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June 2007

Service that Delights

First_jack “It’s a great day at Jack in the Box!

Hard to imagine someone saying that, isn’t it? Especially, at 6:00 in the A.M.  But, my wife, Frances, calling from her cell phone, assured me those were the words that came over the speaker when she pulled in to the drive-through to order a large diet Coke on her way out of town.

“Then,” Frances continued, “when I drove up to the window, the woman handed me the drink and said, ‘No charge. It’s my treat.’”

“Truly, it must be a great day at Jack in the Box,” I replied.

“It’s going to be a great day all day long,” Frances said.

“Because you got a free drink?”

“Well, yeah!” As if I could miss something so obvious. Now you need to understand something: With Frances, it isn’t a matter of whether or not the glass is “half-full or half-empty.” It’s more like, “if the glass is half anything, a free refill is surely on the way.” “Optimist” is not a strong enough word. She believes the universe is always conspiring to help her, and interestingly, it seems to be doing just that. I mean, I never got a free drink at Jack in the Box. Hmmm….

Anyway, my point - you know there’s one in here somewhere – is that a successful outcome for a customer experience is when it causes people to talk about it. There are entire blogs devoted to the importance and impact of word-of-mouth. And for the cost of a cold drink, an employee at Jack in the Box transformed an ordinary drive-through experience into "service that delights." And Frances told others about it. And now I’m telling you.

Adding the delight factor to your customer service doesn't have to be expensive. Lots of businesses have vending machines available for the “convenience of our customers.” But, a refrigerator filled with complimentary soft drinks and bottled waters for their customers – that’s convenient. Some tire companies offer free flat repair if you buy your tires from them. But, a tire company that offers to fix your flat free no matter where you bought your tire – that’s going the extra mile*. A bakery advertises, “daily newspapers for sale.” Yawn. Now if they gave those papers away to their customers – that would create more buzz than the donuts and coffee.

How about a jeweler who replaces your watch battery for free?

Can you think of some others?

*Discount Tire will repair a flat tire for free regardless of where you bought your tires.

Why? Because we like you

Istock_000000986868xsmall Seriously. I do make it a point to avoid writing about the companies you read about all the time anyway, like Starbucks and Nike and Apple. Mainly, because, even though the spirit of the stories is intended to inspire, I believe it’s hard for most small to mid-size businesses to identify with corporations that have mega-budgets for training, marketing and "experience building." So, I aim to keep it simple. That’s why I chose this story of service recovery, told by Don Robinson, Disney’s Sr. VP of Resort Operations, because it illustrates how providing a memorable customer experience begins with the basics of common courtesy, communication and compassion.

One of the most important things that we train staff members to do is service recovery. That's when you walk into a situation and you can tell that something has gone wrong -- and you do whatever it takes to fix the problem. That's also an opportunity for what we call a "magic moment."

We once had a family that wanted to celebrate a child's birthday at a "character breakfast" -- a buffet in which Disney characters mingle with guests, sign autographs, and pose for photographs. But this family was late and didn't make the seating. The next show was scheduled for lunch, which was also booked. Members of the family were sitting on a bench outside the restaurant, waiting for an opening, when one of our employees walked by and saw that these people were not happy campers.

The employee found out what the problem was and said, "Let me see what I can do." He was able to get them into the lunch show, seat them right up front, and make sure that the birthday boy's favorite character sang "Happy Birthday.” That was a magic moment -- a quick recovery from what could have been a very disappointing birthday.

The best part? The employee who did that recovery was a custodian -- a guy just walking by with a broom, sweeping up cigarette butts. But all of our employees, from janitors and dishwashers to hotel managers, know they have the ability -- and the responsibility -- to improve the experience of any guest.

Okay, I know some people may point out that the birthday experience that Disney provides does indeed cost money, but the story is about an employee being aware of the role he plays in the total customer experience.

First, it's necessary to sell the notion of the "customer experience" to all of employees, not just those “on the frontline.” Secondly, define in detail to every employee what it means to provide “service recovery.”