Great Customer Service is About Small Details

If you own or manage a customer service business, the recipe for exceptional service boils down to the small details.

My family and I recently returned from a vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Traveling outside the United States gives reason for apprehension something might go wrong. Whether it is security delays, customs, the threat of terrorism, or just the inconvenience of traveling makes vacationing more difficult than ever before. Many times what could have been a great vacation gets ruined by small details.

My wife handles all my travel and our family vacation arrangements. In this case, she used the Internet to plan our entire vacation, causing me greater apprehension something would go wrong.

As our plane circled the airport in Los Cabo, all I could see was one small landing strip among the cactus, sand, and desert. My brain kicked into gear and began to analyze all the mistakes, bad service, or disasters awaiting us.

To my surprise, transportation was standing by for us at the airport. The 45-minute trip to the resort was uneventful. The air-conditioning in the van worked perfectly. The driver was courteous and helpful. I was beside myself.

The arched gateway of La Hacienda Del Mar Beach Resort greeted our arrival. The doorman took our baggage and asked one profound question: “Would you like margaritas or lemonade?” After traveling on a plane for eight hours and 45 minutes, small details become magical.

If you own or manage a customer service business, the recipe for exceptional service boils down to the small details. Some of those details may be as simple as friendly employees, clean bathrooms, or something that adds value to the customer experience. When designing your customer service plan, consider what small details you can provide making your place of business stand out in the hearts and minds of your customers. Consider the following.

I rarely visit art museums and galleries, but I was attracted to a small one near my hotel in San Francisco. This place was a treasure trove of paintings from both the living and the dead. There were actual originals by many of the masters, including my personal favorite–Normal Rockwell. In fact, one of my best loved works was right there in front of my eyes. It was his picture with the Boy Scout. I was overwhelmed with this place, and so impressed I gave my business card to one of the people working there. As a result, I now get e-mails from this gallery every time they have a showing. Most businesses lose 15-20% of their customers each year because they do not keep in touch. This gallery’s e-mail marketing strategy provides an easy and inexpensive way to keep itself memorable. I only wish I had the money to purchase one of those pieces of art.

The Lost Sock, a laundromat in Richmond, VA, has added a totally new dimension to the soapy floors and broken washers normally found in most Laundromats. Every Thursday night they have an “open mike” event. About 100 guests come to wash their laundry, have a few beers, and watch their friends perform.

A unique store located in Stone Mountain, GA, specializes only in hot sauces and spices. They include a $2.00 bill with a little red pepper-shaped sticker applied to the back of the bill with the customer’s change. The sticker has their store name and phone number. Since most people don’t give out $2 bills, customers usually carry them in their wallets for a long time, and show them to their friends. This bill and its accompanying sticker become a marketing campaign for the business.

The Jordan Furniture stores, located in Massachusetts, sell more furniture per square foot than any other furniture store in the country. Everything from their zany television commercials, purple painted parking lots and the Multi-media Motion Odyssey Movie ride, commonly known as MOM, helped to build a million-dollar industry. Loading dock employees occasionally dress in tuxedos. When shoppers drive around the back to pick up their furniture, they surprise them by washing their car windows, car tires and provide free hot dogs.

One hardware store dramatically increased its sales and improved its level of customer service by allowing employees to design their customer service strategy. The store owners wanted to design a more customer focused and bottom-up, employee-driven store, where everyone could take ownership. The end result was a task force consisting of supervisors, managers, and front-line employees who designed a pocket card with the “20 Commandments of Customer Service.” Now each manager and employee carries this card with them at all times. The store is enjoying improved employee attitudes, reduced turnover, and a rising level of customer service in the store.

Early in the 90’s, the Ritz-Carton hotels increased sales by $75 million using 500,000 less man-hours by eliminating small defects and recurring problems affecting their guests. They created a form called the Internal Defect Form (IDF). Any employee noticing a deficiency or defect during the workday completes an IDF. All forms were forwarded to the hotel Quality Office for consolidation. The Quality Office tracks them and sent them to the appropriate department for action. Department managers and Quality Coaches took action to improve, repair or replace the defect.

The important thing to remember is the small, seemingly insignificant details have a major impact on good service. Average organizations ignore or overlook minor customer inconveniences. Excellent organizations focus on the details.

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