Making Customer Service Into An Unforgettable Experience

Good enough is no longer good enough.

Not too long ago, you could get by in business if your product or service was “pretty good.” You didn’t have to be perfect or even great. As long as you weren’t too bad, you could get by.

Then the world changed. Customers demanded better products and improved services. And those companies who rose to the challenge continued to get by.

But the world has changed once again. Today you’ve got to be “remarkable.” Your service has to be so good that people actually talk about it, or you may not survive.

Jake reminded me of that principle a few weeks ago. I took my staff and their spouses to dinner at the Luna Rossa restaurant in Stillwater, Minnesota. The food was wonderful, but Jake’s service was “remarkable.”

As we were discussing which of three wines to buy for our table, our waiter Jake came over to us. He said he had overheard us talking about the three different wines, and he had taken the liberty of bringing us samples of each one. That way we could make an informed decision and be happy with our selection.

Talk about “remarkable” service. I’ve eaten in hundreds of restaurants over the years, and I’ve never once had that “experience.” Jake went beyond any of our expectations because somehow he knew that good service was no longer good enough.

And somehow he knew the value of creating an “experience” for the customer. Do you know about that? I hope so — because that’s what customers want these days.

Here’s what I recommend.

=> 1. Add An “Experience” Element To Your Products And Services.

Take coffee beans, for example. Like any other item you may be selling in your organization, they can be handled on four levels: commodity, product, service, or experience.

As a commodity, the Columbian coffee bean farmer plants and harvests the coffee beans. He sells them as a commodity, based on supply and demand, for about 16 cents a pound.

As a product, a coffee company buys the beans, grinds them, packages them, and distributes them to market. The company sells them wholesale to a retailer, such as Folgers, for $6.00 a pound. And that pound of coffee can brew about 100 cups of coffee.

As a service, a place like Dunkin Donuts buys the ground coffee and sells it for $1.50 a cup. Of course, consumers could stay home and make their own coffee, but a lot of them like the service feature of having a fresh donut along with their coffee. That same pound of coffee now generates $150 because it’s perceived as a valued service.

But as an “experience,” Starbucks or Caribou comes along and charges $3.70 for an iced mocha. Since there is more ice, sugar, water, espresso etc. in the drink, less coffee is needed. That same pound of coffee now makes 120 cups of iced mocha and generates $444 of revenue.

Somehow the customers like the innovation, the sophistication, the pleasure of an iced mocha. They value the “experience,” and they’re willing to pay big bucks for it.

There’s a lesson in that for all of us. What are you doing to create an “experience” for your customers? And what are you doing that is truly “remarkable?” I would suggest you follow my second tip listed below.

=> 2. Do The Unexpected.

It’s so easy. But so few people do the unexpected that you won’t have much competition in this area.

My friend Chip shared one example. The local CVS Pharmacy called him, noting he had not refilled his prescription. They just wanted to remind him because it was important that he keep on taking it. Their call was an unexpected but pleasant experience.

Jay Gershman wrote to the “Hartford Courant” newspaper in August 2003 to comment on the exceptional service of his surgeon who had recently passed away. He mentioned the life-threatening liver surgery he had undergone, and he mentioned the need to return to the hospital for periodic follow-up exams. Jay said the exams would ordinarily mean that he’d have to endure “torturous hours and days of waiting for the follow-up exam results.”

But his surgeon, Dr. Frank Foster, went way beyond the normal, expected service. As Jay said, Dr. Foster was an extraordinary doctor and human being “because he would wait outside the CT scan room every time to read the results right on the spot.” The doctor was able to turn a difficult situation into a positive “experience.”

And I’ll never forget the Hotel Monoco. I was speaking to the American Red Cross in Chicago, and my client booked me into this hotel. It wasn’t a big-named hotel chain, so I didn’t know what to expect. But I never would have guessed what I was about to experience.

In addition to the decent bed and good food, the Hotel Monoco wanted to make sure their guests experienced fun and relaxation. And it started as soon as I got to my room.

The room came equipped with a variety of music CD’s filled with relaxing music that would let me unwind. The TV had a relaxation channel that featured soft music and the most beautiful, peaceful nature scenes that I had ever seen.

Some thirty minutes later, there was a knock on my door. The bellman handed me a fish bowl, complete with a charming little goldfish. He said people like me, who travel so much, might enjoy a little company, and he didn’t want me to be alone. I was surprised, to say the least, but I sat watching my little buddy for quite a while that night.

As I explored my room, I found the most unusual mini-bar I’d ever encountered. Instead of the usual alcohol, the hotel had stocked it with items that would add a dimension of fun to my stay. The mini-bar contained toys such as an Etch-a-Sketch, some Silly Putty, some big red wax lips, a handshake buzzer, and a map of Chicago.

At 5:00 P.M., I was invited to come to the lobby for a relaxation reception. There was free wine and water, but best of all, there were a number of massage therapists giving free back rubs.

Did the Hotel Monoco create a “remarkable” experience? You bet. I just told several hundred thousand people about it in this “Tuesday Tip.”

Action:  You’ve got to do more than get your products and services into your customers’ hands. Give them an unexpected experience as well. Add three little extras to the service you provide, and keep on doing it. You’ll soon have a “remarkable” business.