For many businesses, successfully creating a memorable customer experience is a big deal—a really BIG deal. They spend countless hours and invest substantial resources to impress and pamper their customers. So what does it mean to “think small” about customer service?
Ironically, it’s often the small personal touches that set you apart and build loyalty. This can be true no matter what business you’re in, from luxury hospitality to industrial sales. After all, you’re always dealing with people, and many people notice and react to the little things.
Let’s take a look at three elements that help create a unique service experience and raise perceived value. As key ingredients that transform small gestures into something more significant, I would point to surprise, proactivity, and thoughtfulness—none of which needs to be overly elaborate or expensive.
It makes a long-lasting impression when someone does something nice that we do not expect. As consumers, we should all have an innate feel for meaningful customer service experiences that create added value but that people may not think of for themselves. Here are just two examples of past personal experiences that pleasantly surprised me and made me glad to do business with the providers:
- I was surprised and delighted when Olive Garden delivered after-dinner mints to our table several years ago, and I now look forward to them every time. There probably have been several management discussions about saving X pennies per customer if they no longer give away mints, but fortunately they still do.
- When buying a repair kit once, I could see the tool needed for the job in the bubble pack. The fact that the company included it was a very nice surprise, and I was sold! There was huge value knowing I didn’t have to search the garage to find the right-sized driver (if I even had it), not worrying about metric vs. standard, etc.
Whatever business you’re in, you have the advantage of experiencing your environment and your customers on an almost a daily basis. If you’re on the lookout, you and your staff should be able to identify what your customers like and need, and then create ways to deliver that good or service. Your clients may even give you cues as to what they desire with their questions, comments, and body language. I’d like to share the following examples of taking initiative to improve the customer experience:
- There’s a country club I occasionally visit outside of Austin. They scan my license plate when I drive in and then call me by name when I enter. Even though I’m not a regular, that’s an impressive touch and makes me feel special and valued. And isn’t that what customer service is all about?
- A modestly-priced restaurant in Dallas treats each diner to complementary valet parking. I usually prefer to park my own car, but this establishment recognizes that its driveway is on a steep grade, and the parking lot is small and irregularly shaped, so they proactively take care of that hassle for their patrons. Problem solved!
Like the restaurant mentioned above, I give special kudos to businesses that know there’s an issue for their customers and take the trouble to do something about it. They go out of their way to create a better customer experience without being asked. Two personal experiences come to mind that illustrate what I’m talking about:
- We have a lake cabin in East Texas, and many times, it’s several weeks between visits. After a recent storm, a local electrician let us know that power had been knocked out to our property, and we contracted with him to get us back online. While there, he picked up and hauled away several downed tree limbs that had nothing to do with his work, which we very much appreciated!
- My marketing team was meeting with a new services agency in a building we had never been in before. When we arrived, we started stumbling around the lobby looking down one long corridor after another, wondering which way to go. Then we saw the carefully hand-lettered sign welcoming us with an arrow pointing in the right direction. We were impressed, and our meeting got off to a really good start.
As you probably noted during the discussion above, there is often a good bit of overlap between surprise, proactivity, and thoughtfulness. The point is not to worry about the nuances of those words, but rather to discover and deliver special touches that set your business, your staff, and your level of service apart. People do remember those “small things,” which may even grow in importance as they reflect on their nice customer experience and even tell others. It may not take much to leave a big and lasting impression.
A final thought: “Choose to deliver amazing service to your customers. You’ll stand out because they don’t get it anywhere else.” ~Kevin Stirtz