Workplace Wisdom

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

This Is How Service Efficiency Wins Out Over Customer 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 satisfying lunch at the restaurant in the hotel was followed by a somewhat challenging payment process […]

02 Dec 2014

How a Restaurant Disappoints When Service Is Not on the Menu

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

14 Oct 2014

Why You Need to Counteract 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

How Help Can Be 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 italicized 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

What If Your 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 can still be inadequate. How much does a customer’s response to service result from the service person’s lack of judgment, discretion, training, procedure, or supervision? And how much of it is caused by the interaction itself? Table Hopping Table 9 was supposed to seat only 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 […]


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