We Need Another Hero!

Like you I am a consumer. Perhaps where we differ is I consume a lot. Traveling close to 200,000 miles a year (domestically) I have met my fair share of service providers, customer service reps, wait staff and more than a few bartenders.

With all the travel and interactions with sales people and customer service folks I find myself, as I am sure many of you do, easily impressed when someone demonstrates even slightly above average customer service skills. As buyers we live in a world of unlimited choices and very low expectations when it comes to service. Once in awhile someone not only meets my expectations they actually exceed my expectations. On the rare occasion they greatly exceed my expectations. It’s these folks that you, as a business owner, need more of. I call them my “Hero of the day”.

The team at Vino Volo in the Philly airport (yes you, Crystal, Amanda and Meg) have been, and continue to be heroes. They not only remember my name, they greet me once a month with a warm smile, and outstanding service (and make me feel like I’m their best customer). George, the shift supervisor at Hertz who read my body language and took the time to ask what was wrong and actually did something remarkable to help me. Realizing I was late for my flight and no shuttle bus in sight he offered to drive me, in my own rental car, to the terminal. Simple thing to be sure, but so often missed.

Here’s my favorite customer service hero story. A few months ago I was waiting to board a very early Southwest flight out of New Orleans. My gate was adjacent to the security check-point. A Southwest gate agent was behind the counter at my gate waiting for the go ahead to let us start boarding. Suddenly I became aware of a guy, having just cleared TSA, running frantically from the security check-point to the other end of the terminal. Picture him dragging his roll-a-board in one hand, shoes in his other hand, and belt around his neck. Clearly he was running late. Everyone near my gate looked up and noticed—including the SWA gate agent. She yelled out to the man “Are you going to Denver?” Stopping dead in his tracks he looked at her and said “Yes”. Here’s where she stepped up and donned the cape of a customer service hero. Her response was “Keep running—I’ll call the gate and let them know to hold the door”. This may seem, in hindsight, a simple act. However, how easy would it have been to ignore this man? I can tell you from personal experience the answer is…very easy.

So here’s my point. Customer service is the simplest place to look when wanting to create a competitive advantage. It can be argued it’s also the cheapest place to look. Simple, but not easy. It requires work and desire on your part as a leader. It requires effort. The place to start? Discover what it’s like, objectively, to do business with your company. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and ask yourself if there was a “wow” moment, or are you just like everyone else? Average! Then look for areas to be a hero and exceed your customer’s expectations. Here’s the good news…it won’t be hard. So what can you do to be a hero?