Root beer has always been one of my favorite drinks, and from time to time I'll order it with lunch or dinner. Recently over lunch, two friends ordered root beer, which is when the moment of truth occurred. The waiter told my friends the restaurant didn't offer root beer, but other soft drinks were available. Moments after he told them that, the head waiter who had overheard the conversation stepped forward and asked how long everyone would be staying at the hotel. My friends said they would be staying for a number of days. The head waiter replied, "I will have root beer here tomorrow for your pleasure, and I hope you join us again." A simple thing really, but it showed his dedication to customer service.
This all happened last week during the Radiological Society of North America annual meeting in Chicago. I was scheduled to speak to the sales force of one of our clients, which had brought its salespeople in for the convention. I had just finished rehearsing for my talk, and the vice president of sales, the vice president of marketing and some others had invited me to lunch. It was fun. We discussed a lot of industry trends and swapped sales stories. And as sales professionals, we were all quite impressed by the root beer incident. Sure it was a little thing, but then superior customer service is usually found in the details. The seemingly insignificant can become very significant.
I'm sure we've all been victims of lousy customer service. I recently purchased one of the new, popular vans. I already have about 22,000 miles on it, and by and large I'm very pleased with its performance and comfort. But the brakes sometimes squeak, a problem the dealer hasn't been able to solve. When I went to the dealership to make another appointment a few days ago, I told the service representative about the persistent noise. He listened to my complaint, but he didn't apologize for not getting the problem fixed the first time. Instead, he gave me an appointment a few days hence and said he would need the van for a full day. That's when I asked him if he could give me a "loaner." His reply was that the dealership didn't have a loaner policy. In short, I was out of luck and would have to figure out my own mode of transportation for the day.
I paid a lot of money for that van. And if I'm treated right, in a few years I might even go back to the dealership to buy another vehicle. Repeat business is crucial for an automobile dealership or any business, but if you don't receive good service after you've made a major purchase, most people will take their future business elsewhere. Needless to say, that dealership didn't score any points with me. Just imagine if the service rep had said something like, "Mr. Lauer, don't worry about having a car to use for the day. We didn't fix your brakes right the first time, and the least we can do is make sure you're not inconvenienced another day because we goofed." What a great impression that would make, and what a fine example of a "service" department that would be. Maybe the dealership's managers need to hear the root beer story.
Attitude is everything, especially in customer service. The right words and the right actions are what make a difference. This is where training comes in, and it must come from the top. If the boss doesn't believe in customer service, the culture of making the customer No. 1 just doesn't happen. Little things do mean a lot. Little things can become a big deal if people are treated right. It shouldn't take a genius to figure this out.
Make it happen,
Charles S. Lauer