Great Service Is … A Choice, Focused and Personal, a Clear Expectation
Copyright 2014 by Virgo Publishing.
By:
Posted on: 04/22/2011



 

By Rob Thompkins

“What’s dat fing?” my five-year-old daughter recently asked me while we dined at her favorite restaurant. My obvious response was, “What fing?” She then pointed under the recently vacated table next to ours. There, on the floor in a crumpled mass, lay a child’s doll. To be more specific, it was none other than “Woody,” the cowboy from the children’s movie Toy Story. I sat for a moment awaiting a heroic rescue by Buzz Lightyear, but when it became obvious Buzz was to be a no-show, I walked over and scooped up the doll.

I sat back down and immediately pulled the string on his back (you would too), at which point Woody exclaimed, “You’re my favorite deputy!” I guess I am, Woody, I just saved your butt!

When the restaurant manager walked by a few minutes later, I explained what had occurred. The manager could’ve responded in a variety of ways including a simple “thank you,” but his response was perfect. He said, “I’m sure someone is going to be pretty upset when he realizes he’s missing. I’m going to try and track down the owner. Thank you for finding him.” That was the end of my journey with Woody, and the beginning of this article.

Great Service Is a Choice

In the self-storage industry, we’re faced with the challenge of renting three metal walls, a concrete floor and a roll-up door to customers, and our competitors are renting a wall/floor/door combo that looks remarkably like ours. While we continue to find new and creative ways to differentiate our product, one tried and true method will always remain—providing great customer service.

Great service is a choice that combines a desire to do the right thing, some creativity, and good business practice. The manager I mentioned above was faced with a choice. The easier path would have been to say “thank you” and disappear to the back of the restaurant to toss the doll into the lost and found bin. Instead, he chose to seek the doll’s owner.

Let’s assume he was able to research the credit card activity for that day, find the family who was sitting at the table, and contact them. Certainly, they would be thrilled. What if he then decided to drop off the doll off at the family’s house, with permission of course, on his way home? What if he attached a balloon for the child?

Choices like these are made every day by individuals who truly desire to make people happy, yet understand the positive implications for the business they represent.

Great Service Is Focused and Personal

Recently, I was shopping at one of the large retail stores whose name ends in “mart.” As I was preparing to check out, I noticed the cashier, or rather “service associate,” having a conversation with the coworker bagging items. As the last of my goods made their way into a bag, the associate turned to me and said which one of these common phrases?

  • How are you today, sir?
  • Have you enjoyed your shopping experience?
  • Sir, did you find everything you needed today? We want to help you however we can.
  • Cash or credit?

If you chose the last option, you’re correct. I said, “credit,” at which point she returned to her conversation. She returned my card without looking at me, and said something to the effect of “Thngufirshoppn__mrt. Hvanicdy,” which I would loosely translate as “Thank you for shopping at ___mart. Have a nice day.”

I was in a playful mood, so I decided to say, “I’m sorry?” At which point, she turned to me and said, “What?” Whereupon I said, “I didn’t hear what you said.” Then, she said, “I didn’t say anything.” Then I said, “You said something.” We were well on our way to creating a retail version of Abbot and Costello’s “Who’s on First” bit when her coworker cut in and explained, “She said, have a nice day.” I then responded with a smile, “Oh, thank you. You, too.”

One could write a doctoral thesis on this poor service experience, but I’ll focus on what happened at the end. This particular chain store’s intention was to thank customers for their business, which is great. However, over time and as a result of poor leadership, that “thank you” has become an unintelligible garbled mass of words that no longer carry any meaning. This exercise has become so routine that employees don’t even remember what they’re saying.

Great service is focused and personal. It’s about the intention behind the words, not simply saying the words. It involves one-on-one contact with individualized attention. Great service isn’t going through the motions; it’s friendly and helpful with the end goal of creating a life-long customer.

Great Service Is a Clear Expectation

We’ve all witnessed and been impressed by those who provide outstanding service, those who’ve made service an art form. We’re also too familiar with marginal or poor service. In our own organizations, we need to create a clear expectation and definition of great service by simply showing what we think it looks like.

In the early part of my career, I worked in the hotel industry. At one point, I became incredibly frustrated with a person who was a part of my front-desk team because he just didn’t seem to understand “great service.” One day, I realized I was actually the problem. During each discussion I had with this employee, I referenced “great service” without describing what I felt it was. I never explained what great service looked like. I assumed everyone knew, and he was just missing the mark.

In reality, he never understood what I was looking for. As a result, I decided to clearly illustrate to my team what we were trying to achieve by using examples and even role play. We grew to build an award-winning service team with a reputation for providing the best service in our market.

Without clear expectations, quality individuals who’ve never witnessed “great service” may not know what it looks like. It’s up to our leaders to provide that vision. Great service starts with a clearly communicated company mission and an individualized expectation for those carrying it out. We need to hire and train people who truly understand and value the power of identifying service opportunities. Our teams should embrace those opportunities in an effort to keep our customers happy and provide them with a story to tell to their friends.

In many ways, our business model may look a lot like our competition; but if we can harness the potential great service offers, the possibilities are limitless, maybe even “to infinity and beyond.” (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

Rob Thompkins is the director of customer care at Storsmart Insurance, a provider of tenant-insurance products. To reach him, call 888.545.SMART; e-mail rthompkins@storsmartinsurance.com ; visit www.storsmartinsurance.com .