The heart and Art of customer service

I have just returned from a 12 day social trip to the United States. One of the highlights for me amongst the many exciting events we experienced was the service myself and my companions received while we were in the Big Apple.

In retail stores, the shop assistants did not see themselves as entry level staff but as “retail associates”. In one clothing store, the fitting room associate introduced herself to me and asked me my name. She used my name when talking to me, wrote my name on the door and explained how their system worked, offering to help with whatever I needed. After helping me in her department, the same lady saw me a while later in another department in the store and greeted me by name again, with a friendly smile. I got the distinct impression that the clothing store hired people who genuinely care.

In an Italian restaurant, our waiter introduced himself with a huge smile and when we ordered some bottles of wine, he insisted that we taste the wines and not accept anything that was not to our liking, even if it meant having to taste several bottles of wine. This attitude of pleasing the customer seemed to go above and beyond a server looking to make tips and it showed people who took pride in their work and who saw their jobs as careers. In virtually every interaction with customer facing people, when we said “thank you” we would receive a sincere ‘You’re welcome!” in return.

I was pleasantly surprised by the attitude of the residents of New York. I have always believed that “the smaller the city, the nicer the people”. In a city as big, busy and frenetic as New York, I was delighted to see how warm, welcoming and friendly the residents were. I found that people stopped to help us when we looked lost in the undergrounds and when we were standing on a street holding a map. We were asked the same question by so many people; “So, where are you from?” and then a friendly, interested conversation would ensue. Several people stopped and offered to carry our heavy suitcases on one trip. It appeared to me that the residents of New York were self-appointed ambassadors of their precious city.

I think we can probably all apply this sense of pride in our city / country and maybe a question we should be asking is “How friendly is my company? How welcoming and enthusiastic are my staff? Are we going the extra mile? Where is our wow factor?”.