Isn’t it remarkable how customer service can vary so dramatically from one company or organisation to another? This applies pretty much regardless of whether in the public sector, private sector or charity sector. Also, whether retail or professional services. Some recent experiences have got me penning this blog!
Having come from a primarily retail travel background, then moved into senior Operations and HR and roles, before setting up my own Career & People Development Consultancy over a decade ago, I have always believed that you ‘live or die by your service and reputation’. Going the extra mile and striving for consistent excellence in customer service has been ingrained into my psyche and are mantras that I drummed into my previous managers and staff and are now a key part of the ethos of my company. However, a number of recent personal experiences have got me questioning how many companies or organisations really do deliver service that both surprises and delights you? More often than not, the surprise is of an unpleasant nature and experience I’m sure you will agree?
As a soon to be father of the bride, I set about looking for an appropriate wedding suit for the big day in Portugal. I was really dreading this, as I detest shopping. What I really wanted, was someone to take away the pain of the whole experience for me! I made an impromptu visit to an independent suit retailer in the City of London, whilst working in the area, before Christmas. My first experience was highly positive. The owner of the store asked me all the right questions, which would help to narrow down the choice to a quality lightweight suit, which would be ideal for a spring wedding in Portugal that I could also use for business purposes. He was most helpful and left me with his business card and a feeling of confidence for when I was ready to try and buy. As there were also a number of other quality suit retailers in a small radius, this seemed like a good area to make comparisons.
And so I did, with my wife, during the post Christmas sales. After three or four dreadful experiences, ranging from total apathy, I will grudgingly speak to you in between conversations over my Bluetooth earpiece, making immediate totally incorrect assumptions on style and price and the classic ‘we won’t let out of the store until you buy from us today’ look, we ended up at the store I first visited.
Going the extra mile….
The owner remembered me and within minutes we had narrowed down the choice to three fabulous suits. If only we had gone there first but you have to humour the wife, don’t you? Within minutes, there was a clear winner for colour, style and fit, except that the trousers were a tad too small on the waist. ‘Not a problem sir, as we can have those taken out in no time’. Great but would they be the perfect fit? Not perturbed the owner pledged to have them ready for me in half an hour, while we went for a coffee and if they didn’t fit right we didn’t need to buy. Now this was going the extra mile and a real surprise! True to his word he called the tailor and when we returned the trousers were a perfect fit, even allowing some extra room for the wedding meal! He also agreed to a special discount on the sale price, including some other minor alterations and the suit would be ready in a few days.
Returning a couple of weeks later for the final fitting, everything was spot on. Even though we had already paid for the suit, the service was still exemplary. I felt a million dollars and ready to walk our daughter down the isle. We were all delighted, and all my cares were taken away. With the minimum of fuss and even some joviality, I had purchased what is undoubtedly a ‘premiership quality’ suit, altered for me, at about the same price other stores were selling their ‘lower league’ quality equivalents. The store owner had even made the whole experience a pleasant one, so now just to focus on my speech!
What was the difference in customer service?
This store owner was solutions focused and consistent. He asked all the right questions, so drilled down to the nitty gritty in no time at all. He took real pride in the service he offered, remembering people who had previously visited his store and making us feel welcome, rather then treating us an imposition. He also took great pride in the quality of his stock and his knowledge and expertise, which shone through. He clearly had our best interests at heart, which gave my wife and I massive confidence and belief that we were doing the right thing.
Even in the sale, this was an expensive purchase after all. He did not sell or pressurise us at all. So, what was different about his approach? ….this was clearly going the extra mile, wasn’t it? As some of the great sales gurus would say, he did all the right things to let us buy from him! Would I buy from him again and recommend to my friends? Of course I would, without hesitation.
Just think how much this one sale can have influenced a significant amount of further business for the store, as a result of our recommendations? In fact we have already recommended some friends to get their wedding suit from the same store. So why is it so difficult to find consistent customer service like this then? Was it because he was an independent rather than a large chain store retailer that he took more care? You would like to think this might be the case but we had bad experiences at other independent stores.
Going the extra mile is a mindset and can be part of your business ethos. We are justly proud of our SMP Solutions 3 Pillars of Success ethos. ” There are no traffic jams on the extra mile” the saying goes! However, can you imagine how much better would your company or organisation would be if you started to fill it up by surprising and delighting your customers or clients?