The great news about bad service

It's rampant and without discrimination; you can be a loyal, repeat customer, or a prospect looking for great service.  And this sad reality spells opportunity for the rest of us. Each day, literally, I slap myself on the forehead and ask "who puts up with this?" Apparently, a lot of people judging from how busy certain businesses appear to be despite their mediocre and even insulting attitude.

Admittedly, I am a tough customer because I train businesses on raising-the-bar when it comes to marketing, sales and service. Yet, "delivering happiness" isn't complicated, it's simple and follows this road map:

  1.  Identify why you are in business and how you're going to matter: "Will we miss you if you're gone?" (Seth Godin)
  2. Know your buyers: What are their expectations and what type of "shopping experience" will bring them back?
  3. Know your competitors: And I mean "know" them as if you work there - take what they do well and do it better, when they zig you zag. Take what they suck at and...you get the idea.
  4. Put your service manifesto in writing: Everyone in the company, from the cleaning person to the CEO, need to know how high the bar has been set and how to get and stay there.
  5. Only hire people who are a natural fit for your passion: A burning desire to want to make a difference, integrity, honesty and humility are innate -- sorry, you can't teach or train them.
  6. Monitor and manage continuously by asking, after each transaction, "are we delivering on the promise we made?" While no one gets to 100% satisfaction, never ever ignore complaints (verbal or in writing) or the type of behavior that indicates "I'm not coming back."
  7. Adopt a posture of humility: Just because there's a long line out the door doesn't mean you're indispensable; it just means that there is a line out the door today and it may not be there tomorrow. Earn every customer, remember how high the bar is set for each transaction.
  8. Fire bad attitudes. While an employee can have a bad day, no customer should be forced to be part of it either. You, your managers and everyone on the team should be sensitized to bad behavior that leads to bad service. "Hey Joe, you clearly don't seem to be yourself today. You can either go home or go back to shipping and help out" (in other words, customers should not be talking to Joe either).
  9. Ask and you shall receive: Assume nothing, question everything. Just because "we're busy" does not mean that we are doing everything right. The only way to find out is to ask your customers, directly, by surveys, by phone calls or any other way. You must understand the "outside looking in" view. It will save your business and it will help you uncover opportunities too "Gee, we didn't think of that, this is something we should consider offering."
  10. Test your service levels. The "mystery shopper" concept is brilliant, use it frequently and tell your team that it is part of your quality control. Apply what you learn and adjust, retrain and teach. If you spot recurring bad attitudes go back to #8.

When I encounter bad service, more often than not I will share my observation with the owner or manager. I walk away while observing her body language, whether she took notes or shared it with someone else. The results of all three decide for me whether I'm coming back or not. A caring (and valuable) employee would respond, "Hey, thank you so much for bringing this our attention. Do you have a minute, I'd like my manager to hear it as well?"

Every business deserves a second chance but how they go about reacting to a failure to deliver decides if they get one or not.

Talk is cheap and we can have a bad day so here's a suggestion: A sign, a banner, an email signature that simply says: "We are in business to deliver the type of shopping experience that will convince you to come back, and often. Please help us deliver on our promise as we are admittedly far from being perfect: If we fail you in any way, big, small or tiny, please tell us immediately. We are going to apologize, do the right thing and learn from your valuable input."

Here's the thing: the problem with "signs" or mission statements, or a robotic "did I deliver great service today?" is that they become a fixture and lose their meaning. While the 'sign' is a reminder, to us and customers, the key to delivering a consistent experience is training everyone on the team to "live by the sign" not to have to read it as a reminder.

What is the secret to delivering great service? Consistency, day in day out and at all hours of the day.

Will we miss you if your business is gone?  We won't have to bother if deliver on your promise.