Through all of the advice and philosophizing out there, sometimes great customer service boils down to what Jack Palance told Billy Crystal in the movie City Slickers. Excerpted, Palance asks, “Do you know what the secret of life is?…One thing. Just one thing…[Crystal asks] But, what is the ‘one thing?’…[Palance replies] That’s what you have to find out.”
I just had a “one thing” experience that cemented my allegiance to the King Soopers at Belleview and Yosemite. I needed distilled water. The store closest to me was out. I went to the Belleview store, which was out as well. I figured it was another “pandemic” moment.
I asked an employee in the aisle if he knew what was up, as I reached for purified water in stock. Instead of just shrugging his shoulders, as many people do these days, he went the extra mile—telling me he would check in back for stock not yet put on the shelves.
He came back empty-handed, saying the warehouse was out. I shrugged my shoulders, thanked him for his extra effort and went on my merry way. A minute later, he shouted out that he just found some on a pallet in the back, and asked how many I wanted.
A minute later, he comes back with the distilled water and pulls the purified water out of my cart to put back on the shelf.
Who’s does this? I looked at his name tag, which read “Matt Devereaux, Store Manager.” Already extremely satisfied with his extraordinary customer service, I asked an extra credit question about some chicken I had purchased the day before that seemed to taste a bit off. I wanted to know if my call to the store after I made the discovery resulted in finding any bad chicken in stock.
He said he recognized my name from that call and told me that they hadn’t found any issues. I thanked him again, and said I would bring back the chicken on another trip for a refund. His response? Just toss it and he would authorize a refund that day in the store.
He then escorted me to customer service, told the employee how to handle the refund and made sure that I could purchase my distilled water at the desk instead of making a second trip through a checkout aisle.
Again, who does this? All in all, he likely spent more time than he really had to spare helping me.
This “one thing” exemplifies what customer service, at its core, is really all about—going the extra mile to help in every way possible, even when it hurts productivity elsewhere.
Matt Devereaux exemplifies what customer service is now, and needs to be in the future—individualized, extra-special attention and going the extra mile to gain satisfactory results. As everyone who knows me will attest, I frequently cite Costco as the gold standard for this type of customer service. It’s good to see a Kroger company jumping on that bandwagon—at least in the person of Matt Devereaux.
What’s the chief takeaway from all this? At its most fundamental level, great customer service is built one person at a time. Sweeping company pronouncements and initiatives can establish the tone, but it’s in the day-to-day trenches where the real value will be realized.
As I’ve said for years, “You can spend a million bucks on marketing, but if the person answering the phone is a jerk, you’ve wasted your money.”
Just think about how much goodwill can be generated if that one person works diligently and competently to make every customer experience stand out because of its excellence.
“Nuts and bolts” of a company’s strengths and credibility once focused on length of time in business, track record and proven abilities—in other words, historical measures. Now, companies increasingly are judged based on their customer service-related performance in the present and moving forward. Historical reputation, while still a factor in buyer decision-making, is taking a backseat to such customer service measures as convenience, understanding and empathizing with customer needs, and trust tied to how well companies treat all stakeholders.Mark Lusky
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Mark Lusky (aka The Happy Curmudgeon)
is the owner of a Denver-based marketing communications firm. He’s a veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience, and author of A Wandering Wondering Jew… and co-author of Don’t Get Mad, Get Leverage.