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Exceptional service is rare, but not extinct

StegosaurusDuring a recent trip to Lakeshore Learning Store in Lone Tree, Colorado, I debated which set of Giant Soft & Safe Dinosaurs to buy my preschooler for Christmas. I chose the set containing a pterodactyl. As I laid the package on the counter, the cashier, Pete, affirmed my choice, exclaiming, “Oh yeah. You have to get the set with the pterodactyl!”

Then, noticing the stegosaurus in the mix, he added, “And this set also contains a stegosaurus. Did you know the stegosaurus was named the state dinosaur of Colorado?”

I said, “I had no idea. But thanks for letting me know because now I have a story!”

During our brief exchange, Pete demonstrated that his job is made up of two parts: job function and job essence.

Job functions refer to the tasks or duties associated with his job role such as ringing up purchases, processing payments, and providing sales receipts. Job functions are mandatory. Pete is paid to execute job functions. And customers expect for retail employees to carry out these types of job functions.

The other part of Pete’s job on display was job essence. Job essence refers to an employee’s highest priority at work, which, for most service industry employees, is to create a promoter. A promoter is a customer who is less price-sensitive, has higher repurchase rates, and is responsible for 80-90 percent of the positive word-of-mouth about a company or brand.

Job essence provides the story. Pete’s decisions to convey authentic enthusiasm about the set containing the pterodactyl and share unique knowledge about the stegosaurus reflected the essence of his job. Unlike job function, job essence is voluntary and there’s no additional cost to an employer for employees to display it. And since job essence is often unexpected by customers, it tends to leave a lasting positive impression.

Not all employees recognize that their jobs are made up of two parts. Many employees operate under the assumption that their jobs are made up entirely of job functions. If you’re skeptical, just ask your own employees to describe for you what their jobs entail. My hunch is you’ll receive a list of tasks or duties associated with their job roles (i.e., job functions). And there will likely be no mention of job essence.

While employees consistently execute mandatory job functions for which they are paid, they inconsistently demonstrate voluntary job essence for which there is no additional cost. That’s why encounters with employees like Pete are so rare.

When the majority of retail transactions, especially during the crush of the holiday shopping season, are process-focused and forgettable, it’s refreshing to meet a cashier like Pete who, by choosing to reflect job essence, creates experiences for shoppers that are customer-focused and memorable.

Have you met any ‘Petes’ this holiday shopping season?

Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.
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