As managers and owners, we have to take care that the systems we put in place to manage and ensure great customer experiences do not create robotic procedures that can be counter to the very experiences we are trying to create.
In the post Customer Service Training: Principles Trump Procedures, I told the story of a fast casual employee whose stubborn insistence on taking my food to the table for me took a great customer service process and turned it into something more negative than positive. Why? Because it seemed like the employee had to perform the task, whether it added value or not.
I recently had an experience with AAA, the roadside assistance company, where I experienced a similar interaction regarding what seemed like the rote following of a customer service procedure.
Now, I mention AAA by name only because the total customer experience I had with the company was amazing! A 99 out of 100. And though this post might be dedicated to the “point they missed,” my experience with AAA was superlative from start to finish.
First, here’s a quick rundown of some of the excellent touchpoints in my experience with AAA:
The experience with AAA was truly Hero-ClassTM., from the professionalism of the phone call to the systems setup to create a seamless experience.
The only blip in the experience was that the service tech offered me a bottle of water when he arrived. Of course, this is a great touch! Imagine being stranded by the side of the road in Florida, and the first thing the AAA tech does after greeting you is offer you a bottle of water. An excellent service moment.
The only catch was, I was at my house and didn’t really need the water, so I told the tech “no thanks.”
He kept the bottle extended, and said something like “it’s not trouble, it’s part of our service.”
I thanked him but told him he didn’t need to waste the bottle on me, and sort of put my hand up to indicate that I didn’t want it.
I had now refused him twice.
However, he extended the bottle towards me further, and said something to the effect of “I’m supposed to make sure every customer gets a bottle of water.”
As I did at the fast casual restaurant, I simply acquiesced and thanked him. It wasn’t a big deal to me; it was, however, a small blemish on an otherwise perfect experience.
Now, I should be clear that he was super professional and friendly throughout the exchange. He was not pushy, just insistent. I didn’t get the sense that the tech would be in trouble for not giving me the water. In fact, he was highly complementary of AAA (said he loved working for the company) and was too much of a professional to indicate otherwise even if it were true. I just got the sense that the water bottle was on a checklist somewhere and that it was important to make sure it was done.
So, the moral of the story is that the customer should always come before the checklist, the principle should always trump the procedure. Make sure your teams understand the why behind the processes you have created around customers, then give them the flexibility to adapt the processes to what the customer wants, not what the supervisor’s report asks.
It is a lesson that even the greatest customer service organizations can be reminded of from time to time.
By Adam Toporek. Adam Toporek is an internationally recognized customer service expert, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. He is the author of Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines (2015), as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog and co-host of the Crack the Customer Code podcast.