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That little extra…

SparksI’ll skip the introductory paragraph about how bad the economy is and how smart business people are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to offer more value to their customers because—assuming you haven’t been riffed and the lights are still on—you already know this.

The point of this post is to reinforce the importance of exceptional customer service that transcends the ordinary and approaches the extraordinary.

In today’s economy, consumers increasingly scrutinize the “value for price paid” of a product or service. While exceptional customer service adds value, most service organizations fail to deliver it.

In some cases they fail because managers either don’t recognize what exceptional customer service is or have not adequately communicated it to frontline staff. And when they do recognize and communicate it, they often fail to consistently model the behavior themselves.

Here are three truths about exceptional customer service that all service organization managers should recognize and communicate to every employee:

  • It is the essence—the most critical aspect, the highest priority—of every employee’s job role.
  • It is always optional. An employee chooses to deliver exceptional customer service.
  • In most cases, it costs no more to deliver than poor customer service. In other words, it’s free.

And it’s not enough to simply recognize and communicate these truths. You must model exceptional customer service at all times.

If you’re reading this post and are responsible for customer service outcomes in your company or department, I challenge you to take the first step toward enhancing the quality of customer service that you provide to your customers and model for your staff.

Simply answer the following question and then pose it to members of your staff:

Q: What “little extras” can you offer customers that will add value to the product or service you provide and reinforce your highest priority: exceptional customer service?

Here are some examples of “little extras” that I have experienced as a customer:

  • Chick-fil-A, a quick service restaurant, provides a mint with each order—similar to full service restaurant.
  • The General Motors dealership that services my car always washes it before pulling it around front and delivering it to me.
  • Our garbage collector always brings the trash cans from the curb to the top of our driveway.
  • Papa Murphy’s Take ‘N’ Bake Pizza gives me a two-stamp head start on my pizza loyalty card. Now I’m 17 percent closer to a free pizza!
  • Starbucks Coffee on occasion offers complimentary samples of ground coffee, pastries, and specialty coffee drinks.
  • Tony’s Market in Denver, CO includes preparation instructions on its meat packaging (e.g., oven/grill temps, meat temps, etc.).
  • The Wine Experience in Aurora, CO serves its coffee tableside in French presses.
  • I recently worked with a hotel in New York City whose front desk clerks spontaneously send guests “Connection Cards” intended to welcome them, acknowledge something they shared during their check-in (e.g., reason for their hotel stay, the Broadway show they plan to see, the restaurant they plan to visit, etc.), and provide the clerk’s name and extension number for further assistance.
  • The professional waiters at Sparks Steak House in New York City are adept at changing the table linens between entrée and dessert courses without removing your wine glasses or exposing the tabletop.

Sometimes these “little extras” are tangible (e.g., Chick-fil-A’s mints) and other times they are intangible aspects of the service experience (e.g., the changing of table linens at Sparks Steak House). In most cases they are unexpected and transform an ordinary experience into one that’s extraordinary!

Once you identify the “little extras” that will add value to the product or service you offer, don’t keep them a secret. Communicate the importance of exceptional customer service to anyone who will listen and share the ideas that you and others generate to fulfill this standard of customer service. Most importantly, model these “little extras” for all to see—employees and customers alike!

By doing so, you will elevate the quality of customer service you currently deliver and will be providing enhanced value to your customers.

The difference between ordinary and extraordinary really is that “little extra.”

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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