KASFAA Oz-Sociated Press, Summer 2003
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C.A.R.E. - Transform Customer Service Into Human Service
I arrived at the Marriott Hotel in Indianapolis, Indiana. I checked in at the front desk and went up to my room. As I was unpacking, I discovered that I had forgotten to bring a bottle of sparkling juice. I needed this bottle for the Keynote Program that I had been invited to conduct for Indiana Business College the very next morning.
I called the concierge and explained my dilemma. He told me that the Director of Food and Beverages at the hotel could help me, and he transferred my call. I asked the Director if there was a supermarket nearby where I could purchase a bottle of sparkling juice. Without any hesitation, the Director said, "Sir, I leave this job in an hour. On my way home, I will stop by a supermarket, buy the bottle, and bring it to you tomorrow morning before you start your program. Is that OK?" I said, "Yes. Thank you so much." After I hung up the phone, I said to myself, WOW! They're good!
The next morning, the Director arrived with the bottle. I tipped him well, and I now had an important prop for my program. When I flew back to Michigan and arrived in my office, I wrote a glowing letter of appreciation about him and sent it to his supervisor. When your customer says "WOW!", you know you’re providing customer service with excellence.
Nowadays, the world is extremely competitive and customers have more choices than ever. To develop customer loyalty, you have to distinguish yourself from your competition. This is a challenge because the bar for excellence is constantly being raised and customer expectations go higher and higher. What is the answer? It’s the human touch. A sign in the customer service department at Digital Equipment Corporation reads, "Customers don't care what you know, until they know that you care."
How do you show that you care? It all starts with your attitude. Have you ever walked into a business, up to the counter and, within 30 seconds, determined how helpful the customer representative would be? The customer can feel your attitude, can feel how much you care. When the customer shows up, make the customer feel really welcome. Treat the customer as a guest not as a dollar sign. A warm greeting, eye contact, body language and a willingness to help make the customer feel glad he/she is there.
After you have made the customer feel welcome, it’s time for action. The essence of customer C.A.R.E. is to solve their problems and meet their needs quickly and completely. Bend over backwards. Go beyond the call of duty. Give your customer “lagniappe!” Lagniappe is a French Cajun word that, literally, means "a little more."
When I was a child, the neighborhood grocery sold some items in bulk. If the customer asked for a pound of beans, the grocer would scoop the beans out of the barrel and weigh them. If the grocer wanted the customer to come back again and again, he would give the customer Lagniappe, an extra ounce of beans for free, to build customer loyalty.
Give your customer “lagniappe”, a little more. There is always something you can do for the customer that is extra, even if it's giving them a little more of your time. Lagniappe distinguishes you from your competition and increases the number of loyal customers that you have. When you serve your customer well, the customer thinks, "This is nice." When you serve your customer well and give a little more, the customer thinks, “WOW! This is great!".
Walt Stasinski, MEd, MPH