Everyone gives lip service to the importance of customer service, but few actually do it well. As a result, service gets “rubber-stamped” if delivered at all. Since your customers are human beings (not just a number or dollar sign) how might you give them more of what they really want rather than what is convenient for you?
Let me explain what I mean about being more transparent and giving the customer what they want with a little story. A few weeks ago I had gone out to eat to a brand new restaurant and bar. They had literally had their grand opening that same week. So, they were working out the kinks. That’s just the reality of things. I have no problem with that if it is handled right.
We each ordered entrees and then waited. And waited. And waited. All the tables around us were getting their food, finishing up, leaving, and we were still in a holding pattern. The waiter came by a few times to apologize for the delay and assure us our food was coming soon. Frankly after the second time it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t in a hurry or anything, I just wanted to know what was going on. Most “customer service” stops where this waiter stopped. However, the manager went a step further. She came over and explained to us why everything was delayed. She shared that when they cooked my dish the first time it simply didn’t meet their standards. So, rather than send out a dish that was less than acceptable, they chose to start over and cook a new one. That is why there was such a delay. Our first round of drinks and dessert would be on the house.
Now THAT is transparency. To me that makes the difference between “ok” service that may or may not have me return as a customer and service that makes me feel good and yearn to return. They could’ve just kept apologizing vaguely or blamed the kitchen or blamed it on just opening up. But they didn’t! They gave me a rational explanation for the delay that I could not only understand but also respect (wow – they have standards! They take pride in what comes out of their kitchen!). That takes courage, confidence, and a willingness to not hide behind smoke and mirrors.
Now, apply this to your business.
First the inner awareness: When something does not go as intended, are you afraid of being vulnerable so you find yourself hiding, avoiding, or being vague? What would it take for you to be confident and transparent about a circumstance?
Now the practical action: What will you do differently next time there is an opportunity to serve your customer better? Will you get on the phone and speak directly? Share more information and be more transparent (as appropriate)?
The great companies know how to do this and make it a habit (think: REI, Zappos, LL Bean, Ritz Carlton). Whether you are a company of millions or a company of one, you can do it too.
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