A few years ago I had the opportunity to spend 12 weeks in our nation’s capital setting up a service desk for a major financial organization. During this period of time I stayed at the same hotel. This hotel was part of a large and respected chain. It was located a couple of blocks from Dupont Circle and a little over a mile from my work location. Easy walk to some great restaurants and some cool sights. Easy cab ride to and from work.
I check-in on Monday morning of my first week around 11:00AM. No problems since I am an elite member of the hotels “frequent sleeper” program. Get everything put away. I decide that I would like a Diet Pepsi so I go looking for a vending machine. Find one on the floor I am on. The only problem is that it is out of service. I discover that these machines are located on every other floor. Take the elevator to the next floor. Guess what, that one is also out of service. I do this one more time before heading to the lobby. After a bit of a discussion I find that the hotel is having a problem with their vendor and are in the process of securing a new one. I was also informed that I could get a Diet Pepsi at the bar which was open. Go there and they only serve Diet Coke. I get 2 at a cost of $5 and head back to the room. Put one in the refrigerator and drink the other one while checking email. I get dressed for work and head out.
That evening I walk down towards Dupont Circle and find an interesting place to eat. Food was great as was the service. As I am walking back I see a drug store and go in. They have a 12 pack of diet Pepsi on sale for $2.79. I get one, take it to the hotel and put it in the refrigerator. Now I am set for the rest of the week.
Friday rolls around and it is time to check out and head back to Atlanta. While checking out the hotel manager walks up. Evidently he sees that I have reservations for several weeks and strikes up a conversation with me. He then ask the “customer service” question; “How was your stay with us”. I respond that it was “OK”. That evidently was not the answer that he expected and he asked why it was just OK. I told him the Pepsi story and he seemed to understand. I went to work and from there to the airport.
Monday morning comes and I am on a Delta flight heading for DC. Arrive at the hotel and check in.
“Mr. Pogue, our manager wants to upgrade your room.”
“No problem, cool and thanks!”
Nice room, really nice view of DC. Now my Diet Pepsi quest starts again. Vending machines are still not working. Decide to just head to work and resolve this problem when I go to dinner. After another great dinner (DC does have some great places to eat) I stop by the drug store and buy a 12 pack of Diet Pepsi. Price is still $2.79.
Friday as I am checking out the manager shows up and we have another conversation. The customer service question is the same; “How was your stay”; same answer “OK”. We continue our conversation for a few minutes. My cab arrives so I head to work. From work I head to the airport for the flight home.
We repeated this for the next 10 weeks. During this time period I was upgraded to different type of rooms. One week I even got a suite. It was kind of cool. However, it was not really a big deal from my perspective since I was leaving for work at 7:00AM and arriving back at the hotel around 7:00PM. I would then go eat–so didn’t really get to spend much time in it other than doing email and sleeping. Each Monday also saw me stopping by the drug store on my way back to the hotel from dinner to get my 12 pack of Diet Pepsi, which remained at $2.79. Then each Friday at check-out the manager and I had the same conversation with the same question and answer. This seemed to really weigh on him since he couldn’t move me off of my “OK” answer to his “customer service question”.
Thursday of my last week arrives. As I am coming back from work the manager is in the lobby. We strike up a conversation and after a bit we sit down. Now what comes to light is the fact that he does not understand why I say my stays have only been “OK”. He talks about upgrading my room and I agree that was nice and thank him again for doing it. We talk a bit about this and that and then I tell him why I said thing were “OK”.
You see when we have expectations of a hotel, a restaurant, a company or an employee and they meet those expectations, they meet requirements, they are OK. Not a bad thing, but that is it, meets requirements. I explained to him that the reason that I stay at this particular hotel chain is that I expect certain things and they always provide them. Clean room, comfortable bed, clean bathroom, towels, free internet service; you get the picture. The hotel provided those things so they meet my expectations, they “meet requirements”, nothing more and nothing less. They did “OK”.
Then the “64 Thousand Dollar Question” comes out: “What could I have done differently or better to exceed your expectations?” Well, I told him that the answer is simple, do something that I didn’t expect. The answer is even simpler since you knew something about me, where to get it and how much it cost. He looked somewhat puzzled. I also told him that every week they always had my room ready when I checked in, which made the solution even simpler. Also, all the rooms that I was in had a refrigerator. The simple answer was; all you had to do to exceed my expectations was to put a 12 pack of Diet Pepsi in the refrigerator. Tell me about it when I checked; simple and easy. I did tell him that he would have probably wanted to keep doing it, but at $2.79 against what I was spending per week it would have been a great investment. It is the little things that we do, that companies do that make the difference between an “OK” and a “SUPER” or “WOW” experience.
