When one thinks of the most required skills to provide exceptional customer service, patience, attentiveness and empathy come to mind. One must be a good listener and good communicator as well.
I’d offer a new skill to the list of brands that look to offer exceptional, memorable customer service – consistency.
Consider these two recent experiences:
Jekyll and Hyde
I stayed in a hotel in Wichita, Kansas. The lady that checked me in that night showed very little personality. Maybe glanced at me but certainly didn’t maintain eye-contact. Gave me my keys and sent me on my way. I had to ask the questions – closest entry? breakfast hours? wi-fi passcode? etc. It wasn’t the worst experience I’ve ever had but far below what I train front-line hospitality professionals to provide.
The next morning I went by the front desk to ask about a running route. I asked the lady now at the front desk if I could “ask a dumb question.” She replied, “I’ll give you a dumb answer!” That’s my kind of personality and humor! I went on to have a delightful conversation. When I returned, she asked how the run went, reminded me about breakfast and was exactly opposite of the lady I encountered when I checked in.
But I ask you, which experience am I able to retain and if/when I look to return, what do I expect? If the staff had been consistent, I would book another room easily knowing I would get a delightful, engaging staff.
But You Have Bread In Your Name!
My daughter is in the youth community chorus. For four weeks in a row, after we picked her up from rehearsal, she requested soup in a bread bowl at Panera Bread. For four weeks in a row, they didn’t have any bread bowls at 7:30 pm. (Guess I expected third and fourth times would be the charm.)
One time we were offered alternative slices of bread. Another time we were offered two servings of alternative slices of bread. A third time when no bread alternative was offered, after I inquired about a substitution the young man replied, “We don’t have any other bread to give you.”
As we walked out vowing to never return at night, my insightful 8-year-old stated, “Dad, they should just be ‘Panera’ at night because they never have bread at night so they can’t be ‘Panera Bread.'”
They have “bread” in their name! Is it too much to expect bread every time I visit the establishment? Is it too much for them to be consistent?
Consider a competing restaurant – Chick fil A. As soon as you read the name, you either thought chicken that I’m addicted to or in the context of this essay, consistent customer service and “my pleasure” – their consistent response to everything!
As you continue to work on your customer service, discuss empathy and listening, but insist on consistency. Whether it’s average or exceptional, keep it consistent.