Thursday, March 12, 2009

Customer Service

What makes for good customer service? On the internet or in a store, there are some basic things to get right and everything else will follow. Online businesses could stand to learn a few refresher lessons from their counterpart businesses in the brick-and-mortar world.

I have family in Chicago and live in Indianapolis, so I head back and forth down I-65 on visits. A few years back, I started stopping regularly at the Logan's in Lafayette, because they do customer service right. A road trip for us is no meager affair; today, for example, there were 6 of us in transit - 2 adults, 2 energetic boys and 2 bouncing beagles. We pushed through to LaFayette in good time, and walked in a bit frazzled, happy to be back in 3G territory after the digital wastes of Northern Indiana, needing sustenance. The staff greeted us, seated us promptly, were courteous throughout. The restrooms are clean, the food is good.

Oh, yea, that's *every* restaurant's policy, what's the big deal? I can regularly walk into a speedy-eats restaurant nowadays and tell them "I feel welcome to your restaurant, would you take my order please?" and nonplus even the most doughty clerk. But here's the difference.

They know me at Logan's. In a restaurant 60 miles from anywhere I usually go, they know me. The manager made a point to learn the boy's names. For some reason, the boys think it is really neat to sweep with the staff, and the manager lets them help out. This is a big deal to boys who have been cooped up in a car and need a chance to move around. The staff makes a fuss over them, and they're just delighted with it. Once or twice, the manager spotted us a free dessert. We've talked about his wife's degree program, our holiday plans, nicknames for the kids. If the game's on, we get the score report when we walk in. We've swapped wii codes, and can battle in guitar hero. I can wear my Indiana University hoodie in the restaurant - in the university town of LaFayette, Indiana, home of Purdue University - and walk out unscathed. 'Nuff said.

So what happens from this level of customer service? I got served the wrong order once, but decided to try it instead of being a pain and sending it back. They apologized, and I learned about a new menu item that was pretty good. Once, the manager stopped by and saw that one kid's meal was overdone, so he had the dish remade. When family comes down from Chicago, I tell them to stop there. Over the course of a few years, I've probably spent or referred $1,000 of business there. All without a club card. That level of authentic, purposeful customer service has some pretty tangible benefits - I'm less likely to be a pain as a customer, I'm getting better service, and I'm spending more of my money there. And I'm not alone - the reviews on Google are good too. It benefits me as the customer *and* the restaurant as a business.

So look around for yourself at the businesses you patronize and figure out what not only serves you as a customer, but delights you. In an online business model, it is far easier to know your customer - they tell you who they are with each login. Are you using what you know to delight your customer?

No comments: