Think back, as a customer, to the worst encounter you’ve ever had with a company. Can you feel the anger? The anxiety? The sense of grappling at straws? Someone trying to make you understand what you’ve said or done is wrong, even though you know – you feel – that it is right? Walking away upset even though you got what you wanted? Or upset because you didn’t?

What kind of service is that? What kind of customer care?

Integrity & Empathy

Geoff Ramm talks about giving celebrity service. He asks you to imagine someone ridiculously famous coming into your shop or interacting with your brand. Picture how you treat that person. Do you pull out all the stops? Do you dote upon them? Now ask yourself, is this the same way you treat a random joe who meanders in or tweets you? Why or why not? Ramm asks you to examine this gap in your service, to elevate your standards to the celebrity service level for all your customers. Where is the value in this? It is in enriching the overall experience for your guests through how you choose to engage with them.

Restaurateur Danny Meyer speaks openly about hiring “51 percenters.” He denotes these individuals as having a high “hospitality quotient.” These are people who lean towards being empathetic and self-aware, who possess an innate ability to be kind, who are curious, and who go through life with a strong sense of integrity. Everything else – the other 49 percent – Meyer says can be taught. These are the people on your team who will deliver celebrity service to your guests.

Listening & Respect

It has to be noted that some bad service is a product of the pipeline. Poor systems put in place, disastrous internal communication, employees at the very bottom being told to enforce rules, but not knowing why or how they came to be. Even then, even in these situations where the overall experience is stressful to the guest, it only takes one employee to do one thing that, even if it doesn’t rectify the situation, can make the customer feel more like a person and less like a number or a raw source of profit.

My favorite example of this was in dealing with Chicago’s electric giant. Their monopoly on the metro area makes them strict in their policies and lax in their service. I had transferred to a new apartment and called every two weeks for three months to find out why I wasn’t getting a bill. I was concerned about being presented with an accrued bill, which I would not be able to pay, something that was common to read about in the paper (yes, I still read things in the paper a decade ago!). Every time I called I was assured this wasn’t going to happen to me. Lo and behold – it did.

I tried without a whit of progress to talk with someone at their company who could help me. I even went to their downtown offices, only to be turned away by security. When I attempted to call upstairs to see about meeting with someone, no one wanted to speak with me. My final call was to the same call center I’d spoken to for months. The call center’s supervisor got on the phone with me. To my great surprise, she apologized. She said, “I’m sorry.” She told me that she was the highest person I was allowed to speak with at the company. She was not allowed to transfer me to anyone else. She said that she understood my frustration, that she wished she could do something else for me, but that her hands were tried by the company.

Those words – those little words – knowing that she was trying, hearing that she was bound by the regulations of her job, even though they didn’t make a dent in the $600 overdue bill I was holding, soothed me emotionally.

As both the customer and the company, we must remember It is not always about being right. It is about remembering that you are dealing with someone else. On both sides. We are real people. Remember that.

Intention & Outcome

Service is about giving. You give of yourself. You give of your abilities. You give of your time. You give of your product. In theory you gain financially from providing this service and also build a following of repeat customers and loyal brand advocates.

Sometimes the guest becomes unhappy. While some have a “my way or the highway” mentality and won’t be satisfied until they have unleashed all their wrath, no matter how small the error, onto whatever poor soul has been sent to deal with the situation, most are not like this. That said, all have a distaste, even momentarily, that needs to be addressed. Simply acknowledging that something is wrong can diffuse a heightened situation.

When facing a client, think about your intention. What is your original goal? If they are upset, ask where did you misstep? Did you? Is this a situation worth losing a customer over? Is this person a repeat offender (just it in for the gift card)? Is there an easy solution so everyone leaves happy? There’s no across-the-board solution, no cookie-cutter outcome. Address each person as an individual, listen to their needs, and validate how they are feeling.

Giving a little extra to make your customers happy has the potential to strengthen your business. Giving even when someone is perfectly satisfied can be a nice surprise.

Be gracious.

Be kind.

Elevate your service.

By: Alissa Trumbull

The following two tabs change content below.

Alissa Trumbull

Latest posts by Alissa Trumbull (see all)