WOW Your Customer! – The Power of One Front-line Employee

customer-satisfaction-book.jpg My birthday is this week and that always brings back many memories. I like memories. I like to tell stories of memorable experiences. And I like to hear about the memorable experiences that other people experience. Memorable experiences in customer service are rare. That’s why I like to celebrate them when I hear about one.

I was re-reading Jeffrey Gitomer’s book, “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless. Customer Loyalty is Priceless,” and I want to share a personal story that ties both my birthday and this book together.

About 15 years ago I was flying home from a convention in Germany. I presented my passport to the ticket agent at the Frankfurt Airport. After the usual pause, she looked up at me and said, “Mr. Rocks – may I be the first person to wish you a Happy Birthday today!”

I thought that that was a nice gesture. It put a smile on my face and I walked away from the counter feeling better than usual. I like to be noticed. I enjoy being recognized. I like it when the hotel operator calls me by name. I have come to expect it. The hospitality industry trains its personnel to recognize people by their name. This has become standard operating procedure.

So back to my story. I was making a connection in London and had about an hour between flights. I checked in at the front desk of the Airline Club at Heathrow Airport and got my second surprise of the day. The concierge said, “Welcome to London Mr. Rocks. We are delighted that you can spend part of your birthday with us. Would you like a bottle of Red or White wine? German or French? Happy Birthday!”

How did they know it was my birthday? I did not present my passport; only my membership card. Did they have this information flagged in their computer system? I had to find out, so I asked.

No, they were not able to capture that information in the computer but they thought that that would be a nice touch. Rather, they told me that they had received a message from the lady who ticketed me in Frankfurt. She sent a computer message to the club alerting them that I would be stopping by while in-transit and that it was my birthday.

WOW! Now that was something special. That caught my attention! What a fantastic gesture from the lady in the Frankfurt Airport!. Front-line service at its best!

Why did she take the time to send this message? What made me special? What made me stand out? Is this something that she was trained to do? Or did she just take the initiative to do something out of the ordinary? Regardless, she really made me feel special!

And my feelings started to change that day. Not just about her – I have no idea what her name was – but about her company. The company that she represented. She was the company in my opinion. She made me reflect on how I chose airlines. That day – because of one front-line employee’s initiative, I made a switch. No longer would I choose a flight based strictly on price or schedule. That day, I resolved to always fly her airline whenever I had a choice of carriers. That day I become a loyal customer of her airline. That single effort put me on the path to becoming a 1 million- mile-flyer of United Airlines!

I was no longer a satisfied customer. I was now a loyal customer of United Airlines. I was no longer satisfied to accept any airline when I flew. I actively sought out opportunities to fly her airline – United.

Now, let’s take a look and see what the ROI – Return on Investment – was for her initiative; her simple gesture:

I purchase about 40 airline tickets each year. Let’s use a very conservative average ticket price of $300.00 each. That equals $12,000.00 each year.

That happened 15 years ago, so let’s multiply $12,000.00 by 15 years. That adds up to $180,000.00 Not chump change!

Let’s discount this total. Suppose that I made discretionary choices to fly United 75% of the time. That still adds at least $135,000.00 in revenue.

All because of the efforts of one front-line employee!

Wouldn’t you like to have that extra revenue flowing into your company’s bank account? Of course!

How do you do that? Take a look at your front-line staff. They are your company. They are either turning your customer “on!” Or turning them “off” – and perhaps “on” to your competitors.

To the customer, your receptionist, or sales associate IS your company. How does YOUR company answer your phone? How does YOUR company interact with YOUR customers? What are YOU doing to improve the situation?

Wouldn’t you like to have part of that extra $135,000.00? What are you doing to encourage YOUR company to create memorable experiences for your customers.

You can start by reading – and taking to heart Jeffrey’s Gitomer’s advice:

“Customers don’t make up stories about you or your actions. You create the story. Your customers just repeat them. Over and over again. To everyone they come in contact with.”

What stories do you create? What do your customers say about you – when you are not there to listen?

Google yourself or your company. Read blog entries about your company. You have the choice – give your customers something positive to say about your products or service. Try to make their experience memorable. It is well worth the effort. It creates the best return on investment that I know!

Let me add a postscript to this story:

When I boarded the plane in London for the last leg of the trip, I was delighted to see an envelope with my name on it lying on my seat. You guessed it – It was a “personally signed” Birthday Card from the Captain and the flight crew.

WOW – no – SUPER WOW – I did not need an airplane to fly me home. I was that high on United Airline’s service that day.  All because of the initiative of one Front-Line Employee!

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  1. This is a great story and a great point, Danny. I know many in the service industry think they provide great customer service but what they really provide are front line people who aren’t rude and generally smile. Every organization who has anything to do with the public needs to spend some time on how to get a “wow” factor out of their customers.

  2. Hi Kevin –

    Thanks for your comments.

    The “WOW factor” is part of a company’s culture. Part of its corporate DNA. Exceptional companies in the hospitality sector build this into their day-to-day operations.

    For example, both The Four Seasons and the Ritz Carlton Hotel groups give each and every employee a certain number of free nights to stay at anyone of their properties. Management STRONGLY ENCOURAGES every staff member to take them up on this offer – including Bell Hops, Waiters and Maids.

    The thinking is: If you, yourself, have never experienced exceptional service how can you offer it to our guests. So here is our offer for you and your family to be our guest (at NO CHARGE) – to experience our service, our amenities, our rooms, our restaurants. How do we make you feel as our guest?

    This gives all staff members a better appreciation of what the hotel guests expect and demand. It gives them some ideas for how to “WOW their guests.”

    If you have NEVER experienced what your guests expect, how can you be expected to offer it? Let alone to exceed their expectations?

    Try it out. Have your staff experience what it feels like to be a customer at your own store. Don’t be surprised if they come away with a less than favorable experience.

    Now… what do they suggest to improve the experience?

    Let us know your own experiences with WOW.

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