Every toddler in the world is very good at pushing the limits. They try their darnedest to see how far they can go before punishment comes down on them. Like a fat guy with at the bungee jump, they’re testing the limits. It’s a game of push and shove. And you always wanted a Crayon painting on your armoire, right?
Believe it or not those lessons apply in business too. Well, you probably should’t be coloring the armoire with crayons or anything but it’s good to know how far you can push the limits. But, even more importantly, it’s good for your team to know how far they can push the limits.
Here in the place I call home, Lake County, we did a SWAT analysis and determined that one of our greatest weaknesses as a tourism destination was our own community members badmouthing the region to tourists. I don’t know why people do that either, frankly. But among the things that are taught in the half-day classes include elements of customer service including figuring out how far we can push things.
Just like those toddlers.
The idea here is to see what limits you are able to go to to make a customer happy. For example, if you’re a team member of a lodging facility, do you know how far you can go if a customer is upset? What about at a restaurant - if someone’s meal isn’t right or their experience isn’t up to your facility’s standards, what are the limits that a team member can go?
It’s pretty universal that people love Zappos shoes, an online retailer. Zappos has a reputation for outstanding customer service and their call center, in Nevada, has hundreds of people whose job it is to make things right with their customers.
This is a brilliant move because buying shoes over the Internet is something even I don’t do, and I’m a nerd who likes to buy stuff online. Part of the challenge is the tactile component and just seeing if the darned shoe fits. But Zappos has overcome that and the company that got a lot of people to buy shoes online sold to Amazon for nearly a billion bucks. I could live on that money for some time.
Zappos secret was having the best customer service experience possible so that they overcome peoples’ discomfort with buying shoes online. There are examples of Zappos employees sending flowers to customers, of them going to a rival shoe store and buying the shoes that they were out of stock on and even overnighting a pair of shoes to the best man at a wedding who arrived shoeless.
The company’s employees don’t read from scripts like typical customer service agents. Plus they are empowered to make things right for their customers. Whatever it takes.
This is also true of another company with a great reputation for customer service - Apple. Did you know that the Apple Geniuses (you know I’m a huge Apple fan boy and even I think that that terms is somewhat grandiose) actually have an “allowance” that they can work with to make a customer happy?
First of all, Apple isn’t a company that nickel and dimes its customers about warranty issues because, with the prices they charge, they don't have to be. Part of what you pay for is a good overall experience.
So going in to an Apple Store with an issue generally means you’ll come out with a solution, unless nothing can be done of course. I know of instances where really nice people have had fairly significant repairs done after the warranty at no cost, or at a minimal cost. I know of people who have come in with out-of-warranty devices and still gotten service.
It seems the best customer service experiences like those at Zappos, Apple and Disney are governed by one rule that no toddler could ever live under. No rules. Just make things right. And empowering your team to do just that might be one of the best ways to bolster your reputation.
At the very least it’s a great idea for all teams to go over just what they can do to make a customer happy. Once someone is empowered and there is an attitude of making things right, it tends to affect the entire team and create an atmosphere of greater customer service.