Have you ever walked into a business and, just looking around, didnít
have very high hopes for the experience that was about to come? It could
be for a variety of reasons: the physical appearance of the premises or
fixtures, the lighting, the body language of the employees, the smell in
the air, etc. Like it or not, we form these impressions on superficial
things and those impressions, in turn, mould our expectations. The sad
part is that things tend to happen the way we expect them to happen (but
thatís another column!).
I confess. That happened to me just a few minutes ago when I walked
into this pizza place for lunch. I am killing some time between
appointments and I came to this mall figuring I could have lunch and write
an article on my notebook computer, which I just happened to have with me.
The mall is, uh, old, small, and almost vacant, with only a couple of
recognizable brand-name stores. The pizza place is one of them, however,
and thatís why Iím here (not to mention that it is the only eatery
with a place to work).
The restaurant is clean, although a little run-down. The lighting isnít
very good, giving a somewhat dingy appearance, and some of the customers
look like vagabonds. Shame on me, but I was prepared for a less than
I ordered some pizza slices and went to the drink-dispensing counter.
The man there looked up at me with a genuine, cheery smile. I asked him
for iced tea and he said, "Sure! You get free refills and, before you
leave, Iíll fill it up again and put it in a to-go container."
His enthusiasm caught me by surprise and his offer left me feeling like
I was well taken-care-of, even though I never really needed anything from
anyone for the rest of my meal. I didnít need a refill, and I didnít
take him up on his to-go offer, but that small gesture made a huge
difference in my overall experience.
Think about it: if you can give your customers the feeling that they
are well taken care of they will be happy even if something happens and
They didnít offer me anything special, they simply made me aware of
the service they normally provide so I could take advantage of it if I
needed or wanted to. Let me repeat that: "They simply made me aware
of the service they normally provide so I could take advantage of it if I
needed or wanted to".
It all boils down to communication. What is the point of providing
exceptional customer service if the customer only sees it if they need it?
Tell them up front and they will feel good about you whether they end up
taking advantage of the service or not.
Iím not talking about selling points, such as an electronics store
that offers to replace any unit that has to be repaired more than once. Iím
talking about mentioning the free gift-wrap, free delivery, or "free
refill in a to-go container" in the normal process of providing your
product or service.
How can you apply this concept? How can you better communicate with
your customers so that theyíll feel good about doing business with you?
Feel free to re-read this article as often as you like, with my