Workplace Wisdom

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

This Is 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

The Problem’s If the Customer Doesn’t Know

Most organizations that realize they’ve made a mistake in caring for, servicing, or communicating with customers, expect to correct the mistake. Organizations need to go the next step, though — not an extra step, mind you, just the next step — and notify the customer of the fix, or the de facto experience is the same as letting the mistake stand. At the very least, the organization undercuts its own reputation for care, service, or communication. Here’s a lightly edited […]

15 Oct 2013

Try Not to Waste a Customer Care Opportunity

According to Wikipedia, Lean Manufacturing, sometimes referred to simply as Lean, “is a production practice that considers the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful, and thus a target for elimination.” But the drive for efficiency — or the targeting of what looks like excess resources or expenditures for elimination — when taken too far, can create new kinds of waste in the system. For example, I’m an […]

01 Oct 2013

This Is the Story of a Successful Service Recovery

Last week I met with Terri Bartlett, the intrepid president of Marketing EDGE, for lunch at Forty Four, the restaurant at the Royalton Hotel in Manhattan. We had lots to talk about, and didn’t even notice how long we were waiting for our order to arrive. I was seated on the banquette, facing the room, so I noticed right away when a fellow wearing a striped shirt and a jacket came walking purposefully toward us. I assumed he knew Terri, […]

10 Sep 2013

Jeni’s Tasty Recipe for Customer Engagement

Visit the original Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams shop in Columbus, Ohio, and its sense of quirkiness and celebration will draw you in right away. It’s a strong case study in hooking and involving customers. Here are some of the highlights: Triggers for anticipation/curiosity/excitement – There’s a lot to notice in this party atmosphere: plenty of written words for the verbal, decorations for the visual, and lots of staff to assure you that you’ll be taken care of. Value of naming […]

23 Jul 2013

Excellent Service Means Managing Customers’ Expectations

Google the phrase “managing expectations” and you’ll get 66 million hits. A search for the refinement “customer expectations” brings back 54 million hits. With so much information available, and so much interest, it’s amazing that customer expectations go unmanaged so frequently! And yet they do. An example: Our IT supplier moved us from one email server to another after they selected a new, “better” provider. Of course we went along for the ride. These tech folks are good people and […]

21 May 2013

Watch Out for the Emptiness of Empowerment

Long, long ago, maybe back in the ’80s, “empowerment” was the hot new thing in workplaces. The word itself had a regenerative, creative, motivating sound. It held the possibility that, instead of laboring under bureaucratic Theory X command-and-control management structures (with an emphasis on control), employees could take responsibility for exercising business judgment in their own jobs. On the Frontlines The idea was that employees, particularly frontline service employees, were capable of making good decisions as part of their everyday […]


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