Workplace Wisdom

06 Dec 2011

Making Extraordinary Service Look Easy

I’m not a fan of inter-organizational benchmarking: It’s almost impossible to replicate someone else’s successes when you don’t have their operating model, or to replicate their practices or techniques when you don’t have their culture or copy their culture when you don’t have their founding experience or history. And yet whenever you experience excellent service — and the providers make it look easy — it’s worth gleaning whatever lessons you can. So here’s a story with a bit of analysis: […]

29 Nov 2011

Should There Be a Way to Standardizing Exceptions?

I’ve been ordering a new drink at Starbucks lately. I’ve had this drink at one airport, one hotel, one highway rest stop, on two coasts, in three states, and at a number of local stores. It doesn’t appear on any published listing — and the price has never been the same. Starbucks has always varied its pricing depending on the establishment (airports, as opposed to storefronts, for example), geographic region (East Coast vs. West), and level of population density (major […]

16 Aug 2011

Lying on the Menu

It was a special lunch, and the three of us were a little excited. Daughter ordered the salmon, which impressed the waitress. I ordered the burger (Daughter’s second choice, as insurance). Spouse asked for a cup of soup and a fancy chicken sandwich. The waitress was friendly and interested, if not graceful, which fit with the tone of the establishment: traditional, comfortable, but not “fine dining.” She poured iced tea, brought the soup, and all was well. Spouse had just […]

25 Jan 2011

Three Ways That “No Problem” Is a Big Problem

Last week, my family decided to try dinner at a local place that had just evolved from a pizza joint to a restaurant. We’ll have to wait and see how it survives — in the Darwinian sense — because its “evolution” was not yet complete. The food was tasty, but oh, the kinks in the service! The staff was earnest, eager to please, but completely untrained. And I mean completely. The busboy seemed to have high potential, but he needed […]

11 Jan 2011

Hospital Highlights: Credibility and Care

Despite frequent media attention to dangerous and neglectful medical care, that was not our experience when I accompanied Spouse to an outpatient surgical procedure (which was successful, thank you!) at Winthrop University Hospital on Long Island. Everyone was competent and attentive, and some staff members were downright wonderful. The Doctor: A Surprising Slant on Credibility As part of Spouse’s intake and prep, a young woman doc came to examine him and discuss his surgery. I don’t know what her formal […]

12 Oct 2010

Is This Any Way to Fly the Unfriendly Skies?

Long, long ago, doubters said that if we were meant to fly God would have given us wings. These days you have to wonder: if we were meant to fly would we have to sit in the equivalent of industrial-farming-sized cages being forced to listen to strange corporate/robotic announcements? Over the last few days I flew back and forth from JFK to San Francisco on American Airlines. During the descents, a voiced and on-screen announcement declared that “in an effort […]

31 Aug 2010

When Service Gets Stale

Went to dinner with a client pal in one of those upscale, plush steakhouse chains where the wait staff wears little butchershop aprons. The tables were far enough apart for a sense of privacy and luxury; the menus were so big they could have substituted as game boards. Given both her demeanor and her well-practiced patter, our wait person was — and perceived herself to be — a seasoned professional. We had a wonderful meal — tasty food, an excellent […]

20 Jul 2010

Three Faces Of Customer Service

What is the face that your customer service staff shows the public? Do you know? Service Taking Flight On a crowded morning flight from Long Beach airport back to JFK, two flight attendants, Shelly and CheeChee, did a particularly notable job of engaging with customers, who, in addition to the normally diverse crowd of passengers included two Boy Scout Troops on their way to the National Jamboree along with their attending leaders and all their backpacks. These women dealt equally […]

29 Jun 2010

Opening the Sales and Service Rulebook

When I gave a webinar on “Increasing Average Order Value”, I referred to one of my “rules” for sales and service. Herewith Rule #3: The more you ask from your customers, the greater your obligation to understand them. (For contextual purposes, Rule #1 is: Get satisfactory goods into the customer’s hands as soon after the purchase decision as possible. Rule #2 is: Figure out how much staffing you need and make sure you get it.) Sometimes customers will help out […]

07 May 2010

When the Tables Turn

Sometimes customers think, believe, even expect that we can read their minds. And sometimes we appear to. But I see over and over how often we misjudge what even close friends and loved ones would want, and so marvel that strangers have such strong expectations for satisfaction. In preparation for the aforementioned black tie event (see post, If the Shoe Fits, April 30, 2010) I had some involvement with the dreaded Seating Plan. Among the goals of the various seating […]


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