By Dave Balch
Good customer service is the holy grail of good business.
After all, if your customers aren't astonished at your
service ("happy" with your service just isn't good enough
any more) then they won't be back and they won't recommend
you to their friends.
But how do you insure that all of your customers'
experiences are astonishing? Naturally, you will stay on
top of things and make sure that you go that extra mile to
please, but can you be everywhere at once? Do you
personally handle every order? If you do, your quest to
astonish is much easier, but if you have employees on the
front line, they have to do the job.
Do they know how important it is? Do they know how to do
it? And, most importantly, are they empowered to do
whatever has to be done?
I recently went to a local fast-food chicken franchise and
placed my order for the 2-piece meal. The girl behind the
counter told me that they only had one piece left and were
just finishing a new batch that would be ready in 9 minutes.
I told her, "I'm starving. How 'bout if you give me the one
piece that you have, and then you'll owe me one?" When the
new batch was ready, she gave me the piece she owed me along
with an extra biscuit "because I had to wait".
The key to this story is the extra biscuit. I don't know if
she was trained specifically for this type of situation, but
if she didn't have the authority to give away a free
biscuit, this customer service success story would never
Another example: my former brother-in-law ordered a pizza
for home delivery. When it arrived it was wrong, so he
called and they promised another one right away. When it
arrived it, too, was wrong. Again he called, again they
promised another right away, and when it arrived it was
correct, and there was a coupon in there for a free pizza
because of the two mix-ups. Good! Perfect! Someone had
the authority to fix a bad situation with a freebie. But
when he went to the restaurant to use the coupon, he ordered
his pizza, presented the coupon, and the man taking his
order told him, "I'm sorry sir, but your coupon is good for
two toppings and you ordered three, so I'm going to have to
charge you fifty cents." POW! There goes the goodwill
created by the free pizza!
Give your front-line employees the power to make customer
service decisions. It may cost a few dollars, and there may
be some mistakes, but the net result will be positive. If
you are worried about it, then set limits as to how much the
employee can "give away" in terms of products or services.
Depending on your situation, you may be able to actually
give a gift that costs you nothing! For example, an
Internet vendor could give a free eBook or electronic
Sure it's a gamble, but ignoring this is a bigger gamble in
my opinion. Cover your bases by setting some limits, but
allowing your front-line employees (that includes you!) to
make some simple concessions in the name of customer service
will pay big dividends. The customer you please, may be
your best one!
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