It’s National Customer Service Week!

Professional Association for Customer Engagement

It’s National Customer Service Week!  I thought I’d share one of my all-time favorite movie clips from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  It’s the scene where Holly and Paul try to purchase something at Tiffany for $10. Though the salesperson  asks a few too many closed-ended questions, and Tiffany really won’t engrave anything not purchased there, the spirit of excellent customer service still shines through:

Though it’s called National Customer Service Week, we know the real secret for exceeding customer expectations is to turn customer service into customer experience. Here are some guidelines for creating an exceptional customer experience:

  • Create some magic
    Whether I’m purchasing a designer dress, dining at a posh restaurant, or checking into a four-star hotel, create a little magic for me! Sales associates at Louis Vuitton don white gloves before presenting a handbag. Harry Winston offers you a glass of champagne as you peruse their diamonds, and Ritz-Carlton instructs its employees never to say ‘no’ to a guest. Think about how to make the customer experience magical and unforgettable.
  • Make me the center of your universe
    Of course you have other customers; of course you have paperwork to complete; but while I’m your customer, I should have your complete attention. Ask the right open-ended questions to better understand what I want, and then listen. Sounds simple, but I cannot tell you how many sales associates talk more than they listen.
  • Be the brand
    Your attitude, dress and language should reflect your brand’s image. Your passion for the brand should come through in your actions and words. Is your vocabulary consistent with your brand’s message? Share a bit of history, express excitement about your latest product, or tell me how much you love what I’ve chosen and why. I like your brand; that’s why I’m here. If you’re not crazy passionate about your brand, consider working somewhere else.
  • Consistency, consistency, consistency!
    Everything the customer sees and hears—from the décor, to the background music, to the way the purchase is presented—should enhance the experience. Carefully consider every design choice to ensure it exemplifies the brand. Pay attention to every detail. The Tiffany bow is never askew! Remember, the customer experience goes beyond the store. Advertising, websites, social media, corporate responsibility, and after-sales service—all need to align with the brand promise.

On October 8, 1992, President George H. W. Bush signed Presidential Proclamation 6485 establishing the first week of October as National Customer Service Week™.

Goldilocks and the 9 oz. pour

I have recently rejoined the ranks of business travelers. Of course, many things have changed since the onset of COVID-19—from needing to wear face masks in the air to experiencing hotel life without room service (and without your room being serviced). These minor inconveniences aside, I was pleased to discover a change that is not in any way related to the pandemic, but is certainly something I had wished for time and time again.

Before I go any further, I’d like to digress a bit to talk about Goldilocks, since she is an integral character in my story. As you may know, Goldilocks was the young girl who stumbled upon the house of the three bears and, uninvited, went inside (breaking and entering might be a more apt description). Once inside, Goldilocks found Papa Bear’s porridge too hot and his bed too hard. At the other end of the spectrum, Mama Bear’s porridge was too cold and her bed too soft. Baby Bear’s porridge and bed, however, were “just right” for Goldilocks—an “impudent, rude little girl” according to the fairy tale. Though I try never to be impudent or rude, I do sometimes wish for an in-between option when presented with two choices. I want that “just right” choice afforded little Ms. Goldilocks.

“What does all this have to do with luxury service?” and “What is the 9 oz. pour?” you may ask. When ordering wine at a restaurant, the standard pour is 6 oz., and the wine is customarily served before the meal. This means I’ve usually enjoyed a few sips of wine before my dinner arrives, but then I run out of wine before I’ve finished eating. I must then decide either to order another glass of wine or to drink the water, which by now is warm. A second full glass is often more than I want at this point. I have, on occasion, asked whether I could purchase a 1/2 glass of wine and am usually told “no.” But I now see a few restaurants are offering the choice of a 6 oz. or a 9 oz. glass of wine, priced accordingly. This is my Goldilocks moment—9 oz. is “just right!”

This has led me to think about other ways the service industry might offer Goldilocks moments. One that immediately comes to mind is the idea of the late checkout. Most hotels require you to checkout before noon. Of course, you may still have a day of sightseeing planned or perhaps have a late flight, and it would be wonderful if you could have just a few extra hours in the room. Now several hotels make that option available at an additional cost, or offer it as a perk to their premier level guests. Either way, guests can opt for the checkout that’s “just right” for them.

