Good customer service is the most important value your company can provide to your customers. In a typical transaction, your customers expect everything to go smoothly, without delays or problems. For the purpose of this article, let’s call this “perfect” customer service. Customers simply expect their transactions to proceed in a timely manner with no surprises and without glitches. Any variation or miscue from their expectations usually ends in a negative experience which could cost you a customer—and no one wants that to happen. The good news is that you don’t have to deliver a life changing customer service experience… just a “perfect” one.
Here’s a customer service story I heard long ago. It’s a great example of both perfect and horrendous customer service happening at the same time.
A lady flew into the Denver airport, rented a car and checked into her hotel. She was scheduled to be the keynote speaker at a conference the following day at another location. The next morning she discovered her car would not start. She returned to the hotel lobby front desk to use a courtesy phone to call the rental car company.
“Sorry lady, there’s nothing I can do at this moment,” said the car agent. She pleaded and told him she had an important meeting to get to and needed a replacement car right away. After receiving absolutely no help, she hung up the phone angry, frustrated and ready to call a taxi. But quite unexpectedly, help arrived.
The young clerk working behind the desk looked at her and said, “I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation on the phone.” Reaching into his pocket he held out his car keys and saved the day with an unusually kind offer: “I’m going to be here all day. You can use my car.”
If this woman lives to be 100, she will never forget that young man behind the desk. Nor will she forget the hotel he worked for. Where do you think she likely stayed on her next trip to Denver?
When I worked at the Cleveland Clinic, we took care of people from around the world. We not only strived to provide a perfect customer service experience but we also had to be mindful of the patient’s culture. Sometimes providing this service took unexpected twists and turns.
For example: Our sleep lab called one day to say they had received a request from an attendant for a princess from a Middle Eastern country for CPAP equipment. They told me the therapist setting her up needed to be a woman, as the princess would have to unveil her face to be fitted for a mask. I asked for her name but the sleep lab did not have it. I thought to myself there would be no problem. My assumption was that I could call over to the Intercontinental Hotel and they would give me her name and contact information.
The Intercontinental is a beautiful, 5-star hotel built within the confines of the Cleveland Clinic. I called over to the hotel, identified myself and told them I was trying to obtain delivery information for a princess who was staying with them from a Middle Eastern country. The response from the front desk surprised me: “Which one? We have three princesses from Middle Eastern countries staying with us.”
We eventually did get her name and one of our female therapists did successfully set her up. It required patience, perseverance and a sense of medical patient humor to sort it all out and get the job done. In my experience, if you can practice those three “P’s”, your chances for achieving perfect customer service are greatly enhanced.
Providing a “Perfect” customer service experience is not an easy task. It is a skill set that requires clear communication, knowledge of your products, a calming presence, ability to read customers, acting skills, ability to handle surprises, persuasion skills, tenacity, and a willingness to learn. Every time you are in front of a customer, your company is in the spotlight. It’s how you greet your customers, how you listen to them, how you respond to them, and how you help them that will determine if you are providing the “Perfect” customer service experience.