Workplace Wisdom

12 May 2015

Don’t Paper Over the Reality of Customer Experience

You’ve probably seen that embarrassing Seinfield episode (weren’t they all?) when Elaine is in a public restroom and realizes that there’s no toilet paper in her stall. If this has ever happened to you, it probably only took a couple of times before you made it standard practice to check for paper when you first open the stall door. (Let’s call that customer awareness, or customer education.) Early in my career, I managed an operation that worked weekends. The building […]

17 Mar 2015

How Customer Service Can Neglect Customer Care

When it comes to customer experience, the height of efficiency can take you to a low of satisfaction. Here are two recent personal observations: the first from a small, local eatery during the recent, challenging winter season, and the second from a large restaurant chain that’s new in town. Efficiency Isn’t Everything A nasty winter brings a lot of mess into a storefront. Retailers have to cope with dirty, melted snow getting tracked in, over and over again. Keeping things […]

10 Feb 2015

Service Efficiency vs. Customer (and Server) Comfort

Efficiency and comfort can sometimes be at odds. This divergence is often exacerbated by new technology, particularly in the service industry. Combine the drive for efficiency with technology and customers’ feelings about service providers — and vice versa — and comfort and satisfaction can be lost altogether. The Payment Plan I recently experienced the potential while staying at a lovely hotel in Vancouver, a beautiful city. A satisfying lunch at the restaurant in my hotel was followed by a payment […]

02 Dec 2014

Screened Service Revisited: Another Missed Airport Connection

When does self-service become a barrier rather than a boon? Back at JFK again recently, I returned to Due Amici, hungry for a midday meal. Now that I knew the drill for ordering off the iPad at the table, and had thought through the pitfalls (see The Pitfalls of Screened Service), I felt confident that I could have a relatively calm and pleasant lunch. My vantage point was slightly different this time: my corner seat let me observe a number […]

14 Oct 2014

The Pitfalls of Screened Service

Too much standardization and systematization can eliminate the crucial human element. That was my recent experience at JFK Airport. I had arrived too early for my flight, and decided that instead of grabbing a sandwich, I would calmly enjoy a “real” lunch, complete with actual silverware, at one of Terminal 2’s new iPad-driven restaurants. The place looked clean, modern, and attractive. I didn’t love the idea of sitting at a small table, facing a complete stranger with nothing but a […]

26 Aug 2014

When Help is More Valuable than Service

Maybe we should stop talking about serving customers and, instead, talk about helping customers: creating a sense of relationship, eliminating problems, and taking care of what customers need. Here’s how I got started on the idea of focusing on helpfulness, not service. The underlined text is customer reaction; the bold text highlights service behavior. Help Wanted Because I fly a lot, I decided to apply for TSA Pre-Check, and scheduled the required interview and fingerprinting at La Guardia airport. La […]

22 Jul 2014

When Service Is Two Chairs and a Napkin Short

A few weeks ago, we attended a gala event, and a series of service bobbles reminded me again that even when service people are perfectly nice, the service itself might still be inadequate. How much does a customer’s response to service results from the communication between humans? And how much of it is caused by the service person’s lack of judgment, discretion, training, procedure, or supervision? Table Hopping Table 9 was planned to seat 10 people, but was set for […]

17 Jun 2014

Is Your Service Ivy League or Minor League?

Last week, I met with a client at the Harvard Club in Manhattan. Membership in a university club can be very practical, especially for out-of-towners; the club serves as a well-appointed home-base hotel, providing a sense of comfort and the security of being “a member of the club.” Membership Rewards We walked from the lobby into the Harvard Club’s Main Bar, looking for a place to sit and chat. Here’s the description from the club’s website: “Richly decorated with Harvard […]

27 May 2014

Why Service Requires “I” Contact

The greeter at the door greets you. The barista hands you your drink. The host shows you to your table. The cashier takes your money. The usher takes your ticket and tells you where to go. Each of these interactions holds the promise of a moment of human connection, a glimpse of community and mutual support. But too frequently, unfortunately, that promise goes unfulfilled. When it comes to satisfying your service needs, sometimes all you want is the impersonal simplicity […]

22 Oct 2013

Correction Alone Is Not Enough if the Customer Doesn’t Know

When an organization makes a mistake in its caring for, servicing of, or communicating with customers, members, audience, etc., then of course it expects to correct the mistake. If the organization doesn’t go the next step — not an extra step, mind you, just the next step — and notify the customer of the fix, however, the de facto experience is the same as letting the mistake stand. At the very least, the organization undercuts its own reputation for care, […]


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