Every once in a while I have the pleasure of interacting with a service provider who goes above and beyond. They redefine boundaries and set new bars for what the expectation of customer service should be. While they’re rare gems, you can find them if you look hard enough. I’d like to explore a couple of such experiences and deconstruct what made these experiences so great.
It was the morning of Christmas Eve and all through the house, no one was sleeping including my wife, my mom, my dad, my sister, my brother-in-law, the dogs or my kids… The holidays at my house tend to be a bit chaotic. With a mix of excitement and dread, I prepared for my annual sojourn to the fish counter. I needed to buy the traditional seven fish for the Christmas Eve dinner (I’m Italian. It’s what we do. No one can tell you why exactly – there are about ten different explanations for the tradition. All I know is I’m not tempting bad ancestral juju by breaking with the ancient ways).
I ended up at Whole Foods because they have incredibly high quality fresh catches. They’re also one of the few places where you can buy smelts in central Ohio (it’s another Italian thing…). I bought my seven fish and headed to the register. As the cashier was ringing up my final items, I realized I had forgotten the eggs to bread the fish. Under my breath I said “Shoot. Eggs.” Now in 95% of the rest of the grocery stores in America, this comment would have gone nowhere (which is what I intended). Not here. This young woman (let’s call her “Julie”) heard my comment, stopped what she was doing and asked “Did you forget your eggs sir?”
“Yeah. No problem. I’ll get them later.”
“Hang on.” Julie turned to another young Whole Foods associate walking by. “Susan, can you do me a favor and get this gentleman some eggs?” Turning back to me she said “Do you need a dozen? Grade A large? Free range? 100% organic? Galapagos Golden Neck Quail eggs?” (Remember, it was Whole Foods…).
“Ummmm… yeah. A dozen. Plain white is fine. I’m just breading the fish.”
Susan walked off and promptly returned with my eggs and went on her way. I don’t know if Susan was a cashier, the store manager, or the CEO. And she didn’t care – she simply knew a customer needed something and she met the need. Julie saw I had a problem and solved it on the spot (even though the manifestation of that problem was a couple of hushed words).
By now some of you are saying “Well sure Mike, it’s Whole Foods. For what they charge they should treat you like that.” Okay. Semi-fair point. Let’s look at example #2.
I hit a pothole by the mall. Twice (the second time was a week after the first). Okay – so I don’t always learn from my mistakes. I guess I figured with the outrageously high taxes I pay in my community they would have filled it in a reasonable amount of time. Bottom line – my right front tire was now unserviceable. I headed over to Discount Tire. Listen up Toto – we’re not in Whole Foods anymore. Notice DISCOUNT Tire. Not the first place you’d expect to get great service.
I walked in and was promptly greeted. Jason asked what was wrong and said “let’s go take a look.” On the way out, he held the door (a kind gesture). He examined the tire and saw it was toast. He asked about the spare and I popped the trunk. Unfortunately I forgot I had four boxes of junk back there. I grabbed the first one to throw it in the back seat and turned around to find Jason already putting two of the boxes in the back seat at the same time (clearly not in his job description). As we went back inside (he held the door again and said “After you sir”) he grabbed a bottle of water, handed it to me and told me it would be about thirty minutes. During the tire change, he came out not once, but twice to let me know the status of the work.
When the work was done, Jason came over with a smile and told me I was all set. He had me come over to check out and I prepared myself for $250 of pain (I buy good tires because as Michelin says, “So much is riding on my tires”). “That will be $92.59 sir.”
“Huh? Why so cheap?”
“I prorated the price of the new ones. It didn’t seem fair to charge you full price for a new one since the busted one still had a lot of tread left. Let me know if you need anything else. We’ve got you all taken care of. Thanks for coming in.”
Wow. DISCOUNT Tire. And here’s this kid going out of his way to be polite, explain things and give me a fair shake.
Uncommon service. Dramatically different businesses. Seemingly insignificant interactions (eggs and a blown tire). Interactions that have made me a very loyal customer to both organizations. What’s the magic? These folks cared. They went beyond the boundaries of their traditional job descriptions (cashier and tire guy). They didn’t see me as a credit card with legs. They even saw me as more than a customer. I was an individual who had some needs. They were insignificant needs to the rest of the world but they were important to me. Both Julie and Jason broke though the “normal” service boundaries and delivered memorable experiences.
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company trains a customer service concept called “radar on, antenna up” which is about listenting and watching for cues from customers about what they want so you can satisfy those needs. Seems to me like Julie and Jason are great examples of the concept. It’s not a hard concept to teach and the value of that strengthened customer relationship is immeasurable. Help your teams see your customers as people – meet their needs and they’ll be back. Again. And again. And again.
– Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC
Post script: I had another tire go flat on my truck the other day (I know… watch the nails and the potholes…). Guess who got my $278.00 for the new tire and the replacement option on the other three tires (because they pointed out that the $100 I’d spend on the option meant they would replace the other 3 tires FREE when they wear out which they’re pretty close to doing)? You got it. By the way, if you live in the Columbus, OH area, Discount Tire is located on Sawmill Road next to Arby’s (so you can get a beef & cheddar while they take care of your tires…). Pay them a visit – you’ll be happy you did.