Customer Service Heaven

The flip side of Customer Service Hell is Customer Service Heaven. I see it fairly frequently in my travels, and it always engenders the same response in me: I want to hire the person providing it.

I lately went on a trip to California where I had brunch with a friend of mine and her young daughter in the hotel restaurant. After we sat down our server promptly came over to help us. She looked us each in the eye, introduced herself (Marilyn), and commented on how nice we looked. When Marilyn took our drink orders she offered to bring the 3-year-old’s in a cup with a lid and asked if she could take the knife out of the child’s place setting for us. I don’t know if this woman has children of her own or not, but she obviously has the common sense to know that they are likely to spill and don’t use knives.

When she returned to take our orders we all asked for the buffet. “How old is your daughter?” Marilyn asked my friend. Upon learning that the girl is three she says with a smile “I think we can let her have the buffet for free.” This might be restaurant policy and it might not be, but Marilyn has just made us feel that we’re receiving special treatment.

After we get our food our waitress does not forget about us but comes back to check on us, and even lets us know when she’s going on her break and that José will check on us while she’s away. And lo and behold, José does indeed come over to check on us while she’s away.

I want to hire Marilyn. I want to hire anyone like Marilyn I can find. I like to tell my clients that with the exception of certain special jobs where you must hire for talent or esoteric knowledge or qualifications, when it comes to hiring, they should hire for character, work ethic, and attitude. The new employee can learn the rest on the job. Stanley Marcus of Neiman Marcus said “We hire nice, friendly people and teach them sales. We can’t teach them to be nice and friendly. That was their parents’ job.”

The Flip Side of Customer Service Hell

Since my post on Customer Service Hell, I have been reminded that there is a flip side to my rant. In fact, more than one flip side. (Maybe the customer service model is a hexagon.) One of those sides is the same problem viewed from the perspective of the provider of the service, i.e. the clerk or salesperson in a retail store. You can get your laughs here. Then, of course, when you are working in the professional services industry, the customers are called “clients” and merit their own website.

(Another flip side is truly wonderful customer service. I’ll post about that next.)

More Tales From Customer Service Hell

     I travel a lot, which means I get to spend a fair amount of time in (spooky voice) Customer Service Hell. Here are a few recent episodes.

1.    I enter a U.S. Airways cross country flight and take my place in the first class cabin (no, I’m not super-rich, I just have lots of miles). The cabin is filthy. There are crumbs on the center arm rest. There is trash in the pouch attached to the back of the seat in front of me. It’s gross. I call the flight attendant over and (nicely) complain. She tells me I should write to Phoenix. I ask what’s in Phoenix, and she says that’s where the company HQ is. She opens to the back of an in-flight magazine, indicates the address, and drops it in my lap. "We used to have people to clean the cabins, but they took that away in our last contract," she says.

     I hardly know where to begin my commentary. With whom does the fault lie? With the company that went cheap on customer service and then left its employees to deal with the fallout? With the employee who can’t hide her bitterness and trashes her employer? With the American public (i.e. you and me) which has, by its purchasing behavior, told the airlines that the only criterion on which we will base our buying decision is price?

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Giving Branding A New Meaning

The idea of “branding” is pretty simple. It is an attempt to create an impression of you, or your company, before anyone ever meets you, or needs your services. Most branding consists of establishing an image — a logo, a look-and-feel, a motto or “tag line” — and then repeating it everywhere, on everything: your stationery, your website, your brochure, your advertising, and so on. It’s probably safe to say that up until now most people had not thought of the human body as an appropriate canvas for branding, unless you count certain 16th century punishments used to identify habitual criminals. It is probably also safe to say that most folks would not be willing to contribute their skin as an advertising billboard. That is, unless they could get a free set of tires!