June 13, 2014

Compassion As A Customer Service Strategy

compassionEarlier this week, while waiting for a meeting to start in a local coffee shop, this concept of ‘surprising and delighting’ customers played out in front of me.  We all know that good customer service is important, but do we go above and beyond at all times?  Here’s the story (from what I was able to eavesdrop): this customer was in the store and asking a ton of questions about different coffees, teas, etc.  It was taking a lot of time but the staff never rushed her or hurried her – they took the time to answer her questions while pulling her aside so that they could talk more one-on-one AND free up the line for other customers who were in more of a hurry.  She ordered a tea and then wasn’t happy with the temperature.  It wouldn’t have surprised me if the staff was then thinking ‘oh great, one of those customers’ but they handled it with finesse and got her something more to her liking.

Now that’s basic customer service 101 but they took it a step beyond.  One of the staff recognized her from having been in during their opening week and they were out of something she had wanted at the time so he brought her two of those items now – for free – in addition to comping the tea.  They talked some more and he brought out some other things to try as well.

Here’s where the story took an interesting twist – she started crying.  I couldn’t catch the full story but it sounds like she’d recently lost her parents, is trying to deal with the estate and fighting siblings, and is utterly stressed out.  This was the first few quiet seconds she’d had in months and she was so utterly grateful that the staff was being so attentive and letting her put down her worries, if only for a second, and relax.  She kept saying, over and over, “I haven’t felt so spoiled in months.”

Now the staff at this coffee shop knew none of this before they began helping her – they simply treated her like a human being, not just a customer.  It worked out well for them  because she ended up buying an additional $50 worth of product, signing up for their newsletter, and getting their frequent drink punch card.  In the matter of minutes, through attentive customer service – the type that focuses on the human and not just ‘customer service tips and tricks’ – they turned this person into a lifetime customer.  And let’s be honest, in Seattle there’s no shortage of coffee and tea shops to choose from!

Sometimes when someone is driving me crazy with requests I like to try and stop, take a deep breath, and realize that what I’m seeing is only a small part of that person’s life.  I have no idea what’s going on in the rest of their life and all I can do is try to make their day, their week, or their life a little easier.  Because those small moments of tenderness and patience can make a huge difference to someone – and that, ultimately, is the best customer service there is.

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2 comments on “Compassion As A Customer Service Strategy

  • Mathew Tragash on said:

    I read your article and I felt compelled to comment. What you observed is the changing trend in business management. I say that with a little pinch of salt because there are a greater number of businesses that haven’t caught on yet and the change is very slow.

    I have experienced that people running businesses have forgotten what it means to be a human and a consumer with an identity instead of a “$” as a face. Profits are important, yes, and promote business growth; But what are companies and who is management if not for taking care of the patrons and even the employees that make the business operate? I’d say a company can’t be a company without either.

    It’s important to take care of and to take notice of the people you serve and the people that serve you as well.

    • Jennifer on said:

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. You so elegantly pointed out a real issue in customer service and that’s that companies see customer service as something they’re doing for the dollars and not for the most important reason of all – that they’re serving other human beings. Really appreciate your insight – thank you!