You work at a popular pasta joint. Customers line up for blocks to get in. On Tuesday nights. It can get hectic. One hectic day you spot a regular customer in the crowd. You make eye contact and she approaches. Uh oh? She has that look of wanting something. You’re very busy.
She would like to buy some lemons. Some what? You heard her. Lemons. And she doesn’t mean a car with mechanical problems. She wants the stuff you squeeze on seafood pasta dishes. What kind of a request is that? No. You don’t sell lemons and right now you’re very busy. Didn’t she look at the sign? It says World’s most Fabulous Pasta. Not fabulous lemons. So what do you do with such an unorthodox request?
Are you the customer comes first type? Or do you stick to the rules and only the rules? Would a more reasonable request cause you to bend the rules? And how much flexibility is right anyhow? The answers aren’t always clear cut but your responses in any given customer service situation can have consequences you never imagined.
Management consultant, Peter Bregman found himself at the mercy of customer service with a rather reasonable request. In his travels he was at an upscale hotel where he asked for an extension on his checkout time. The hotel management refused, saying the hotel was full but then offered him the extended time if he would pay for half a day’s stay. He’ll never stay there again. And it’s not just that specific place but all the other hotels in the chain. He later wrote favorably about his stay in a competing hotel.
The customer may not always be right but customer service should be. Unless yours is the only business in the world with your special product, you’ll spend a lifetime warding off the competition. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that your customers will keep coming back regardless of the competition?
Read Peter Bregman’s piece here: http://blogs.harvardbusiness.org/bregman/2009/03/the-real-secret-of-thoroughly.html