Faces of Customer Experience: Ali Banks

September 25, 2014

Meet Ali Banks!


Ali Banks began her career in architecture but left her real estate development job to pursue her love of food at Le Cordon Bleu, Paris. Her food adventure brought her back home to New York and now Chicago.

Currently the Resident Chef for Sur La Table, Chicago, she teaches hands-on cooking classes to adults and children. Additionally, she is the recipe developer for Sitka Salmon Shares and enjoys experiencing the operation first hand by fishing in Alaska.

False Dichotomy

We know that the answer is often somewhere in between, but the fun of this section is that you have to pick just one!

Paper < Plastic

Personalization < Privacy

In-Store Shopping < Online Shopping

Transactional Relational

Mac < PC

Customer Service > Customer Experience

Captain Kirk > Dr. Spock

Talk > Text

Dog < Cat

Movie Theater < In-Home Rental 

Tell Us More About Yourself…

What was your first job and what did you learn about customer service in it?

My first job was as a lifeguard at a swim club in my home town. I learned that not everyone will be happy, and you can’t make everyone happy. I found it helpful to always be upfront but courteous when sharing information with a customer. People are infinitely more understanding and pleasant when you’re positive — a smile goes a long way.

Tell us how one outside influence impacted your customer service or customer experience thinking. (For ex. book, movie, sporting event, relationship, travel)

Recently, I was flying back to Chicago from New York on JetBlue. I had my favorite cut of meat from my old butcher shop that I worked at in New York all packed up to bring home for a special dinner. I asked, nicely, if there was any chance I could put it in any form of cold storage. My flight attendant was gracious but said unfortunately she could not. I left it at that and wrapped the bag with the ice pack tighter. She returned a few minutes later with no grand explanation or scene and slipped me two bags full of ice.

I really appreciated the effort that she made without need to be recognized or draw attention to what she was doing. It is truly the little things that make all the difference.

In your own personal experience, has customer service gotten better or worse in the past five years?

I think it has gotten more transparent — which I view as better. My first retail job was with Sur La Table, and it makes me happy that I am empowered to make people happy. Yes, my job description is mainly about cooking classes, but at the end of the day, it is all about the people and their experience. We can always be honest with a customer and do whatever it takes to ensure they are satisfied with all aspects of their experience with us.


> I consider it a bad customer experience when I am placed on hold for more than 3 minutes.

> In five years, the most important social media channel for customer service will be Twitter.

> The best book I read in the last twelve months was Good Fish by Paul Greenberg.

To connect with Ali Banks further visit her at

2 thoughts on “Faces of Customer Experience: Ali Banks”

  1. Love the story of her first job and the big lesson learned — you can’t make everyone happy. There are times I’m shocked to hear when others tell me their first job out of college is.. their first job. Much of what I know of multitasking and time management, I got early on waiting tables and tending bar. Part of me thinks, no matter what you do later in life, you should have to work (and pay your bills!) a customer service gig. FWIW.

    1. Some of those jobs you mention are among the best places to learn customer-facing skills. Trial by fire, so to speak. And you and Ali are spot on — you can’t please every customer, as much as you might want to!

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