Intro by Skip Cohen
As we head into the seasonality of 2022, and in fact, every day of the year, you need to set the highest standards of service. They need to be all-inclusive, from how you communicate with your clients to keeping your promises, exceeding expectations, and the quality of the finished product.
Think about all the companies you deal with today. The ones that stand out the most are the ones who respond quickly when there’s a problem. They’re easy to contact and take full responsibility for finding a solution to your challenge. They listen before they talk, and they keep their promises.
As Shep Hyken shares in this post, you need to have a higher standard than your customers. You need to understand their expectations and then exceed them. You also need to understand your community and your competitors.
Years ago, I heard a great story about author Tom Peters. He wrote one of the first books I read about Customer Service. As the story goes, he was speaking to a group of airline executives and intentionally showed up 10 minutes late. The audience was less than happy. His opening remark was perfect, “By all of your standards, this is an on-time arrival.”
Now think about how you interact with your customers and potential clients. An attitude of “that’s good enough” won’t impress anybody. Instead, you need to always go the extra mile in what, when, and how you deliver…exceed their expectations.
A friend of mine recently told me about their bad experience at a restaurant. The server was very nice and extremely apologetic about the problems that happened throughout the evening—but there were still problems. The food took a long time to get to the table. When it got there, it wasn’t prepared properly. On the next attempt, the food came out uncooked. The drinks were mixed up. And there were a few other issues, too. The manager came over and apologized profusely. Finally, it was time to pay the check. When my friend opened the leather portfolio there wasn’t a check. Instead, there was a note that read, “Thank you.” When my friend inquired about the check, the manager apologized again and said, “We hold ourselves to a high standard. You shouldn’t have to pay for anything less. We hope you give us another chance.”
I’m always impressed when people and companies stand behind their product. Knowing that is something akin to a “money-back guarantee.” They don’t have to have a sign that says, “If for any reason you are unhappy, you don’t have to pay,” because they hold themselves to a certain standard. If they don’t hit it, they take it upon themselves to correct it. For the restaurant, that meant taking care of an experience that completely went wrong. It wasn’t just one meal that was bad. It was one thing after another that created a bad experience.
Before I go further, I want to touch on something—that the restaurant took care of the entire check. I don’t always agree with that philosophy—giving something away for free to correct a bad experience. While there are times that may be appropriate, usually a good attitude, an apology and a quick fix can make things right. If you’re feeling inclined to give away something for free, consider giving it when the customer comes back as a thank you.
Back to the lesson. It’s about meeting a standard… your standard. For this to work, your standard must be higher than your customers’. That’s not always easy, as the customer’s perception of what is right belongs to them, not you. You may think you deliver the best service and experience in the world, but if your customer doesn’t agree, then you fail regardless of how good you think you are.
That’s why you must hold yourself to a high standard and have a plan when that standard is not met—according to either you or your customer. That might mean a metaphorical “free meal,” a discount on future purchasing or some other remedy to unmet standards. I’ll leave that decision to you, but for now, ask yourself what your standard is. Do you have it in writing? Do your employees know it? Do they honor and meet it? The first step to living up to your standard is creating it. Make it one you, your employees, and your customers can take pride in.