Think about this. If you are staying in a particular hotel you have expectations. If they only meet your expectations then they meet requirements. If it is a restaurant it is the same. When we eat at a particular restaurant we expect good service and good food. If they provide it they meet requirements. The same applies when it comes to customer service. Most of us buy products based on personal experience or reputation. We will even pay more for certain brands. However, in almost all cases the big differentiator is service, customer service.
If you have a problem with something, how does the company resolve it. Most of the time they will resolve the problem but how they treat you while doing this is the most important factor, how they make you feel. I personally use LG monitors. I tried other brands. Shoot, I even went cheap a time or two. When they failed it was a hassle to get them to do anything. They would make me jump through all kinds of hoops and made me feel like it was something that I did. The first time I had an LG monitor fail I called them. The first thing that the service representative did was to apologize for my having a problem with my monitor. Not “turn it off and back on”, not “are you sure it is plugged in”, not “are you sure that there is power to it”, but simply “I am sorry that you are having a problem with your monitor”. They then asked me a couple of questions to verify the problem. While doing this they verified that it was still under warranty. Next question was about how I would like my replacement monitor shipped. The last thing that the service representative did was to ask me if I needed anything else and thank me for being a customer. I have been loyal to them ever since. I expected them to fix my problem one way or another. The loyalty comes from how I was treated.
There are other products and companies I am loyal to as well. Companies like Canon, Sony, Verizon, Ruger and Springfield just to name a few. When it comes to local businesses there is Lowes, 7 Tequilas Mexican Restaurant, AccuTemp Heating & Air and Publics. Each and every time I have dealt with one of these companies they have made me feel good about my decision to purchase their products or services. More importantly, each and every time the differentiator has been customer service.
One more example and I will close. I had flip phones through AT&T. Now they advertised they were the company with the fewest dropped calls. Based on my experience I have to question that. Seems I could not get out of my subdivision without my call dropping. I could not drive home from work without my call dropping at least one time. Traveling around the country in my job, forget about it; I explained things to a dead line more times than I could count. Anyway, I decided to get a new phone and change companies. I went to Verizon and got 2 new Droid X2s (my wonderful wife also needed one). I signed up for a calling plan, a text plan and a data plan. Now I have been involved in technology and customer service for 25 plus years but this phone intimidated me. I had only used my other phone for phone calls so all of this other stuff was new to me. My son said to think of the Droid as a computer that happens to be able to make phone calls. That helped me some. Anyway by the fourth day with my new Droid I had added apps, sent a few text messages and was even able to do a bit of web surfing. I had pushed about every button, looked at ever setting and done about everything I could think of to it.
I was out and about running some errands and noticed that I had no 3G service and nothing seemed to be working except the phone service itself. I was close to the Verizon store where I had purchased it, so I stopped by to show them my problem. I held the phone up to the rep and told them what it was not doing. They then ask me for the phone and in 15 seconds handed it back to me working. Now, I felt pretty, let me see, how do I want to put this, eh, stupid. The fact being that I had obviously done something that took a knowledgeable person all of 15 seconds to fix. Ah, but this person was not done with me yet. After getting it working they apologized from my having the problem and showed me how to fix it myself, should it ever happened again. They then told me that stuff like that happens all the time with new users. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t, but I sure felt better after they said it. I thanked them and as I was about to leave the they once again told me they were sorry that I had the problem and thanked me for being their customer.
Fixing the problem was important, fixing me was more important.
OK, think about this. It is the “little things” that make a big difference in our perception of a company. Think about the brands or services you are loyal too. Think about why you use them and give them your hard earned dollars. Think about why you tell your friends and family members to buy this or use that. I will bet that in almost all cases it boils down to the “little things” that they did. Remember that in these cases you are the customer. It is your decision to accept OK service or find those companies that provide “SUPER” or “WOW” experiences by doing the “little things” that go above and beyond your expectations.
I will leave you with a couple of things to think about. First, when people check out businesses on the internet most of the time they are looking for those that provide the best products and the best customer service. I can tell you that is 100% true in my case. I look for a product or service I look for the company that has the most positive customer service experiences. If I find a company that has a great price on a product or service, but has a low customer service rating, I will continue to look. I believe, that like myself, that most people are willing to pay a bit more knowing that if I do have a problem the company will be there to help. Think about my Verizon example. They were not the cheapest provider of the phone I got or the services I purchased, but they have been there every time that I needed help. In addition each and every time they have resolved the problem in addition to fixing me. I feel great about being their customer and I tell people they should buy Verizon products because of that.
Secondly, if your job involves providing some type of customer service you must remember that doing the “little things” will ultimately define how you and the company you represent will be viewed. You must understand that customers have a choice, just as you and I do. By you doing the “little things” and providing that “SUPER” or “WOW” customer experience you will drive the business forward and in the long run make it more successful.
I hope you have a SUPER Day!! God bless!!