Last week, I read perhaps the best article that has come across my screen in 2016 on the topic of customer service: The Secret Lives of Hotel Doormen by Noam Scheiber. For me, it clarified the distinction between ordinary and extraordinary customer service.
While reading the article—although it doesn’t appear anywhere in the text—I found myself drawn to the word ‘nuance’ which is defined as “a subtle difference in or shade of meaning, expression, or sound.” And when I searched for synonyms of the term, I uncovered these words: ‘refined’, ‘subtle’, and ‘distinct’. It occurred to me that what tends to separate rare, extraordinary customer service from its common, ordinary counterpart is the service provider’s consistent display of deft nuance as opposed to his reliable execution of a predictable transaction.
Most customer service is transactional and obvious. For example, it’s expected of a hotel doorman to open the car door for a guest arriving by taxi and retrieve her suitcase from the trunk—perhaps glancing at the luggage tag to obtain the guest’s name in the process. Contrast this performance with the subtlety and nuance displayed by Gary Sykes, the hotel doorman profiled in the article. Mr. Sykes habitually inspects arriving vehicles for stray cell phones and wallets. He also verifies guests’ names by cross-referencing the name on the luggage tag with the up-to-date, airline-issued baggage label to avoid mistakes.
This subtlety is what distinguishes customer service excellence from the pedestrian variety that, sadly, many customers have come to expect. It’s true that nuance is never obvious. This explains why most service providers fail to detect it.
Don’t settle for ordinary. Choose extraordinary. (It’s always a choice.) 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.
New! Cascade the lessons from Delight Your Customers throughout your department, division, or entire organization. Order the Delight Your Customers Companion Guide by Steve Curtin and Brian O’Neill.
Watch the 90-second book trailer.
Illustration by Aaron McKissen.