Three Vital Keys to Delivering What Your Customer Wants
This piece is the an entry in the "Happy to Help" Series, ongoing articles focused on elevating customer service experiences.
A True Story
Tim and his family were celebrating the college graduation of his oldest son. This included Tim, his wife, Aaron (the graduate), two siblings (a brother and a sister), two sets of grandparents, and Uncle Pete (Tim’s brother)—a total of ten people.
Tim decided that to commemorate the occasion, they should go out for a special dinner at Aaron’s favorite restaurant. Because of the size of the group, Tim decided to make a reservation. When he called, he was greeted with a pleasant voice who politely asked him to hold. After several minutes of waiting, he decided to hang up and try again. When Tim’s call was answered the second time, he was given immediate attention and was able to set up the reservation. He figured that the first time was no big deal, stuff happens, people get busy, and didn't think any more about it.
When Tim and his group arrived, they saw that the restaurant was very busy. Tim was concerned, but was comforted by the fact that he had a reservation. After entering the restaurant, Tim mentioned to the host that he called ahead to reserve a table for his group. The host smiled, and then explained that she would have them seated in a few minutes.
Five minutes passed.
Then fifteen minutes had gone by.
When Tim returned to the front kiosk to inquire about his reservation, the hostess responded in a stressed voice, “Yes! Right this way.” The group was finally seated, and Tim reflected on his experience. “No big deal, right?” he thought to himself, “So what if I made a reservation and still had to wait several minutes? I can see that they are really busy.”
After several more minutes passed, a server finally materialized and asked for the group’s drink order. Shortly after, the server returned to bring the group their drinks, and then asked what their food choices would be from the menu. Many minutes later, the server returned to deliver the entrées, everything made as it should be.
The food was delicious and Tim was enjoying the celebration so much that he was halfway through his meal before he realized his drink was empty. Tim looked around the table to see that much of the family had empty drinks as well. Their server was just passing by at that moment and Tim was able to get his attention. Tim pointed to the empty glasses on the table and politely explained that everyone needed refills.
The server returned promptly and refilled everyone’s drink, and then asked about everyone’s meal. Everybody answered in the affirmative, or that it was “fine,” and the server was gone like a flash. A short while later, Tim noticed his glass was empty again. But this time his server was nowhere in sight.
“I wanted another refill,” Tim later explained to his wife. “I guess it was okay. I mean, they seemed pretty busy.” But as Tim looked around he began to realized there were only a few other groups in the restaurant. He continued waiting in hopes that his server would be along to refill his drink. Tim finally gave up and asked a wandering server about drinks. This second server assured Tim that his server would be along shortly. Several more minutes passed, and again Tim had to get the attention of yet another server insisting that he get some drink refills. Finally, his server showed up and refilled the drinks.
Despite the way things had gone that evening, Tim was looking forward to at least enjoying a tasty dessert. He smiled with excitement as he saw his server approaching without having to be flagged down. Then, without saying a word, the server dropped the bill on the table in front of Tim and sped off in a different direction to gather the soiled dishes from another table.
“So much for dessert,” Tim said to himself. He decided that he was probably better off anyway. The way things had gone tonight, he suspected it would have taken another thirty minutes for a piece of cheesecake. When Tim looked at his bill, it didn’t seem to add up quite right. As he looked again to dissect the bill, he saw that an “18% gratuity for groups of eight or more” had been automatically added.
In frustration, Tim thought to himself, “It’s time for Aaron to find a new favorite restaurant.”
Building Relationships is a Process, Not An Event
Over the last several weeks, I've written about how to Discover what your customer needs. This includes three steps of engaging, enquiring, and enlightening. Once you feel you have adequately Discovered your customer needs, it's time to Deliver.
Tim’s story is a great example of the second step of building relationships with customer service performance: Deliver what your customer needs This is the step that most people think they are familiar with—but really aren’t.
The customer tells you what they want and you get it for them, piece of cake, right? As can be seen from Tim’s example, many businesses struggle to Deliver basic expectations like being seated in a timely manner, refilled drinks without having to ask, and offering dessert, to name a few from the restaurant industry.
Failing to adequately Deliver according to your customer’s needs is one of the fastest and easiest ways to chase them off to a competitor. The main reason that employees neglect to Deliver the needs of their customer is because they are only attempting to Deliver what is spoken. There are three things customers expect, though they never ask for them.
First, customers expect to be given exactly what they (did or didn’t) request. Giving them exactly what they ask for is a basic part of providing your product to the consumer. However, errors are still made occasionally and customers expect these errors to be resolved. Customers expect things they will never actually say i.e., that they want their product to arrive as fast as possible, they want it to be high quality, and they want it to be ready to use immediately.
Why would a customer do business with you if the product you Deliver is consistently slow to arrive, of poor quality, unusable, or not even what they requested?
Second, customers expect to be treated with kindness. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has said, “I think, at the end of the day, we were never in the coffee business serving people; we were in the people business serving coffee.” Many front line employees either aren’t trained, or forget that their goal is to satisfy their customers’ needs, making those customers as happy as possible. A personal, friendly, and polite touch always creates a better experience for the customer as well as that service provider. In today’s world of instant media on any device, you don’t have to look far to find negativity and hatred. Effective service providers go beyond that. They are elegant. They stay grounded in their own reality and work to simply be nice to the people they interact with.
Even if you Deliver a perfect product every time, do you think your customer will continue to do business with you if you are hard to work with socially?
Finally, customer expect that to be served by people who are energetic and passionate. We have gotten so used to mediocre and below average customer service, many people would not even be jaded by an experience like the one Tim had at the restaurant. Bad customer service providers would have us think that their bad service is just the way it is and there is nothing to be done. The opposite is true. Not only can customer service be good, it can be consistently very good. Customers like doing business with people who have energy around, and for, their product.
Why will your customer do business with you if you have no passion for what you Deliver to them?
Three Skills for Delivering
To effectively eradicate bad customer service, employees need to understand the needs of a customer, as well as how to effectually Deliver those needs, spoken or unspoken. There are three specific skills associated with this step of Delivering what your customer needs.
The first skill is to Deliver exactly as the customer asked. And, understand what should be Delivered even when it isn’t specifically requested (like drink refills).
The next skill is to Deliver elegantly. This may bring to mind the Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett from that book/movie my wife enjoys so much. When I say to be elegant, I just mean that you need to be kind, polite, and happy to help.
The final skill is to Deliver energetically. Share your energy and joy for your product or service, and for the opportunity to serve that particular customer at that moment.
We'll spend the next few weeks discussing each of these three skills in depth.