Think about other ways you might be more accommodating to your customers. If you offer only one option, is there a way customers can extend or add to it, or a way they can reduce it to better meet their needs? If you currently offer two options, is it possible to present a middle choice? How can you add some flexibility in the choices you offer? Remember, the luxury customer always appreciates the opportunity to customize or personalize their selections.

And while you’re pondering that, Goldilocks is going to go enjoy her nice, perfectly-sized glass of wine.

When “No problem” is a Problem

When “No problem” is a Problem

One of the perks of working in the luxury industry is that you sometimes get to stay in lovely places and dine in very nice restaurants. One of the drawbacks is that you can become hypercritical of the service you receive. I write this blog with the intent of providing insight and guidance on what luxury customer service should look like. If I call out a particular phrase or behavior, it’s not from arrogance, but from a strong belief that when customers are willing to spend more, they should receive a commensurate level of service. That means every action, word, gesture, and expression on the part of the luxury sales and customer service professional should echo the premier experience. The luxury professional should always be thinking of ways to improve the customer experience. When I was at Tiffany & Co., the mantra was “always say it better.” That translated to taking a moment after each customer interaction to reflect upon how you could have improved the experience for the customer and how you might have phrased something better. Which brings me to my latest pet peeve.

During a recent business trip to Miami, I was looking forward to a lovely dinner at a highly recommended restaurant. Everything was perfect—the linens were white and crisp, the silverware gleamed, the menu presented tantalizing suggestions, and the lighting and music were appropriately subdued. I made my selection and after a few minutes the waitperson returned with the glass of wine I had ordered. As she set it down before me, I said, “Thank you very much.” She smiled and replied, “No problem.”

The response, “No problem,” is something I expect to hear when I thank the roadside assistance person for changing my tire, when I thank Siri for telling me what film won Best Picture, or when I extend my gratitude to the clerk who bagged my groceries. The phrase is fine in an informal context, but I cringe a bit when I hear it in a luxury setting. It may be a little thing, but when it comes to delivering exceptional service, it’s all about the little things. “No problem” also contains two negative words: ‘no’ and ‘problem’. If I’m thanking you, why should the first word out of your mouth be “no” and what exactly was the “problem” we managed to avoid?

There are a few other phrases I would group with “no problem” as being too casual for a luxury experience:

“No worries.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“Don’t mention it.”
“Of course.”
“Anytime.”

So how can we say it better? A simple, “You’re welcome,” is always a welcomed response. Other more appropriate replies include:

“You’re very welcome.”
“You’re so welcome.”
“You’re most welcome.”
“With pleasure.”
“It’s my pleasure.”
“It’s my sincere pleasure.”
“It was very much my pleasure.”
“Certainly. I’m happy to be of service (or assistance).”
“Thank you for your patronage.”

Every interaction with a customer is an opportunity to create a memorable and enjoyable experience. Consider how you can create a warm and engaging greeting and how your parting words might encourage a customer to return. But also think about how you might improve all the small exchanges in between the greeting and farewell to enhance the luxury experience. How can you say it better?

I’ve only offered a few ideas here and I’m certain my readers have more to share. How do you respond to “thank you?” I invite you to contribute your own suggestions below.

Those Little Things Really Do Count

tea-cup

When you travel as much as I do (over 100,000 miles last year) AND you write a blog about customer service (four years running), you can start to overlook the little things, feel jaded, and think you’ve written just about everything you can about luxury customer service. Then the littlest thing can happen and you’re reminded again how important good customer service is and to appreciate those who go out of their way to provide it.

We’ve all read the stories of luxury hotel staff who have flown across the country to deliver a laptop inadvertently left behind, or the department store that allowed a customer to “return” four tires even though they don’t sell tires. All grand gestures indeed and worthy of acknowledgement. But this post is dedicated to those who serve in the smallest of ways. Those  who take the time to notice what’s going on and then make that small, extra effort to make your day.

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