Outstanding Customer Service: Seize the Moment!

outstanding customer service happens in moments

As dinner wound down at the well-known steakhouse, our server, Joey, brought dessert and coffee. Now, just so you know, each of us in our party of four loves coffee, preferring it black and DARK.

As Joey walked away, though, we peered into our cups and expressed a collective, “Yuck!”

Have you heard the “hot water with a brown crayon dipped into it” phrase? That’s what we’d just been served.

At $2.95 per cup!

I waved Joey over to express some disappointment and get our small problem solved, but it wasn’t long before I realized I wasn’t going to get what I wanted.

Was he rude, snippy, or combative? No, not at all …

But he was about to … miss the moment.

What I’d hoped for was instant comprehension and a desire to please. Words like these would’ve been pitch perfect: “Oh my, that is not good. Ugh! So sorry. Let me brew a fresh pot and I won’t charge you for the coffee—because I want you to remember to come back!”

Not. What. Happened.

As if I was speaking Russian, he looked puzzled. After thirty seconds of working too hard to make my case, I even said, “Really, this looks like weak tea!”

He stared.

So I asked, “Joey, do you drink coffee?”


Well, I thought, that explains half of his lack-of-empathy reaction.

But the other half most likely stemmed from the fact that he was missing that magical moment when outstanding customer service happens and memories are made.

Outstanding customer service takes place during those almost-too-short-to-notice-memory-creating timeframes called “moments” when someone sees and seizes the opportunity to create a powerfully positive memory that draws the customer back again and again and again.

The ability to perform like this is founded in asking The Question Behind the Question (QBQ), “What can I do right now to go above and beyond?”

Without a question like that, there won’t be much PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY—and without PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY, there won’t be any seizing of moments.

Nor will there be outstanding service.

This story ends with Joey bringing us the bill showing one of the four cups of “coffee” removed from our total. Was I entitled to free coffee? Of course not. But I bet the GM of this restaurant would agree that charging us $9 for brown water wasn’t a very a profitable thing to do.

The reality is this: In the suburbs surrounding Denver, there is an eatery on every corner. We are blessed with many options. Will we not go back to the steakhouse because of this missed moment? No. We might go back—but it’ll be because we love steak. We won’t go back because we left thinking, What an outstanding experience we had! We’ll never forget Joey and our evening there!

Next time we head out to eat, we’ll probably mosey on over to the Thornton, Colorado Olive Garden. For the Millers, the memory of a plate of spaghetti and a bottomless bowl of salad is enough to draw us back.

Something Joey just didn’t give us.

Share a story of when someone “seized the moment” (maybe it was you!) and provided outstanding service!

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29 Responses

  1. I had a very similar experience with a chocolate company just yesterday. The chocolates that I bought through my son’s fundraiser arrived in a melted mess. Not knowing of any other way to call this to the attention of the company I posted on their Facebook page. I quickly got a response asking for contact information so someone could call me, which I provided. When they called, their response was, “that is how it is supposed to look”. I had posted a picture that I had taken with my phone.
    Now it is so melted that I need to take a spoon or knife and pry the chocolate out of the packaging. The chocolate is delicious but the experience has left a bad taste in my mouth.

  2. We found someone who KNOWS what QBQ is about. We went to breakfast at The Henhouse in Pueblo West a few weeks ago. They were extremely busy, the hostess sat our party of four, gave us menus, brought us coffee and then we waited. Following a lot of enjoyable conversation with our group, we realized that our order had never been taken nor had any staff even acknowledged us. Husband got up, asked the hostess about this and she proceeded to do everything to correct the problem. Starting with getting a waitress, then coming to our table to apologize plus tell us all that this was HER mistake. She had neglected to assign our table to a waitress. She didn’t try to pass the blame, or shrug it off.
    We complimented her on her responsibility, her ethics, and integrity. I’m certain she knew the meaning of QBQ!!

  3. John, I’m a lot like you; bad service does not always keep me from going back. But what I can say is that bad service always decreases the frequency in which I return while outstanding service almost always increases the frequency in which I go back. In the end, both types of service – good and bad – impact the profits of any organization.

  4. I sat in the veterinarians office today trying to decide how long should I wait before I leave. I arrived 10 minutes early, my normal routine, for my appointment and a gentleman walked in and described the issue with his animal. The receptionist replied, we normally make appointments for this, but “we will work you in!” Now it’s time for my appointment and I am waiting, 20 minutes beyond my APPOINTMENT, while they worked someone without an appointment in..(it was not an emergency)! They finally attended to my dog. There were two other significant bad customer service issues while I was there. Guess it explains why the waiting room was empty before and after I left! Customer service is about common sense and knowing the customer actually pays “your” salary!!

  5. On Saturday, March 14, 2015, a coworker and I had lunch a Table 24 in Lake Jackson, TX. We decided to treat ourselves to a shared slice of Carrot Cake. While we had both eaten there on many occasions and like the desserts we have had in the past, neither of us had ever tried their Carrot Cake. After the first bite, we were both surprised that it just didn’t seem to meet their normal standards. We discussed this, wondering if it was just us. We both took another bite and decided it just wasn’t a good Carrot Cake. When the waiter brought the bill he asked if there was something wrong with the cake. We both replied that it just wasn’t good. He asked if we wanted something else instead and when we declined he said, “I’ll be right back”. He promptly removed the charge from our ticket and said, “If that was me, it would be important that I not pay for it, so I try to remember that when I am serving my customers.” Wow, kudos to this gentleman. My coworker and I were both impressed with his thoughtful nature and good customer service. I will recognize his face, but shame on me, I failed to get his name. He did the right thing and he is a wonderful advertisement for Table 24.

