In Customer Service, Little Details Make A Big Difference

“Customers want simply better, not simply different.”

Sean Meehan, author

About 20 years ago, John Boerner, a systems analyst for a major insurance company, took his family on a Disney vacation. They still say, “Disney doesn’t disappoint!” Talk about the power of customer service … GREAT customer service!

As John tells the story, “We wanted to see a show near the Cinderella castle and we knew that area would be crowded. So my wife said she would find a good place to sit while the kids and I went to get lunch. They chose a place about halfway across the park and when I was getting napkins, I turned one way and Megan, my 12-year-old daughter, turned another. We became separated. I couldn’t find her anywhere and sought out a ‘Cast Member’ who immediately brought a supervisor to me. The supervisor listened carefully as I described my daughter, told me to stay put, and did her best to calm my fears.”

John continues, “In the meantime, Megan found her way back to her mother. Together they came back to where I was waiting, and we found the supervisor who was in the process of locating Megan. The supervisor quickly made the necessary radio calls. But what the supervisor did next truly amazed me. She noticed our lunch sitting on the table, uneaten and cold. Without saying a word, she replaced it and then some. This is just one reason why we returned to Disney many times in subsequent years and why Megan eventually spent two semesters at Disney as a college intern.”

In the world of customer service, little things matter. You’ve heard people say … almost nonchalantly … that “You shouldn’t sweat the small stuff … and by the way … it’s all small stuff.” Well that might be a good mental strategy for dealing with stress, but it’s a disastrous approach if you’re dealing with customers. 

It’s true. The little difference between your service and your competitor’s service can make a BIG difference, a LASTING difference, and a COSTLY difference. So how can you put some of those little differences to work for you and your customers?

1. Be different where it counts.

Everybody is talking about “standing out in the customers’ minds.” That sounds good, but just being different from your competitors isn’t going to cut it in today’s challenging economy. As Sean Meehan, the author of “Simply Better” writes: “Differentiation matters when and only when it is relevant. Customers want simply better, not simply different.”

You see … if you aren’t different where it matters to your customer, your difference is irrelevant and distracting. On the other hand, “focused innovation” is all about making a difference where it counts. So for every difference you are contemplating or trying to implement, keep asking yourself some simple questions: How will this make things better for those we serve? What are we now doing right that is most valued by our customers? Could the time we are investing in serving them now be better invested in doing something more important for their future?

Don’t just be different; be different where it counts!

2. Inject the “wow” factor.

It happens every time preparations are being made for a State Dinner at Buckingham Palace or the White House. Every detail … from the best gold and silver service to the setting … is intended to “wow” those who are being wined and dined. There’s no such thing as “winging it.” Everything is planned with precision, and in so doing, each guest is being told that “You are important.”

As Australian speaker John Milne puts it, “Precision planning invites success. Precision planning knows what is needed in minute detail. It prepares thoroughly for each interaction, meeting or interview. It equips each person with the skills and attitudes they need to be a top performer.”

In my keynotes and seminars on customer service, I tell my audience members that “Your customers will always, always, always talk about you. You’d better make sure that their talk is positive talk.” And it will be if you take the time to think about HOW you can “wow” your customers and then go ahead and do it.

3. Demonstrate unceasing care.

About 2000 years ago, a man named Peter wrote, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” He wasn’t a customer service trainer, but with a line like that, he could have been.

No matter how hard you work at customer service, you’re going to mess it up once in a while. BUT if you really “love” your customers, or in today’s language, if you really “care” about your customers, they’ll probably forgive you and continue to be loyal customers.

My wife and I experienced that last week when we were sailing around St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean. We had planned our one-week vacation on this 8-passenger catamaran for over a year and we were excited to go. We had very high expectations, many of which were not met.

Among other things, the catamaran had a foul smell and I came back with several large red bites all over my body. Whatever was crawling in the mattress had a feast on my carcass. And I could go on, listing other shortcomings.

However, the 23-year South African captain and 29-year old Swedish first mate were among the best customer service people I had ever encountered. They not only knew their jobs and performed them flawlessly; they also cared BIG TIME about every passenger. Their greatest desire was to make sure every passenger had a fun, exciting, and relaxing time. I know it’s a cliché, but in this case it’s true. They waited on us hand and foot. We wanted to adopt the captain and first mate. And each one of us felt like royalty even though our physical surroundings might suggest otherwise.

The result? My wife and I had a great time. We were able to forgive all the problems with the boat and focus on the good aspects of the experience. Caring really does cover a multitude of sins … especially in customer service.

The question is: Do you really, really, really care about your customers? If so, then how do you show it?

Action: List 3 things you can and will do to put the “wow” factor in your work this week with your internal and external customers.