Every morning, I order a large McDonald’s Coke. I typically go through the drive-thru. When I pull up to pay, I am greeted by Elmer. He always says, “Hello, my friend! How are you today?” He does it with a smile. It always makes me smile. If I happen to be going a different direction on any given morning, I almost feel guilty… like, somehow, I’m letting down Elmer. Elmer provides excellent customer service.
I love the authentic Mexican restaurant in Overland Park, Kansas, called Frida’s. It’s owned by a fellow from Mexico, Ivan. The first time we ate there, Ivan and my son, Ian, completely hit it off. He brought Ian not one, but two desserts that night. Frida’s remains one of our family’s favorite restaurants. When we go in, we are always greeted by Ivan like we’re family. He shakes Marc’s hand, gives me a big hug and Ian is always the recipient of some super-cool surprise – a kiddie cocktail disguised as a frozen strawberry margarita, a new dessert the restaurant put on the menu, a six-foot straw for his soda – it is awesome! Ivan provides excellent customer service.
Last Saturday, after an arduous three month wait, Nebraska Furniture Mart delivered the furniture that we ordered for our home. We’ve been living in somewhat of a cave for the last several months with beds and a kitchen table, but no other furniture in the house to speak of. The appointed window for the delivery was between 2-4pm. At 3pm, the delivery rep called to let me know that he was sorry, they were running late and just wanted to make sure that we had time if they arrived closer to 4pm. I appreciated the way that he kept lines of communication open with me and seemed to care that I was waiting. Once here, he and his partner worked their tails off to bring in the furniture, arrange it the way we wanted it done, assist us with little extras like putting mattress covers on, like configuring the television, like hauling off the plastic sheeting that was protecting the furniture from debris. All very human, kind, simple acts… all seemingly lacking in today’s world… all very much appreciated by me, the customer. The furniture looks great, the purchase experience was very pleasant, we are thrilled with the way the house looks. It made us feel great about Nebraska Furniture Mart and about doing business with them. Nebraska Furniture Mart’s reps provided excellent customer service.
Excellent customer service is actually so easy to provide. It takes very little effort. It means a smile… a friendly hello… a gesture that tells the customer, “you are important to me.”
That all stands in stark contrast to a horrible experience I had at Target a few weeks ago – so bad, in fact, that I actually took the time to call the company’s corporate offices to complain! I purchased a couple of video games as birthday presents and asked the cashier for gift receipts. She forgot to provide them to me. When I asked her to go ahead and print them, she told me that she had to help other customers and simply walked away. Not nice. During the same visit, I asked a fellow with a Target name tag to point me to a particular section of the store – he told me that he couldn’t help because he was on lunch break. Seriously? Ultimately, I went to the customer service desk to a) get my gift receipts and b) explain what a horrible experience I had had. The clerk’s response… stony silence. I left irritated, angry and upset enough to call corporate and to tell all of you about it! Apparently, whoever has been training the Target associates lately forgot to mention that awesome customer service can easily translate to higher revenue generation!
So, what does any of this have to do with networking, you ask? First, it gives me a platform to applaud the great ones and vent about the awful ones – thanks for the venue! Second, it has everything to do with networking! Whether you approach or are approached for networking opportunities, think of the contact as a client. Greet him/her with a smile. Really listen to him/her. Be extra genuine in your dialogue. The more you care, the more your contact will feel cared for and you will receive that consideration in return. Especially during the holiday season, when there is a lot of shopping going on, when tensions have a tendency to be somewhat high, when there is a lot of “together” time, I encourage you to seek and to provide excellent customer service. It will simply make you a happier person!