What You Can Learn From Other Industries About Customer Service
Customer service seems to be a hot-button issue in every industry. From retail to hospitality services to grocery stores, customer service is a major player in the success of a business.
It’s important to look at what industries outside the automobile realm are doing to drive customers into their establishments. Let’s delve deeper into the subject.
The Food Service Industry
A Pleasant Goodbye
Chick-fil-A isn’t a typical fast food chain. It’s an establishment committed to service. On the Chick-fil-A website it states, “We have built a foundational commitment to service…” and I believe it because I’ve experienced it firsthand.
If you’ve ever been to a Chick-fil-A, you know when you say, “Thank you,” to any of the employees, they reply with an emphatic and sincere, “My pleasure.” What a lovely thing to hear! Isn’t it nice to know your gratitude didn’t fall on deaf ears? Some may find it silly to respond to someone when “Thank you” seems like the end of your dialogue, but when I hear, “My pleasure,” I know I was heard and my patronage was appreciated.
If you’re not in the habit of replying to a customer thanking you for the service you provided, you should be. A simple, “No problem,” or head nod will not suffice. Take a cue from Chick-fil-A and respond by saying, “It was our pleasure, ma’am (sir).” It’s short, simple, sincere and, most importantly, memorable.
One aspect of providing fantastic customer service is making sure the customer has the same experience when going to other locations.
When you go to McDonald’s, Burger King or any chain restaurant, you expect the same general greeting, the same menu options and for the food to taste exactly how it should.
If you have multiple locations, there must be continuity throughout every shop. When a customer drives up, do the greeters say, “Hello! Welcome to AAA Quick Lube. How are you today?” every time? Do the technicians know how to explain the service they just performed in an informative and easy-to-understand way? Do the cashiers know how to give a polite goodbye? Does each store offer the same basic services? Is everyone wearing the same uniform? Does the interior and exterior of the building have the same general façade and design colors? Is every store kept clean?
One of the worst things to happen to your brand is for a customer to have an incredible experience at one shop, go to another location and have a disastrous experience. It doesn’t instill confidence for the customer to come back to one of your locations when they need their next oil change if they feel like they’re gambling on the customer service they’ll receive.
They’re called fast food restaurants for a reason. Restaurants in these industries pump out high volumes of orders throughout the day. They have more staff on hand during peak business hours and are usually quick to have your order ready.
The same goes for the quick lube industry. Customers expect a speedy, yet thorough, service. When you have peak hours, arrange the schedules of your staff so more employees are on deck during those times. Trust me; people know when a business is short staffed. Customer service dwindles when the volume of customers outweighs the number of employees.
The Grocery Industry
Noticing the Small Things
There’s a chain of grocery stores throughout certain areas of Texas that is ubiquitous for customer service. The employees are trained to notice the little things and help the customers to the best of their abilities. They offer carryout service, are polite, make small talk when taking your groceries to your car and give you a sincere goodbye. Then, they take the basket back into the store so you don’t have to put them in a basket lane in the parking lot (because there aren’t any at these stores).
Case in point, a friend of mine recently told me of an experience he had at this particular grocery chain. He politely declined carry out service and was walking toward his car. He realized he was probably carrying too much, but was trekking on like anyone would. Then, a young employee — who had just unloaded groceries for someone else and was pushing an empty basket back to the store — noticed him. The young man pulled the basket up to my friend, told him to put his groceries in the cart and proceeded to his car.
Most likely, the high school-aged employee didn’t come to work at the grocery store knowing he should provide that kind of service. He was trained to look for the small things. Even though it’s small to you, it may be a huge relief to your customer.
What are some small things you can do that might make a big impact on your customers? Here are a few suggestions:
Since we’re still in the thick of winter, offer your customer a warm cup of coffee or tea while they wait. Just make sure there’s a lid available so the odds of spilling it dwindle.
Notice a car door is squeaking? Lubricate the hinges to relieve that painful noise.
Does your customer have kids or a pet in the car with them? Offer them a treat, such as a lollipop for the kiddos and a milk bone for the dog.
The Hospitality Industry
Go Above and Beyond
Traveling can be insufferable sometimes. There’s nothing you want to do more than relax after a delayed flight, sitting in traffic and feeling jetlagged. Imagine the stress melting away when you slide your key card into your hotel door, open it and are greeted with a clean room. It’s heavenly.
Most hotel chains (and not just the high-end, expensive ones) are diligent when it comes to keeping their rooms clean. After all, that’s why the customer is there — to stay in a room.
Once, I was on a trip and had requested a non-smoking room. When I walked into my room, it was like being punched in the face. The smell of smoke and stale cigarettes permeated the room. Clearly, another patron had snuck a few (OK, probably a whole pack) of smokes into the room.
When I called the front desk to complain, the person on the phone was polite and seemed genuinely concerned. He asked me to give him 30 minutes to rearrange a few things and find me a new room. Less than 30 minutes later, he came to my door, said they had a new room for me, helped me with my luggage and walked me to my new room. He waited outside to make sure I was happy with the new arrangements. Oh, and my room was upgraded to a suite at no extra charge. Now that’s customer service!
If your customer has a genuine complaint about a service you provided, find a resolution — and fast. Let them know how long it might take you to resolve the problem and what you’ll be doing during that time. If it will take longer than anticipated, let them know. After the problem has been resolved, give them an “upgrade” by offering a discount that’s good on their next visit.
Customer service is vital to a healthy business. Is there a business that does something to make you feel better leaving than when you arrived? Find a way to give your customers that feeling when they come to your shop. Taking notes from other industries will only enhance your customers’ overall experience.