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Outliers are interesting

A blog reader recently shared this story:

My family recently moved, but our kitchen was not completely finished. Making meals was difficult so we ordered take-out from a local New York Butcher Shoppe that offered a Wednesday meal special: basically $22 to feed a family of four to six, making this a very good deal.

The first time we tried it, the meal itself was great, but the side dish (advertised as broccoli salad) had pork in it. As someone who used to be Kosher and now just does not like pork anymore, I was disappointed to see it in a vegetable salad. I know this is the south, and pork shows up in ice cream due to its popularity. But still, a broccoli salad?

The next week, when we asked about pork in the side dish, they admitted it did have it but offered to substitute their (AMAZING!!!) mac and cheese. This alone is good customer service, but here is the kicker…

What makes this extraordinary is that the next week when we went to pick up the latest meal deal, they said without prompting, “Yes, the side dish has pork in it but we made a non-pork version just for you.”

Needless to say, they have ensured loyal customers in the future.

~Ilene B. (Atlanta, GA)

So, as it turns out, all the good folks at New York Butcher Shoppe had to do to earn Ilene’s loyalty was express genuine interest in her by recalling the way she prefers her broccoli salad. Too often, service providers convey indifference toward customers who share preferences that are outside the norm, aiming instead to satisfy the majority. Non-conforming outliers like Ilene are labeled by frontline employees as high-maintenance, hard to please, or even as “difficult” customers.

I prefer to view these customers, these exceptions, as providing opportunities to deliver exceptional customer service. If nine out of ten customers are happy with pork in their broccoli salads, then the tenth customer (who would prefer not to have pork in her salad) shakes things up! She wants something a little different. To me, this makes my interaction with her unique. It’s more interesting and memorable than the previous nine orders.

By accommodating her special request with a smile as opposed to a sigh, Ilene won’t feel as though she’s imposing, being difficult or hard to please. And because she is made to feel comfortable in her noncompliance, she will be more willing to return—even if this means displaying similar, discerning, behavior in the future.

Of course, when she no longer has to mention any of her individual preferences because of the relationship she has established with the service providers and their penchant for anticipating her needs, then there’s no coupon or discount valuable enough to lure Ilene (and her future referrals and spending) away.

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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