“I’m sorry, have you been helped yet?”
“No,” I told the waiter.
“I’m sorry, but your server doesn’t seem to be around.”
“You’re a server, right?” “Yes,” he responded.
“Well, how about you get my wife and me a couple of menus. We’ve been sitting here for about 10 minutes.” I then asked him the group of servers around the wall mounted computer?
“Oh, those are waiters training on our new system.”
“During the dinner hour,” I asked?
“Yeah, sorry about that.” Each member of that training wait staff had looked over at our table and promptly ignored our dinner plight.
You ALL recognize that exchange, the service experience STARTS, with an apology and from that point on you’re riding your ski’s down an avalanche of apologies. In fact, the apology has become the national language of customer service.
It’s a business disgrace. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, will create impact faster than the way you treat your customers. A single horrific experience can spell doom for a relationship you have spent time developing.
I was at the pro shop for our golf club and the guy behind the desk was on the phone. I stood there, right in front of him as he continued his conversation. Not once did he cover the phone and say; “I’ll be right with you.” Instead, he just kept on talking like I was invisible. Finally, he put his hand over the mouthpiece and said, “Yeah?” That was the service response; “Yeah?” He then followed up his eloquent “yeah” with, you guessed it; “Sorry, I’ll be with you in a sec.” SORRY, SORRY, SORRY.
The saddest part is that not one example I can choose will surprise you. We could trade our horror stories. They would roll out of your memory at a speed far in excess of your great customer experiences. You and I have come to accept an apologetic process as a regular part of our business day. Poorly trained, customer facing humans, who will never be held accountable for anything they do. They will behave like the directions on your shampoo; lather, rinse, REPEAT! They repeat over and over again until we’re numb. The worst part of this scenario is that the great majority of us will do nothing. Hell, we’ll even tip 18% as some sort of reward for being condemned to one of the inner circles of a Dante-like customer service hell.
It’s not a secret. Companies know what’s going on. But they lie to themselves. They believe that an I’m sorry service experience is an anomaly and not the norm. They shake it off as a grumpy customer.
It’s a shame because Laura and I will NEVER go back to that restaurant.
Companies can fix this. It’s not some Herculean challenge, instead, it’s surprisingly simple. Here’s the formula:
- Allocate some resources, usually time, to training and make sure all your people understand they are, as Walt Disney was apt to say, in the “happiness business.” Make your clients happy. Your teams need to know this and need to LEARN how you want it done. Your training should be a connected process whose end result is a team of service providers that make a real difference in your client experience.
- Check in on your team. Great service is all about being held accountable. When there is a bad service experience step in immediately and let your team member know what went wrong. Let them know you won’t accept it again. When something goes right, CELEBRATE it so everyone knows your commitment.
- Yeah, it’s all about attitude. Be happy to see me. Welcome me instead of apologizing to me. Great service is about a culture of great attitudes and a great attitude is a CHOICE.
Try those for a starter and watch the change.