  6. This has always been my favorite customer service story – and it goes back about 23 years. It’s still relevant because this company consistently treats their customers the same way to this day.

    Early in 1992, we had ordered a brand new dog bed from LL Bean. It was personalized with dog, Kody’s name on it and finally something big enough for him to lounge around on comfortably besides the couch. Promptly upon receiving his new bed, Kody, who had only ever chewed on one pair of boots (from LL Bean strangely enough), decided to chew his embroidered name right out of the bed cover.

    A little bummed out and thinking he wasn’t fond of his name, I called LL Bean. I was only looking for some of the matching plaid fabric to patch the cover. After telling the customer service person the story, she only laughed and immediately insisted that Kody have a completely new bed cover. They promptly sent out a newly embroidered cover worth about $75 at retail, for no charge.

    We were newlyweds at the time and pretty picky about where we spent our little bit of money. That little investment on their part ensured that we came back again and again with several thousands of dollars in purchases in the 23 years since.

  7. So John, did your quarters hit the table like you joke about in Chapter One of the QBQ! book where you tell the outstanding “Jacob and the Diet Coke” story? Ha! Terrible service!


  8. John I hope you do both Joey and the restaurant a favor, since you do love it so much and let them know, in as diplomatically a way as possible, that you are not trying to get anyone in ‘trouble’ (maybe even eliminate the name of the server if he was otherwise good, but share the story you just shared. It will help the restaurant go from good to great, and be a great public service!

  9. I happen to like Royal Farms fried chicken. The local store didn’t have much ready in the case but I placed my order anyway. When I went to pay the clerk told me BEFORE she rang my card up, “10 minutes.” Then while waiting with three or four others the manager came through and offered coffee or soda. When I got home there were two extra pieces of chicken in the bag.

  10. At another level, can’t great customer service also be about an experience between people where both benefit? While having dinner with others is not a time to conduct a seminar, taking a moment to help the server become aware of your expectations, asking if they provided a darker brew of coffee, would have given the server information that otherwise they may not have. The server was not negative or defensive, did not drink coffee, and probably had been serving it to many patrons without any negative feedback. Your feedback was a great moment for the server to learn from you and pass it on to their manager. If the exchange was a positive and a growing moment, the next time you go into that restaurant, guess who is going to greet you warmly and know exactly what you would like. Probably other customers will benefit as well when they are served a darker brew of coffee. Thank you.

  11. I had a “Jacob” (Ch. One, QBQ!) Petco employee help in the cat litter aisle last Saturday. As I entered the store, every employee I passed greeted me and asked if I needed assistance. I was buying many bags of a specialized litter in plastic bags. I tossed several into my cart and one broke open and began pouring onto the floor. I went to find the employee and with a smile said “Clean up needed in the cat litter aisle, I just had a spill!” He went to get tape and met me at my cart. He taped up the bag and asked if this was their fault? I assured him the fault was all mine, that by tossing it the bag had caught on the cart edge. He smiled and put on the 10% discount sticker anyway.

  12. We recently contacted United Airlines. The customer service representative was pleasant but firm, she could not and would not help us. Asking for the supervisor just confirmed our frustration.
    We immediately hung up and contacted US Airways/American. The first rep that we spoke with not only said she could and would honor our request, but offered the same service for everyone in our party.
    It is no surprise which airline we will be flying. It is not the service or the server. It is a company that allows that service and attitude to invade their employees performance. An administration that does not allow or more accurate insist on empowering employees to make it right.
    I am blessed to be a member of a large organization that required the reading of QBQ and empowers all of the employees to take personal accountability.

  13. My husband and I picked up our 4 year old son from daycare several years back and thought he would really think cheese fondue at the Melting Pot would be entertaining–after all, what 4 year old doesn’t like “dipping” things. (I also had a free chocolate fondue coupon) We pulled up to the valet and were told they were short staffed and that they weren’t taking any more reservations or walk-ins that night. I asked if we could just sit at the bar and was told, I could go check, but they didn’t think so. I quickly ran in to ask, and again was told they didn’t have enough staff. I told them I understood, because, after all, I didn’t make a reservation.
    As I was getting back into the car, the manager, Justin, came running out and said to come on in and sit at the bar and he would take care of us himself! Justin treated our 4 year old like he was the only person in the restaurant, and cheerfully took care of us too! We had a wonderful evening enjoying cheese and chocolate fondue and when we received the bill, imagine my surprise to see that we had been given the cheese fondue “on the house.”
    Needless to say, I didn’t use my free chocolate fondue coupon and Justin won our loyalty that night. If all businesses had a Justin, the world would be a better place!

  14. Saturday night I ordered pizza for my family. I go to pick it up and it is not quite done yet so I wait. While waiting, there is a man that comes in to get his order. He looks at his pizza and says, “Oh, I forgot to order olives on this.” The person who made the pizza for him says, “I can warm some up in the oven and add them if you would like, it will only take a few minutes.” The man then says, “is it going to cost extra?” They told him no. The man had the olives added on and then said he will make sure he comes back more often. It was nice to see that they made a customer happy and know that he will be a return customer for their business. Great customer service.

  15. Britni at Sound Credit Union in Lakewood received a QBQ! Tulip plant today for outstanding customer service! I have had my business accounts there for two years but my staff usually does all my banking for me, so I had no connection with any of the tellers. However, when I went in to open a personal account Britni knew who I was from my business account name, treated me as a valued customer. We had a miscommunication about whether my husband needed to be present (out of town on business). She took responsibility for the miscommunication and went out of her way to make a way for us to set up our accounts. In 13 years of banking at a “Big Bank” I never received such quality service! All my accounts are moving to Sound Credit Union!

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