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Where's the Beef in Customer Service?
Posted: October 17, 2011

Several years ago, Wendy's devised one of the most memorable commercials of all time. It featured several old ladies in a hamburger shop examining the hamburgers they had just purchased. When they opened the bun, the burger was so miniscule that they cried out, "Where's the beef?"

In essence, they were saying there was nothing to be found in the hamburgers sold by Wendy's competitors. And in a similar sense, there are some people who say there's nothing to be found in the hoopla surrounding customer service.

In other words, customer service is nice in theory, but it does not pay off. And if it does not pay off, why bother?

Customer Service does pay off if an emotional connection is made. Read on.

  1. The Emotional Payoff Your Customers Get ... When They Get Great Service

    I've been outlining the financial payoffs that come with great service and the financial costs you have to pay when you deliver poor service. But customer service ALWAYS entails more than a financial transaction. It's ALSO an emotional experience.

    Your customers want you to do more than put the goods and services in their hands. They want a positive emotional EXPERIENCE as well.

    And that's the payoff they get when you deliver great service. Your customers feel appreciated and respected. And they want to keep on doing business where they get those feelings.

    There's no better evidence of that than your standard cup of coffee. Just compare the EXPERIENCE you get when you buy a cup of coffee at a nearby gas station versus a Starbucks store.

    You might argue that the coffee offered at each place has very little difference. But each place offers a vastly different EXPERIENCE. When you get your coffee from the gas station, you might be greeted by a store clerk who prefers to keep his attention more on the newspaper in his lap than on the customer in front of him. You may or may not get the polite "May I help you?" You complete the transaction, and that's it. You zip in and out of the gas station with a feeling of indifference ... coffee in hand.

    However, with Starbucks you might argue that you're not just there to get a cup of coffee. You're there to enjoy the "Starbucks," and a part of that EXPERIENCE is excellent customer service. Getting your coffee at Starbucks is not a mere transactional activity. Getting your coffee often means getting to know the people there, letting them know your habits, or maybe even sharing a slice or two of your life's stories.

    In a Starbucks store, a Starbucks barista may greet his or her customers on a first name basis, remembering frequent customers' regular orders, and even remembering their kids' names, where they go to school, and so on. The customer service EXPERIENCE is all about caring about the customers and what they need. And customers are willing to pay a very high premium for coffee that comes with that kind of an emotional EXPERIENCE. It's a huge payoff for them ... a payoff that is well worth the difference in cost.

    But there's one more bit of good news. You also get an emotional payoff.
     
  2. The Emotional Payoff YOU Get ... When You Deliver Great Service

    According to "Workforce Management" magazine, only 50% of the workforce is satisfied with their jobs. Compare that to an 82% job satisfaction rate at Starbucks. Quite simply, companies that focus on providing great customer service soon realize that the service is not only good for the customer, it's also good for the employees. As employees deliver better and better service, they are transformed from "This is something we have to do" to "This is who we are."

    It becomes a delicious cycle. The better people become at providing service, the more thanks and respect they get from their customers. And the better the employees feel about their jobs, the higher their enthusiasm, and the more enthusiasm they transfer to their customers. Employee morale, productivity, and retention all go up.

    Plain and simple, it just feels good to help people. That's what one airline employee learned. Even though she worked in an industry that has been plagued with a reputation for bad service, she knew there is always something she can do to help the customer.

    In this one particular flight, there was a two-hour delay due to bad weather conditions, causing passengers to idle around in the departure lounge while waiting for the sky to clear up. Among this group of passengers was a family of four with small children who were quickly becoming cranky due to the long journey and the late hour. The observant airline employee happened to notice this as she went around distributing refreshments to the waiting passengers.

    On her own initiative, the airline employee went back to her counter and produced two stuffed bears, products of the airline, and presented them cheerfully to the grumpy kids. The kids' eyes sparkled with curiosity as they reached for the bears, and soon they fell asleep in their parents' laps while tightly holding the bears. The relieved parents were understandably grateful to the airline representative for making their journey much more enjoyable ... for them and their kids.

    This thoughtful service gesture helped solidify a bond with a customer who is now much more inclined to do business with this airline in the future. And the airline employee got to feel better about her job and the difference it can make. She got an emotional payoff.

 

Article adapted /reprinted with permission from Dr. Alan Zimmerman’s Internet newsletter, the “Tuesday Tip.”

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