Last week I took the train to London and was sat in first class (I book way in advance to get the best deals). The customer service executive asked me if I wanted coffee, I said yes and he poured me half a cup then walked off. I waited for a few minutes rightly or wrongly assuming that he had gone to get some more coffee to complete the job. However, after ten minutes he came back down the aisle and I politely asked if there was any more coffee. I was astounded at what happened next: he actually tutted! Not a small under-the-breath tut, but a full on stare-you-in-the-eyes-how-dare-you-interrupt-my-day tut. With the usual British reserve we are renowned for I calmly let it pass, as I saw no merit in engaging this chap in a lesson on customer service (there are urban myths about what people put in your drink when you cause a fuss).
So where am I going with this? Well… two weeks earlier I’d travelled with the same rail carrier but in standard class (it keeps the cost down on unplanned trips) but on this occasion the customer service executive was magnificent. She smiled, offered alternatives when people asked for stuff she’d run out of on her at-seat catering trolley, and she was humorous – whilst still treating people with respect. However, what impressed me the most was her ability to use her customer service savvy to up-sell. Bacon butties were not on the trolley menu but she took orders for them anyway, checking first for the destination of potential customers to ensure they would have enough time, as it would be about ten minutes from order to delivery. After setting expectations of delivery time she calmly continued her journey, serving other customers on the aisle from her trolley. She then came down the aisle 10 minutes later and delivered 20 bacon butties in our carriage alone – remembering each and every person who had ordered, and where they were sat.
So what do we learn from this? It’s simple really – how our brands are perceived, remembered and recalled is made or broken by the how we engage with our customers on the front line. Poor service is likely to result in reduced income, whereas an excellent service can drive significant revenue increases via up selling. People buy more when service appears to be above and beyond the ‘norm’.
And all this boils down to consistency of quality. The rail carrier I use was dismal in one instance but magnificent in another. Yet often we only get one chance to impress – be it through the way we answer the phone, present ourselves through our websites, the way we engage through social media, direct mail, or conduct ourselves in client pitches. We should always strive for excellence and give people the quality of service we would ideally expect to receive ourselves.
I’d be interested to hear your stories.