How to Exceed Customer Expectations | The CCLD center for business leadership training & development programs How to Exceed Customer Expectations - CCLD

Have you ever experienced exceptional customer service that left you speechless?

Let me share one that I will never forget.

I was visiting Los Angeles for the first time for a training program and I was booked into the Ritz Carlton. It was the first time I was going to be staying at a Ritz Carlton property. As my cab drove into the hotel entrance the bell boy came to take the luggage while I paid the cab driver. When I turned around the bell boy greeted me warmly, calling me by my name. I was a bit surprised but didn’t pay much attention and walked into the hotel. As I was walking in, the maître de walked up to me and greeted me with a welcome drink, again calling me by my name. I was beginning to get curious. I couldn’t contain my utter surprise when the lady at the check-in desk called me by my name for checking in. I asked her, “Before I sign this I have a question. How on earth did you all know my name?” She smiled sweetly and just said, “Welcome to the Ritz Carlton experience, Mr. Ramesh!”. I was rendered speechless.

Later on in the room, as I was unpacking the luggage, it occurred to me as to how they knew my name. I looked at the airline tag on my luggage and realized that the bell boy must have read my name off of the tag and radioed it to the hotel lobby personnel. The rest was no magic, but surely it appeared magical to me as a first time guest.

During my stay there that week there were a few minor service incidents but none that could erase my first impression of the Ritz Carlton experience. Later on I learnt that every Ritz Carlton employee carries in his or her pocket a card that sets out their service standard and every employee is expected to live by that credo. Surely they manifested the exceptional customer service they were trained to deliver at that hotel in Los Angeles.

What is interesting to note with that incident is that it didn’t require complex technology or expensive training for Ritz Carlton to create a “moment of magic” that the customer will always remember. All it required was some thoughtfulness and a desire on the part of the people who designed and managed the customer experience.

So how do you design a wow customer experience? It’s all about understanding the four levels of customer service.

Let’s take an example. Imagine you are at a supermarket looking for cake mix to bake for your daughter’s birthday. You ask the person packing the shelves “where can I find the cake mix?” At a “Generic” level the person would say “Sorry I don’t know. You’ve to ask the customer service person”. That’s no service! At the next level, the “Expected” level, the person may be a little more helpful and say, “Check aisle six”. And you go to aisle six and pick up the cake mix you are looking for. Even better, at the “Augmented” level, the person may walk with you and show you the cake mix on the shelf. Much better service, you say. But consider a higher level of service – the “Delighted” level. The person asks you to take a seat at the ‘lounge’ in the supermarket, offers a cup of coffee and brings you an array of cake mix to select from. When you’ve made the selection, she then proceeds to ask you, “would you like to taste a slice of cake baked with that cake mix by our bakery? And by the way, when is your child’s birthday? Why don’t we bake a special cake for her?” Now, that sounds like a supermarket you would want to visit often, isn’t it?

Lisa Ford, a world-renowned customer service consultant and a faculty member of Crestcom, explains this four-level model of customer service in her session. She says, if you are offering customer service at a Generic level you are barely surviving and your days are numbered. If you are offering at the Expected level you’re just another player in the market. If you’re offering the Augmented level of service your people understand customer service and are trying to serve the customer, which will improve your market share. But if you’re operating at the Delighted level you are likely to be the market leader or you’ll soon be the dominant player in the market because of your superior customer service.

When I narrate this scenario to people in Trinidad I always get the reaction “that can never happen in Trinidad”. That may be true to some extent. But I am sure all of us have experienced flashes of exceptional customer service even in Trinidad. Write to us if you have and we will share it in this column.

Exceptional customer service can happen anywhere, with the right kind of people under the right kind of leadership.

I started by sharing that exceptional customer service experience at Ritz Carlton. Now here’s a challenge for you. Imagine you are working for the Emir of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. He is building the world’s first seven-star hotel and he has asked you to design a check-in process that is even better than the one that I described at the Ritz Carlton. How would you design the most wow experience that blows the mind of your guests as they enter the hotel to check-in? Write your best idea to us at before Thu, 19 Jan, and we will publish the best one in our column here. And if you wish to learn what it is like to check-in at a seven-star hotel, check us in at one of our Crestcom seminars.

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