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Monday, July 20, 2009

Hello, I'm the customer. How can I help YOU?

One of the most overlooked aspects of successful services is how well the customer knows their role in the experience and executes it. Sometimes it is an actual element of co-production of the experience – ordering your morning latte in that metered patois that baristas know as their second language. Sometimes it is just the attitude and energy you bring to the encounter. Either way, service providers usually fail grandly at taking this aspect of the experience into account.

You’d be amazed at the effect a little outward courtesy & friendliness has when you are the customer in a typical service experience. Try this exercise:

Next time you're a customer at a drive thru window and the voice of the front-line service provider behind the microphone chirps out a "hello" and asks for your order, ask them how they are doing before you rattle off your order like a West Point Cadet calling cadence.

Here’s my experience: The voice on the other end of the microphone perks up immediately. They often mention that no one has asked how they are yet today. Orders are quick and complete. At my favorite purveyor of coffee drinks, this simple question results in a free drink about 20% of the time. (It is unbelievably sad commentary that courtesy from a customer is so rare as to be roughly equvalent in value to the front line employee as a service recovery to a customer for a bad experience.)

It's easy to forget that even in routine service experiences, the customer has a role to play in making the experience a success. No one would dispute that a client that doesn't tell his lawyer the truth won't get very good representation in the courtroom, yet courtesy in initiating a service encounter at a drive thru is seen as unnecessary.

Before you complain about not getting “service with a smile”, ask yourself what you brought to the equation.

Today is Free Pastry Day at Starbucks. My requests are that you be legitimately courteous to the person serving you, and that you ask exactly why Starbucks needs to have a Free Pastry Day. (hint: There is a reason)

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