A hotel’s maintenance engineer perches on a ladder in the lobby, changing a light bulb. He notices a guest coming in from the adjacent pool area. She is wet, wrapped in towels and carrying numerous beach bags. With her hands full, she has trouble opening the door to the lobby. When he sees her fumbling with the latch, he climbs down from the ladder to help her. “Welcome back to the hotel, ma’am,” he says. “Let me help you with your bags. How was the pool?” He then carries her bags to the elevator and punches the button to her floor.
When I read this example brought by authors Leonardo Inghilleri and Micah Solomon, I thought “This is the kind of service I would like to see in my sector”, but then they asked;
(What if) the engineer had climbed down to assist the guest immediately, when he first saw her coming and realized her plight? Then, instead of providing reactive service, which involves spotting a negative customer experience and fixing it, he would have provided anticipatory service, which prevents the negative experience from happening in the first place.
Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization is full of tips and wisdom and recommends that companies teach their employees what type of terminology to use. The kind of language they employ is far more important than the words in marketing materials.
Employees’ conversations with customers have tremendous power to make customers’ experiences rewarding, reinforcing and positive. The right words can make service breakdowns bearable, just as the wrong words can quickly dismay even the most satisfied customers.