Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

One powerful change that costs nothing but pays off big

If you ever want to know how people really feel about the customer service they receive on a daily basis, try this simple yet revealing, experiment.

The next time you’re in a group, pose the question: “How many of you had a remarkable customer experience in the last 30 days? Not a decent experience, in which a company merely did what it was supposed to, or went a tiny bit above, but truly remarkable.”

You might be surprised by what you learn. I once posed this question to a group of about 300 people. Only 20 percent could point to a recent occasion when a company really caught their attention with its standard of care. Even more startling: It was not the biggies — Starbucks, Nordstrom, Southwest — that provided that remarkable service.

These people had a memorable encounter at the local dry cleaners, where the proprietor took extra time to sew on a button. They recalled a clerk at a small hardware store who helped them put together a leaf blower and then walked them out to the parking lot to load it into their car. One person described making a restaurant reservation for an anniversary and being delighted to find that in honor of the special occasion, the chef served every course of the meal.

Do you think these people went back to that dry cleaners, that hardware store, that restaurant? You bet. I’m almost certain they told other people about their great experience — in fact, I know they did, because they shared it with me — but chances are high they also sang the companies’ praises to friends, family, maybe even coworkers. Your company cannot buy that level of enthusiasm and loyalty, no matter how much you spend. But there is no doubt that a high — remarkably high — level of service will show up in your bottom line.

“Great service” doesn’t mean much until you thoughtfully consider and spell out what that means specifically for your organization. At entreQuest, our team identified three behaviors that reflect our values. Performed consistently, these behaviors give our clients the service they deserve and the experience we want to provide. First, we make our commitments realistic; second, we follow through on promises completely; and third, we display integrity and accountability to the extreme. When our team does these three things, we can be confident our customers’ experience is not simply good, not simply great, but remarkable.

Understanding the difference between these levels of service is important. Sadly, many consumers are so accustomed to terrible service that they are delighted when a company merely does what it’s supposed to. A restaurant meal cooked properly and served quickly by a friendly person? Great! A newspaper subscription delivered to your home every morning, all in one piece? Well done! Truly exceptional service has become so rare that you can make a powerful impression, and a lasting one, by making that a top priority in your company.

The best part? This does not require new equipment, new hires or new products. All this requires is a willingness — a deep, relentless commitment — to give your customers something special. That could be as simple and inexpensive as a handwritten note thanking them for their business. It could be making it as easy as possible to do business with you, reviewing your operation top to bottom, from the customer’s perspective, for pain points. It could be asking your customers for feedback and then honestly taking it to heart.

So, the next time you’re in a group of people, try that experiment. Ask the question. Ask the question of your employees, your customers, yourself. You might be surprised by what you learn.