Surfside, South Carolina in the off-season is like watching an old Beatles video with the sound off. Something isn't quite right, yet it's still special and you can't look away. A few miles up the sand is Myrtle Beach. Now I know why Canadians flock here to play golf in March: 86 degrees, clear skies, and beautiful.
I wandered down to the lobby of my hotel with a view of the surf and found the hotel restaurant. The place was empty but for one sullen-faced man. I sat down and perused the menu. After a wait of about ten minutes-it feels like ten hours when I'm hungry-Donna walked up and, with all the enthusiasm of a homeless person asking for spare change, asked if I wanted coffee. Her words were flat, empty, and there was sadness in her voice. She clearly did not like her job. "Yes, please," I replied. "Can you make a couple of poached eggs and substitute fresh fruit for the hash browns and toast?" You would have thought I asked to borrow five hundred dollars. "HE won't let me," was all she said. "Fine, I will have the two-egg breakfast AND fresh fruit on the side. Go ahead and charge me the extra three-fifty." She asked in a monotone, "How do you want the hash browns done? What kind of toast do you want?"
"I don't want any toast. No hash browns either, just the fruit and eggs." She started to say "HE" again; I knew where this was going. I felt like Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces. I finally spoke up, "I think your policy is absurd; you can tell HIM that."
Big mistake: HE came out from the kitchen and began citing policy and procedure with a scowl that would frighten Vincent Price. I interrupted him, "You know what? I have changed my mind. Cancel my order. My policy is I don't give my hard-earned money to mean or inflexible people. Have a nice day." The only other person in the place looked up with a fearful expression. I left. It felt like diners' hell. I have never been so glad to leave a place. I went for a run on the beach to consider what had just happened.
My friend Kurt called a little later and asked if I was hungry. "Starving," I said. He had gone online to Yelp and read reviews. "I heard about a place called Omega Pancake House. It's supposed to be good."
At Omega, we sat down and had no sooner picked up our menus when a very different Donna appeared like a positive ninja out of nowhere. She had a smile so big I was taken aback. "Good morning, darlin'. Coffee, hon?" "Yes, please," I answered. "Say, could I substitute fresh fruit for hash browns and toast?" Donna replied, "Darlin', you can do whatever you like. You are the customer!!!" It was music to my ears. This was like the Beatles with the sound ON! She was cheerful, positive, attentive, caring, and came by every minute or two to refill our cups. With each visit, she had a friendly question, a warm remark, or a kind word. "You are going to love this gyro. You want extra sauce?" I was in heaven.
Do you know it costs one dollar to KEEP a customer, but seven dollars to GET a new one? Why is service so bad in some places? In this recovering economy, you would think people would be trying harder to please customers.
What bugs you? I ask that question in my seminars on customer service. List the things that bug you and then ask "What is the opposite of that?"
(-) Negative Attitude (+) Positive Attitude
(-) Scowling Server (+) Smiling Server
(-) Long Wait (+) Quick Response
(-) Policy over People (+) Flexible Attitude/Policy
(-) Indifference (+) Caring and Kind
(-) Doing the Bare Minimum (+) Extra-Mile Effort
This is all about people skills, attitude, and gratitude. As consumers, we are the reason companies are in business. Without us, they go out of business. Customer service means hiring for attitude and training for skill. "Thanks for being my customer," I tell anyone who buys a book or CD from me after a keynote. I sign books with a smile and a kind word for as long as it takes. Why? I am grateful they are my customers! I saw Penn and Teller do this in Vegas. It was not sleight of hand or part of their act. They are genuinely grateful for your business and it shows. In New Orleans, it's called lagniappe (lanyap), the thirteenth beignet in the customer's box.
Companies that practice lagniappe include Nordstrom, Ritz-Carlton, Disney, FedEx, and Virgin Airlines. They listen, care, go the extra mile, and make us feel important. They offer extra VALUE! We don't mind paying more for great service.
I went onto Yelp after our terrific experience with Donna Number Two and posted, "Donna Rocks! I can't wait to come back to Omega Pancake House in Surfside, SC!"
The old model was "When we are happy, we tell two or three people; when we are unhappy, we tell fifteen." That has all changed. With social media like Yelp and Angie's List, bad service can ruin your reputation, drive customers away, and put you out of business faster than you can say, "Let it be." We must choose to care about each customer, choose to have a great attitude, and choose to go the extra mile.
Which Donna are you?
On a recent visit to New Orleans, I worked out in the gym at Loews, just off of Canal Street. (Thanks, Roberta!) During my workout, I met the actor Reed Diamond. You may have seen him on his hit television show Franklin & Bash, or in the films Spiderman 2 and Good Night, and Good Luck.
As he talked about his career, I paraphrased, "So you put in your ten thousand hours or ten years [like the Beatles did in Hamburg] and things are coming easy for you now?" "Yes," he replied. "I turned the corner a couple of years ago. Life is good."
I asked him near the end of our chat, "What advice would you offer aspiring young actors?" He smiled and said, "Make certain your chosen profession is a 'calling'. Then figure out how to get out of your own way!"
To enhance your career, what do you need to START doing? What do you need to STOP doing to remove the barriers holding you back?
What if you cut your TV viewing in half? What if you started reading books that are in alignment with your goals? Hey, what if you wrote down your goals in a journal? Write down the income per year, waist or dress size, or bank balance you want to achieve. How much time off each year do you want? What do you want to SEE, HAVE, DO, BECOME, or SHARE?
Write "My life in five years..."
Follow your bliss! Get out of your own way!.