Expedited service doesn’t always mean superior service

You only have to look at fast food outlets to appreciate that expedited delivery doesn’t always translate to superior customer service. Just like many things in life, superior customer service does not simply depend on a single variable; it is a combination of number factors coming together: speed, agent’s skill set, customer communications, product quality, brand recognition, etc. So the million dollar question is, what is the right mix of these various factors to build a delightful customer experience?

Experience matters

Let’s consider a few examples. At times of peak demand, a service desk operation with limited resources looking to optimize on call abandon rate has to minimize the customer contact time and compromise on the first call resolution (FCR) rate. This is a challenging proposition for a service desk operation that takes pride in high FCR.

Think of a service desk operation at a higher education institution. At the beginning of the semester when there is peak demand for help desk services, even if we cannot help students with their technology issues right away, simply being available to take the calls, empathize with the users and reassure them that we will get things fixed can go a long way in meeting customer expectations.

Cultivating positive experiences

Let’s look at another example. Anyone traveling through Detroit airport would notice the long lines at the Zingerman’s Plum Market. If most folks are like me, after getting off a long flight, the only thought in their minds is: “How quickly can I get out of the airport, into the personal space of my car and back home?” However, it appears that most of us are willing to make one last stop before getting in the car –Zingerman’s Plum Market.

Why wait in a long line to pay an exorbitant amount of money for a sandwich, fruit cup, or a salad that you wouldn’t even consider if it was any other store? What’s so special about Zingerman’s?

Going the extra mile

Last week while I was traveling through Detroit airport late in the evening, I stopped to grab a fruit cup at Zingerman’s. I stood in line for at least 10 minutes to have the pleasure of paying $9.50 for a handful of grapes and few pieces of cheese!

While I was standing in line impatiently, I started to observe the cashier, bold tattoos on both forearms, bubbly personality, smiling face and caring conversationalist — she took the time to ask each customer about their travels, where they were going and who was waiting at home for their return. She took care to ask whether they needed a bag for the one piece of fruit they purchased and finally wished them well in their journey.

Of course, for someone waiting in line, this may seem like a never-ending story. After few minutes of standing in line, which felt like an eternity, it was my turn to pay. She started by making eye contact and greeting me with a broad smile. While she was scanning my fruit cup and commenting on how delicious they are, she immediately followed up with a string of questions about my trip.

She wanted to know my kids’ names, how old they are, and if they would be waiting for me when I get home even though it was late at night. Despite my tiredness and frustration at having to wait in line, I couldn’t help but appreciate her genuine interest in me and the pleasant friendly demeanor.

I spent the next minute or so answering her questions while she neatly wrapped my fruit cup, placed it in a small bag, and completed the credit card transaction. The important thing to note is at the end of this exchange, I felt happy! Good things are worth waiting for and superior service is no different under the right circumstances!

Context is key

The key message is that, just like leadership, service experience is heavily dependent on context. Understanding the customer needs and adapting the delivery model makes a difference in delighting your customers.