One Strategy to Reach the Next Level of Customer Service

I was recently at dinner with a client who commented after the meal, “what great service.” I asked what she meant and she commented that the waiter refilled our water glass and checked back with us during the meal to make sure everything was alright. Being in the business of helping companies with their client experience, I found the comment interesting.

True, the water glasses were refilled, once. He did check back with us, but he was on the fly to a larger table in his section and didn’t really even wait for a response. One of our dining mates asked for no onions on her salad and it came filled with onions. But the perception was the service was great.

Think about it, what is the minimum level of service at a restaurant? Take your

order and make sure the order arrives correctly. Check in on your customers to make sure there is nothing additional they might need, not that are things OK, but what else can I get you. The minimum expected. The problem is that the minimum happens so seldom that it appears to be great.

At another dinner at a famous restaurant we were part of a party of 60 in a private dining room. Drink and appetizer orders were flying at warp speed. The wait staff never batted an eye and greeted each order like it was the most important thing they had heard all day. I watched this culinary play unfold with the precision of the Blue Angels. I watched the room manager keep an eye on everything. He pulled waiters aside for a quick comment. The service was so superb that I excused myself to visit with the room manager. He thanked me for my comments and told me, EVERYTHING is about training and corrections. See something that needs attention, deal with it immediately.

Mediocrity always finds its own level and without any action draws behavior to it like metal to a magnet. It is the black hole of service. By repeating the minimum you set the standard of expectation. Where do you place your level of acceptance? When do you push back?

Without any strategic focus, mediocracy is as good as it gets. So, how can we create leverage around our service model when we accept mediocracy as our norm?

Most of us would view this depressing commentary on service as just the way it is, a condition of our meek acceptance, BUT that is actually great news! It is a gold mine of direction to any company. Here is something you can control, something that you actually do something about.

It does not take much to shift a model. A simple well-placed push is all you need. Think about this, if you only did one thing to your service model that shifted your team’s performance and made that ONE thing strategic, you will have picked the low hanging fruit of mediocracy. It only takes one strong idea to improve your client experience, to begin a process of eliminating the acceptance of “the way things are” and create the way things should be.

We call this strategy OLA, one level above. It is a strategy we have in play for many of our clients. It’s not about an entire suite of improvements; it’s about the ONE right improvement. This is the client experience in the right strategic focus. No matter how complex your model is, EVERYONE can do ONE thing, one well thought out and developed shift in your service model, can change everything.

Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.

Steve Jobs