At the end of the day, service is really about making someone feel cared for. That’s it. We can talk about steps of service, touchpoints, and exceeding expectations until we are exhausted, but if your customers don’t feel like you genuinely care about them (or their issue), then true service really has not taken place. To make that point clearer, I propose that for service to be special, it must be three things: Memorable. Valuable. Relevant. The customer should remember it, find it valuable, and be relevant to their specific issue.
A friend of mine was travelling on business to Minneapolis and stayed at the Sofitel Hotel. His birthday happened to be during this trip, and while his clients remembered and wished him, happy birthday, some of his family members back home didn’t. Suffice to say, he was a bit depressed that evening. While at dinner, a server noticed his demeanor and inquired if he was OK. He decided to share his story, and she immediately wished him a happy birthday. Also, the server went and told all of her colleagues in the restaurant and throughout the hotel about his birthday. Several employees put some money together and went to the hotel gift store to buy a birthday card and everyone signed it. They presented the signed card to him before he finished dinner. Memorable. Valuable. Relevant.
On a trip to Denver, Colorado, I met a textbook example of someone who works like he owns it. He is a shuttle bus driver for the Enterprise Rent-a-car location at Denver International Airport. When I left the main airline terminal and walked outside to the Enterprise shuttle, he was eagerly waiting to greet the approaching passengers, and said, “Welcome to Denver!” One passenger had a baby and a baby stroller, so before beginning to drive, he reminded her to ensure that the stroller wheels were locked in place.
He then inquired if it was anyone’s first trip to Denver. He followed up by announcing the weather forecast for that evening and the following day. When I say that he gave the weather forecast, I don’t just mean the high and low temperatures. The driver went into full TV meteorologist-mode and gave the wind conditions, precipitation, chance of snow, etc. He then inquired if anyone was planning to go skiing while in town. One gentleman answered yes, and he then told him the phone # (and specific phone extension) for the “roadside conditions hotline”. Memorable. Valuable. Relevant.
Sometimes you will serve with all your heart, and not get a “thank you”. Give anyway. Not only may they not thank you, but in the MIDST of you serving, they may complain about something else. Give anyway. As difficult as it may be sometimes, your genuine service to others should not be dependent upon whether they say thank you or not. Of course, we are all human and have feelings so a little appreciation would be nice. But do not make your service delivery contingent upon other people’s gratitude. Give anyway.
Often times, people ask me about the first thing they should do to develop a team of people who deliver engaging service. The first thing I tell them is to make service the most important thing on the team. It cannot be equal to any other objective, and it certainly can’t be an item on a to-do list (i.e. Service will be a key focus this year). Every process on your team has to be anchored in service. Basically, anyone should be able to look at ANY of your team members, and see that exceptional service is how the team measures its success. Furthermore, any new employee should be able to immediately tell from the interview that “this team is different from any other team that I’ve been a part of”.
The immense power of a kind word, gesture or action can have lasting effects that transcend your company’s mission. In order for customers to feel deeply cared for, your team has to deeply care about service. So go ahead and create memorable, valuable and relevant experiences for as many people as you can. Your customers will appreciate it and you will create a competitive advantage that is hard to imitate, match or beat.