The milk needs to be warmed up before I pour it into my tea.
When I’m in a restaurant I always ask the server … nicely and with an apologetic smile … if they would please warm up the milk to go with my tea … oh yes, “and extra milk please, I use a lot in my tea.”
Eye Rolls & Frustrated Sighs
I’ll be honest, this request usually drives my husband crazy, sweet man that he is. He would prefer I not make unusual demands of our servers.
My philosophy is, “I’m eating out, we’re paying to eat out, I’d like to enjoy what we’re paying for.” I’m not rude to our servers, if anything I bend over backwards to be pleasant and appreciate what they do for us. That said, it’s interesting how often a request like “warm milk and extra of it, please” produces a response that is the equivalent of an eye-roll or frustrated sigh.
Turning Potentially Good Customer Experiences Into Negative Ones
The point of this has nothing to do with warm milk, obviously. But it highlights how often we can turn a potentially good customer experience into a negative one, by how we respond to our customers seemingly unusual requests or pickiness.
Back to the warm milk at brunch on Sunday. The waitress who brought the milk the first time had ignored the request, so back to the kitchen with the milk to warm it up.
Then, when it arrived back at the table it was in a mug, full to the top, and virtually impossible to pour without getting it all over the table.
For the sake of my husband, I “sucked it up” and poured the warm milk into my tea, mopping up the excess flowing onto the table as I went along.
Interestingly, the warm welcome that first greeted us when we sat at our server’s table was replaced with a less warm manner after my “warm milk, please” request.
That’s Staff For You?
Some of you who are business owners with staff may be tempted to think, “that’s staff for you!”
But, to be honest, most of us have probably received a different but similar experience whether we’ve dealt with business owners or their staff. The fact is that those who know how to go the extra mile without attitude often seem rare. And, those leading the company quite often set the pace or tone in this area. If the business owners or management team don’t excel at delivering a great customer experience, it’s unlikely their staff will.
Going The Extra Mile
The expression “to go the extra mile” is often thought to have come from the Bible where Jesus says in Romans 5:41, ” Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.”
The verse is a reference to a practice that allowed a Roman soldier to conscript a Jewish native to carry his equipment for one Roman mile – no easy task considering a Roman soldier’s backpack could weigh upwards of 100 pounds (45.4 kg).
Going the extra mile suggests, don’t just do what you have to do, the bare minimum of what is expected, go further, do more.
For business owners, going the extra mile for our customers means delivering a customer experience that delights those we serve. That makes our customers feel good about dealing with us.
While delivering a great customer experience, without question, involves delivering good quality products and services. The icing on the customer experience cake is the manner in which we deliver our products and services. It’s an attitude that shows up in how we deal with and respond to people.
It isn’t just a smile! A smile can be plastic and meaningless, or it can be caring, attentive and meaningful.
While “customer service with a smile” is one of the ways we simplify the concept of taking good care of customers, the reality is that great customer service is much more than a smile.
Great customer service involves delivering our products and services in ways (customer experience) that cause our customers to want to continue to deal with us and to tell others about us, because they feel valued, cared for and appreciated.
In the end, delivering a great customer experience isn’t just good for the customer, it’s good for business and has a direct impact on your bottom-line!