A road less traveled

emptyroadYou fly a lot. You have a card with your name on it. It tells other people you fly a lot. And you bring it out every time you want to get that upgrade. A lot of times it works.

That's the road a lot of folks travel.

You check into the hotel. You get a room, but it's not that great. The drapes stink. Or something else is wrong. So you call down and complain. Most of the times you get switched to a new room. All because you asked to talk to a manager.

That's the road a lot of folks travel.

You call to change your address with the local cable provider. After minutes and minutes (it feels like hours) on hold, you reach someone and tell them you're moving. They're not sure they can help you until you raise your voice. Eventually they figure it out.

That's the road a lot of folks travel.

We use our “points” to get what we need. We talk to a manager to get what we need. We raise our voices to get what we need.

That's the road a lot of folks travel.

It's not our fault that we have to rely on these strategies. Most customer service training even has special tips for dealing with high-valued customers, for dealing with people who want to talk to the manager, and for handling people who raise their voice.

That's the road a lot of folks travel.

I wanted my son to have great birthday party today. I wanted all his friends to have fun. I wanted them to eat, to play, and for him to get into that magical booth with flying tickets – as many as he could collect – so he could get cool stuff at Chuck E. Cheese.

That's the road a lot of folks travel.

Maybe you've stayed at a nice hotel like the Ritz Carlton – which trains their staff differently. Maybe you've had a party at a Chuck E. Cheese, where your host does literally everything for you so that you don't lift a finger. Maybe you've shopped at a Nordstrom.

They do things a bit differently.

  • They train their individual staff to make decisions on their own.
  • They consistently teach about culture and what's “on brand”.
  • They teach their staff to introduce the element of surprise.

At Christian's birthday party today our host found several ways to “give” Christian extra tickets. In the end, I was paying for it all – just like when I pay for a nice stay at the Ritz. But the experience was pretty amazing. And my son was not only surprised, but delighted.

And it made me wonder why we don't study these companies more. And then I realized we've all heard the stories. It's not a lack of knowledge. But you have to do more than just “know” the stories. You have to change your business and shape a culture around these principles.

I once bought a pair of shoes from Zappos. I picked 3-5 day delivery. Tony and his team of incredible customer service folks over there sent me an email later that day. They'd upgraded me to next day delivery. For free.

Did the CEO do it? No way. I'm sure someone far lower in the organization made the call. And they were empowered to do it. Like the host at our Chuck E. Cheese party today.

There's nothing stopping you from creating a culture of amazing customer service. But it means moving in a different direction than everyone else.

That's the road less traveled.