I just took my family to King's Dominion amusement park for the day. While we expected to have fun on the rides, what caught me off guard were the number of times park staff members went out of their way to not just answer questions but go the extra mile to provide genuine assistance. This was unexpectedly great customer service. When I was 13, I started my first job delivering newspapers after school for the Des Moines Tribune. I still recall how my father sat me down at the kitchen table and told me a few things I'd be doing before I ever delivered my first newspaper. He also outlined for me some guidelines for how I was to approach this job.
At the time, I thought it was a bit much. I mean, come on. Newspapers, Dad. Everybody's seen the shows on TV where the kids ride down the street and chuck papers to the people standing on their front steps, right? Waving, smiling, coffee cup in hand, rollers in their hair (okay, so mine would be an afternoon route, but still...) I might even get to toss a few into the bushes or onto the roof! But, no. That was the point. Here are the guidelines my Dad gave me that day:
1. Start by introducing yourself. I wrote a letter telling my customers who I was, where I lived, how excited I was to be their paperboy, and that I would accept nothing less that perfect service (more on that in a moment). I also included my phone number and asked them to call me first if a paper was ever missing. 2. Respect your customers. That meant, in m case, respecting first and foremost their property. I never rode my bike on their lawns or walked on their grass. Driveways and sidewalks only. But it also meant never showing up to collect from them after 8PM and never ringing the doorbell more than once. 3. Overachieve on service. Papers were always placed behind the screen door if it was unlocked. In the rain, papers were always bagged and placed so that water wouldn't run into the bag. Always. No one ever had to go looking for their paper. 4. Don't let quality end with me. When we went on vacation, I trained a friend to take over my route for a week. He knew my routine and knew I expected him to follow it to the letter. He did, and I paid him double for his efforts, because it cost me less in the long run than it would have to repair the relationships with my customers.
My Dad was right, and it was a great lesson in the importance of service. After 3 months, the paper sent me to see REO Speedwagon with a friend for free (it was the late 70s, the "You Can Tune A Piano" tour) and after a year of perfect service, during which the paper never received a complaint nor a call asking for a replacement paper, they gave me a TV. Small, black & white, but I had it through college.
What opportunities for excellent interaction have you experienced or overlooked?