The motel staff at the Best Western, W. Ohio St. in Chicago, was great during my recent stay for Graph Expo. But over the past month, I came to the conclusion that the United States needs to continue to raise the bar in customer service. We are all responsible for serving our fellow citizens and visitors.
Over the past month, I made a point to observe and analyze when receiving customer service.
Story #1: Not all Best Western’s are created equal, but the one in Chicago is great.
They did so many things well, but one conversation stands out as worth noting. It came after a long day of show going. I enquired about a good restaurant nearby and Mario at the front desk asked me about my budget and what I was looking for. He then almost demanded I go to Barnelli’s, in a nice sort of way. He said “You gotta go Barnelli’s.”
I asked him about the price and he said the food was great and that you could get a tuna fillet sandwich for $7. I was skeptical, since we were in Chicago and I didn’t want fast food, and especially since I am from the Northeast and we don’t trust anyone. I went. WOW, was he right. Great food, great price, great service.
How many of your print buyers demand that friends go to you for printing? “You gotta go here for your printing needs.” Think about it. Mario is this restaurant’s best marketing and lead generator.
What percentage of your customers are “Very Likely” to recommend you to others? Ask them. On average 82 percent of print buyers will be “very likely” to recommend a printer they work with. The best-run printers rate over 90 percent consistently—every month, every year. And these printers are typically more profitable and less stressed. Story #2. I’ll just say it was with a major cell phone company.
I don’t want to bash a specific brand, but the story is pretty funny. My daughter needed a cell phone and we went to look at a family minutes plan. A 20-something-year-old came to wait on us as he was looking at his cell phone and texting. Strike one.
Next, as he was gathering my information, he was looking at his monitor on the desk and blurted out, “They are bringing back the SST.” I said, “WHAT?” He went on to explain a random thought about how the supersonic jet was about to be made again. I said, “Oh, great,” but wondered where that comment was coming from.
As we got into the phone setup, he blurted out another text message verbally to my daughter “Wear earrings?” I’m was thinking, “Is that a sentence?” My daughter said, “No” and he moved on with the installation. I looked at her and whispered, “What did he say?” She went on to explain that she thinks he asked because a friend of hers wears earrings and they scratch the film protector coding on the glass of the cell phone. Oh, I get it now. How silly of me not to follow his line of thinking!
At that point, I had to ask him how much he text messages. He explained that he is between 15,000 and 20,000 text messages a month now and feels good about it since in high school he was up around 35,000 a month. I can’t fathom that, but now I fully understand why he has A.D.D. and why he can’t communicate verbally. Be careful hiring text message junkies. It could affect your customer service. Story #3: Joanne’s Fabric. I have five kids and my other daughter needed fabric to make a costume.
Joanne’s Fabirc was just great, and this is an example of how two out of three great experiences and a little quirkiness can make shopping fun. I went to the fabric table and there was a little backup at the cutting station, so another CSR came to help us. When she saw that I had Corduroy, she blurted out with a grimace, “I can’t touch corduroy. It’s like fingers on a chalkboard.” She then walked away.
I felt like saying, “You work in a fabric store and can’t psychologically deal with Corduroy!” The CSR next to her explained that she was serious. I couldn’t help but laugh, but I shouldn’t have put salt in the wound. How rude of me. Weird, huh?
The other two CSRS were great and I will definitely go back there. They are passionate about fabric and how to make clothing, and were a great help. Very knowledgeable, too. It reminded me of the old days when everyone was laid back and just sewing and knitting. I bet everyone that works there knits. Corduroy will never be looked at the same again.
Lesson: it is OK for your business to have a little quirkiness and it can make it fun. Read the book, the “Purple Cow.”
What is your purple cow? Story #4: Ichiban Karate Studio.
We just started evaluating karate lessons a month ago and the studio gave four of my children a free month to see if it would be right for us. At that point, we would need to sign a nine-month contract. Big bucks, and at first I felt it could be a scam, but the studio was really customer service oriented and sincere.
The free-month trial is standard practice. At the end, you decide how many days of lessons you want and figure out how you will manage it. Well, yesterday was the big day when I needed to sign three contracts, one for each of my three children who wanted to continue. It was very formal and contractual agreement with a monthly deduction, but the main person there must have asked me five times if I had any questions or concerns. Also, even though there is a contract, I understood the reason for it and the studio has flexibility in its terms.
Everyone at this place was so customer service oriented and it had a great culture. I met five different trainers and all were top notch with an obvious passion for what they do. I felt it was more than just money, but that they cared to do it right. Even their creed that everyone recites at the beginning of each class includes treating everyone with respect. They walk the talk from the top down! Think about your culture from top to bottom.
Good luck with offering the best customer service you can, and please share your stories as well. We can learn a lot from others who are in the trenches day in and day out.
As you approach 2012, it may be a good time to think about your culture, policies, hiring practices, purple cows, and how you magnify these during customer interactions to wow them on every transaction.