Three Steps of Service: Bookending Your Clients
If you’ve read “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking” by Malcolm Gladwell, then you know his research indicates first impressions are intuitive, powerful, and made in a matter of seconds. There are many books and articles that share how to make a memorable and positive first impression. Yet, when it comes to customer service, first impressions are only half of the story. A good first impression can be completely undone by a bad last impression.
YOUR SERVICE SHOULD NOT EVAPORATE
Let’s say you go to your favorite restaurant, and they greet you warmly and seat you right away at your preferred table. The wait staff is attentive. The food tastes great. But when it comes time to pay your check, you can’t find your server anywhere. You try to catch the eye of any employee, and you still can’t get service. Although you may feel compassion for your poor waiter or waitress—who you imagine must be trapped under a boulder somewhere struggling to break free—you begin to consider billing the restaurant for your sitter’s overtime.
In this scenario, even though your meal was good, your last impression—the interminable wait for your check—will probably color your whole dining experience. You will also most likely hesitate to give the restaurant your business in the future. In customer service, a last impression is equally as memorable as a first impression.
THE IMPORTANCE OF A GOOD GOODBYE
The Three Steps of Service— a warm and sincere greeting, meeting the guest’s needs, and a fond farewell—are part of the Gold Standards at The Ritz-Carlton. Diana Oreck, Former Vice President of The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center points out that, “The arrival and the departure bookend a customer’s experience. The last few moments can reinforce everything that went before—good or bad.”
If your customer had any challenges with your service or product, a bad good-bye only compounds the problem. For example, if your customer experienced several defects, and then receives a bill that is inaccurate, you’ve verified his or her belief that your organization is substandard from beginning to end.
On the other hand, if your client has experienced short-comings in your products or services, a fond farewell can help save the entire experience. It can also redeem a marginal customer experience and elevate it into something memorable. You can achieve this by recognizing the customers’ past difficulties, resolving any outstanding issues, and by expressing sincerity, kindness and gratitude to your customers. Your clients have many choices,, and just because they did business with you today, does not mean that they will return tomorrow. The fond farewell is an opportunity to let your customers know how much you appreciate their business.
THINK RELATIONSHIP—NOT TRANSACTION
Often, companies and organizations neglect making a sense of departure special because they already have their money, and their transaction is complete. Customer experience transcends transactions. Your relationship—your genuine care for your customer—shouldn’t stop when money has changed hands. The way to cultivate customer loyalty is to continually embrace the customer relationship.
When you express sincere and genuine care for your customers—that extends from a warm greeting to a fond farewell—you’re not only making lasting impressions, but also creating positive ambassadors for your brand. ∞
The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center offers advisory services, courses and presentations to organizations that wish to benchmark the award-winning business practices of The Ritz-Carlton. Your organization can learn about The Ritz-Carlton methodology for customer service, employee engagement and leadership development. We also guide organizations through a multi-step process in order to achieve sustainable culture transformation.