I’ve engaged in cross-country travel for 17 years, and have spoken in each of our lower 48 states. I’ve stayed in so many hotels, they now sort of all look alike. I’m sure the hotel chain marketing execs who work hard to create “brand loyalty” would cringe at that, but it’s true. Truthfully, I’m not very hard to please. If my room has a bed, TV, running water, and a coffee pot—I am very happy.

But recently, I stayed at the South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island, Florida, and witnessed something I’ve never seen before. This:

clothing

Trust me, I didn’t fold them.

Now, the place wasn’t perfect. The room service was limited and an A/C unit in the bathroom ceiling dripped some water that I had to mop up—but I’d go back. Why? Well, the 78 degree temps in January help, but mostly because an unnamed housekeeping person went above and beyond.

When I saw those clothes on my extra bed that day, a gas station back home immediately came to mind.

I regularly stop at the Conoco Gas N’ Go on Bridge Street in my town of Brighton, Colorado. Their gas is no cheaper than the others and it is four blocks out of my way. But I still go there—regularly. And the reason is simple: clean restrooms.

The owner, Don, provides his customers with the cleanest, shiniest, and possibly most germ-free bathrooms west of the Mississippi. He doesn’t sell other things I might buy such as coffee, mints, and my favorite daily newspaper. But the station that’s closer—and does sell those things—has restrooms so dirty I wouldn’t take my dog in there.

Maybe they think a clean bathroom is an unimportant detail. I don’t know, but Don understands otherwise.

The lesson he offers for outstanding organizations of all sizes is that when it comes to taking care of the customer, there are no little things. Everything matters. Everything makes an impression. Every single thing we do will make our customers more—or less—loyal.

Maybe the Florida hotel housekeeper and Don went to the same “customer service” training class … or maybe they just get it. Some people do just get it, you know.

Tend to the little things—today—and the customer might just come back tomorrow.

Discussion question:

What little things does your organization do well—and what could be done better?

Leave a comment, create some dialogue!

About John G. Miller

John G. Miller is the author of QBQ! The Question Behind the Question, Flipping the Switch: Unleash the Power of Personal Accountability, Outstanding! 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional and co-author of Parenting the QBQ Way. He is founder of QBQ, Inc., an organizational development firm based in Colorado dedicated to “Helping Organizations Make Personal Accountability a Core Value.” A 1980 graduate of Cornell University, John has been involved in the training and speaking industry since 1986. He lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife, Karen. They have seven children and three grandchildren.

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7 Responses to “Tend to the Little Things: “Above and Beyond” Customer Service”

  1. Matt Cook

    My wife and I were recently at a Red Lobster restaurant and experienced something similar. Our waitress was not exactly oozing with charm. Then another waitress came by to check on us and ask if we needed anything additional. We watched her go from table to table talking to people and just personifying great customer service.

    I told my wife that the kind waitress’s mentality towards her customers was going to take her very far in life!

    Reply
    • John G. Miller

      Matt, that is a terrific example of accountable behavior and attitude. She may never win a promotion because she may just want to be the best restaurant server in the world!

      Reply
  2. Jana

    The little things make the biggest difference; whether you are talking about customers you interact with in the business world, or the people ( customers) that you interact everyday.

    My organization is consistently asking, what we could do to make the customer’s experience even better. We do this at different levels. Managers are expected to ask what they can do to make the team’s experience the best. Furthermore, the team is empowered to do what they think would make the external customer’s experience top notch. One key way we do this… Make it personal. Take an extra moment to hear about the customer’s day, or listen to a frustration the customer may be experiencing. Bottom line, connect with the customer ( internal or external). I love that we have the “freedom” to do this at my organization. After all, every person is important and we are all on the same team.

    One story I do want to share of an “above and beyond” moment….While traveling, a passenger boarding the plane had an accident which left him in a very uncomfortable situation. With no other clothes to wear, he sheepishly asked the flight attendant, ” Do you have anything I could change into?” The flight attendant went to her own personal suitcase, pulled out her pajama pants and gave them to the passenger! Wow! How awesome is that? :)

    Reply
    • John G. Miller

      Jana, great philosophy and terrific flight attendant story! Now that is truly serving!!! Thanks!

      Reply
  3. Laura

    Awww! What great “wow” moments. I love hearing stories of people doing good for others. I agree there are no little things, just opportunity. Smiling at the people whose path I cross in the morning. Recognizing that a customer has relocated -even though we work remotely – I ask how the move went and if they like their new home. Or the customer who said they were going horseback riding for their birthday and 3 months later I work with the same customer and remembering ask them how horseback riding was on their birthday. Customers are thrilled when we make it personal and honestly I am, too.

    It is extremely refreshing to work with a company whose highest value is the relationships we build. It is within those relationships, both external and internal, that so many “wow” moments occur. Like the colleague who suffered from breast cancer not once, but twice. With prayer and positive intentions the team rallied behind their friend. We made meals for the family, sent care packages chock full of hand-made items; a blanket to keep warm, a written poem so she could recall her strength, and more. When tragedy hits we aren’t just co-workers, we are family…but not only through tragedy. For the big moments to have an impact we have to make a decision to be present during those “opportunities”.

    I’d love this type of care to be common practice not only in the workplace, but in the world. When we start to recognize these opportunities for what they are – building relationships – we will become a better version of ourselves.

    Reply
  4. Sherry Ford

    Not business related, but my sister just shared a story today that reinforced for me that she is always thinking of the little things. While grocery shopping with her baby, she noticed a harried mother of several children, who was clearly at her wits’ end. Nancy (my sister) approached the woman to see if there was anything she could do to help. The woman looked at her despairingly and said, “I just really need to go to the bathroom…”. Nancy gave the woman her car keys and said, “Here, take these into the ladies room with you. I’ll wait here with your kids until you’re ready to come out. Take your time–you could use a few minutes to yourself.” The mom emerged five minutes later looking like a new woman!

    Reply
  5. Phil

    great story…I recently had a customer comment on our clean bathrooms and was reminded of something I read years ago that basically said, “If you want to attract a good customer base, maintain clean bathrooms.” Retailers will naturally put more energy and money into the front room, but we try to create a positive shopping experience throughout…including clean restrooms. I’ll pass this note on to our employees, it fits our model very well.

    Reply

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