The Secret Sauce

Originally published June 20, 2017 by The Montrose Daily Press

Last Thursday I stood under a tent selling barbecue pork and brisket sandwiches to hundreds of hungry Ride the Rockies cyclists and locals. As I was helping one out-of-town gentleman, he scoffed under his breath giving me a sarcastic smile. I looked at him with a question in my eyes. “It’s just…you’re so…polite,” he said. I smiled knowingly back at him.

I wish I was surprised by his reaction to my politeness or “customer service,” but truthfully I found myself rather saddened. “Five-Star” customer service may not be dead, but it is certainly rare.

Optimistically, our greatest weakness can often become our biggest opportunity. There are many beautiful towns in Colorado; towns people can visit, move to, or spend money in. Although many of us believe Montrose is the greatest of all, there is one way we can assure we are: Superior customer service on a global level.

Service matters. And service starts at the top. If you aren’t leading your team with great service (or servant leadership), do not expect delivery of great service to your customers. It’s cultural and we are all products of our environment.

You may sell the most superior widget in the world. If someone walks into your store and has a terrible experience while purchasing the widget, they likely won’t be back and they’re even more likely to tell a friend about it.

Additionally, service isn’t limited to shops and restaurants. You can deliver great service both internally and externally in a variety of situations. Perhaps you are a 911 dispatcher, a bartender, a doctor, or anything in between. This world takes all kinds, and we each have our intricate and important part when helping one another. If we each made our individual environments more welcoming and inviting to others, it would move the needle on the overall joy factor.

Looking for inspiration? Here are a few ideas for sparking spectacular service:

1. Greeting: When someone walks into your business or calls on the phone, the first impression is the most important. Plaster a smile on that mug of yours and make them feel like your best friend.

2. Don’t just follow the Golden Rule; try the Platinum Rule: “Treat others the way they want to be treated.” Aha! What a difference. The Platinum Rule accommodates the feelings of others. The focus of relationships shifts from “this is what I want, so I’ll give everyone the same thing” to “let me first understand what they want and then I’ll give it to them.” Source: www.alessandra.com

3. Know your product: One of the most important pieces of service is providing accurate and helpful information about all your products and services. Additionally, you should talk about them in a way that shows passion and pride in what you’re doing.

4. Make customers feel at home: Offer water, coffee, and a place to hang their coat. If you’re on the phone with your customer, explain all delays and holds and thank them for waiting. Ask questions about the customer as an expression of interest; never talk about yourself unless specifically asked.

5. Go the extra mile: In customer service, you will always find yourself in a situation where you have a choice. Status-quo or above and beyond.  Ever heard the saying, “It’s the little things”? Well, it is. But sometimes, it is also the bigger things. Sometimes it is driving across town with paperwork for a customers who simply cannot get to you. Other times, it is getting creative in your problems solving and looking at ways you can make a situation work even when it requires “breaking the rules.” People remember things like that.

6.  Follow up. Write thank you notes. Call just as a “hello” and see how your widget is working out for the customer. Ask how their experience was the last time they were in. And listen to what they tell you.

7. Never stop improving: It takes practice. None of us are perfect. Take important customer feedback and implement it, improving the experience for the next time.

Many times in writing this column, I talk about surprising and delighting your customers.

Great service is the secret sauce in doing that.  Great service is not just what you say to a customer. It isn’t providing the great product, taking their money and saying thank you. Service is a feeling. Great service breaks the rules, colors outside the lines and makes the person in front of you feel like the most important person in the whole world. Lead by example.

Chelsea Rosty is the executive director of the Montrose Chamber of Commerce and director of Business Innovation for the City of Montrose. Reach her at chelsea@montrosechamber.com