I have been on the receiving end of some excellent customer service lately. A few weeks ago a popular local sushi restaurant was slammed and we had slower-than-average service. It was a social dinner, so none of us were fazed as it gave us time to talk. When the check came, we were pleasantly surprised to find coupons for free appetizers and 15% off. This past weekend, my favorite Friday night eatery seemed busier than usual, so we took a seat at the bar and ended up eating there, where service was also (expectedly) slower than at a table. Without a single complaint on our part, we were again pleasantly surprised at the free item and 15% off on our check. And today, I got $5 off my state car inspection as a “preferred customer discount” because the shop was running a similar campaign for new customers. This has me thinking about good customer service and why it is so difficult for some organizations to attain.
Poor customer service is fairly easy to spot. We don’t have to be an expert to know when something is wrong. Generally, we know how we want to be treated at a restaurant and we know how customers should be treated. And we’ve all been in a position where we have been underwhelmed by a company’s customer service efforts. But if good customer service is so intuitive, why is it so hard to find?
As I was writing this blog post, I happened upon The Greatest Customer Service Story Ever Told, Starring Morton’s Steakhouse, which I think illustrates the reason why quite well. In short, this is what happened:
Clearly, this is a bit of a PR stunt on their part, but as Mr. Shankman proceeds to explain his surprise, it becomes very clear:
“Morton’s Hackensack is 23.5 miles away from EWR, according to Google Maps. That meantthat in just under three hours, someone at Morton’s Corporate had to see my tweet, get authorization to do this stunt, get in touch with Morton’s Hackensack, and place the order. Then Morton’s Hackensack had to cook the order, get it boxed up, and get a server to get in his car, and drive to Newark Airport (never an easy task, no matter where you’re coming from) then, (and this is the part the continues to blow me away,) while all this was happening, track down my flight, where I was landing, and be there when I walked out of security!
Think about all the things that could have gone wrong: My flight could have been delayed or diverted. I could have exited out a different location. (Had I taken the AirTrain and not had a driver, I never would have even exited that way!) I could have just missed him all together, I could have landed early, etc., etc… I have no doubt that countless companies think like that. They think along the lines of ‘Oh, too many logistics. That’ll never work,’ and they leave it at that.”
Actions like these require a well-organized, adaptable company. I have a feeling they have superior customer service in their restaurants. So it seems good customer service goes beyond simple observation and good intentions; it requires accurate awareness, authentic concern, and efficient operations too.
Ways you can improve customer service at your organization:
- Gather feedback about your business. Find a way to be objective and see the reality. In a retail or restaurant business, you can use mystery shoppers to help evaluate service. You can also use surveys to gather data.
- Assess areas where customer service falls short. Look at strengths to find areas of improvement, compare departments within your organization to each other, or compare a certain function to industry benchmarks.
- Don’t settle for a quick fix; look for the root cause. Ask why, why, and why again to fully understand the issue.
- Go above and beyond. What can you do to wow your customers, clients, employees? Take a risk — find a way to get it done.
- Give employees enough autonomy so they can worry about pleasing the customer rather than following the procedures.
- Rinse and repeat with your evaluations. What you are doing well today, may turn out to be a weak spot in a few months thanks to new competitors, different employees, seasonal trends, technological innovations, etc.
- Share your organization’s customer service success stories to keep the inspiration alive.