Nostalgic for Some Good Old-Fashioned Customer Service

Many years ago, when a person needed gasoline, an attendant at the service station would rush out to greet his customer. Wearing a neatly pressed uniform and hat, he would display a bright wide smile and proceed to fill up the tank, clean the windows, check the windshield wipers, and perhaps even hand out some Blue Chip stamps that would be redeemable later for a gift that someone would select from a catalogue. All of this was done for no extra charge.

That’s what I call going the extra mile, but those days are long gone. Or are they? I could write a book on all the miserable experiences I’ve endured as a consumer, and I’m sure you could too. Some businesses do “get it” though, and that’s encouraging. They treat their customers like royalty, with the mindset that the business needs the customer rather than vice versa, and they will do anything in their power to make sure you come back. Below are several examples I’ve encountered in the last month.

A representative from a Santa Monica car dealership called to remind me that the lease on my car would be up by early summer. She invited me in to look at the new cars that had arrived. This showed me that the representative and company she works for truly value me as a customer. Taking care of my transportation needs earlier rather than later helped me avoid a potentially stressful situation. I am grateful that they made my life much easier by having one less thing to worry about. Another lesson in this example is that I appreciated being treated like a person, and not like a money machine.

I met a friend at a busy restaurant in West Hollywood, where we had a reservation. We’d expected a great table. Unfortunately, we were seated next to a drafty door. Sensing our disappointment and discomfort, our server surprised us by bringing out a free appetizer, which made us feel special. She didn’t have to do that. This also demonstrated that the restaurant was thinking ahead because they had anticipated the people who were seated at this table might be unhappy. Anticipation is a big part of customer service.

When I called Time Warner in Los Angeles to find out why their On Demand service wasn’t working, I learned there was a power outage and was offered two free movies—just like that. I thought that was nice. Although I was somewhat inconvenienced, I really didn’t mind that much, but the fact that they immediately offered recourse really made me happy.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the difference between retaining business versus losing business comes down to—now brace yourself—being nice and going above and beyond for your customers.

It’s easier said than done. A malaise seems to have settled over America. Perhaps it has something to do with our constant communication with each other by smartphones and how we forget to relate to one another in person. Or perhaps it’s as simple as being too self-absorbed, trying to achieve the American Dream. Either way, we’ve lost the human touch and need to regain it or risk losing business.

Business owners need to remind themselves and the people who work for them that the buck stops here when it comes to providing excellent customer service. After all, behavior affects the bottom line. We need to go the extra two miles.

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