Get Exceptional Service Every Time, Without Paying for it

By | July 20, 2007
Service

Is there anyone out there who has at one time or another received bad service at a restaurant? Hotel? Airline? Bank? What about having had a bad run-in with a taxi driver, travel agent, contractor, insurance adjustor or doctor? Oh, come on, who hasn’t, except maybe someone who lives out on a mountaintop?

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Wouldn’t it be nice if you received great service every time and never had to pay extra for it? This is not only possible – it is likely if you go about it the right way.

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The key to getting great service is to be a great guest. This does not mean reversing the roles with the service provider. It involves being able to relate to people in a way that helps them become the best at what they do. It boils down to respect.

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The following nine ways of getting exceptional service do not require paying extra money or having to expend huge efforts learning something new. They do require you to be somewhat ‘in the moment’ with the person you are dealing with. Take an interest in who they are and show an above average level of respect for them and their interests. Do that, and many of them will bend over backwards to help you with whatever it is you want them to do for you. The extras you receive in terms of service quality won’t cost you a dime.

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  1. Go at off peak times. Showing up at a popular restaurant or other place at its busiest time makes it harder to get as much personal service as during quieter times. Few establishments staff their peak times as well as they would like to, so the service providers are often stretched quite thin. During quiet times, you can often get extraordinary service simply by keeping the person interested. If you do show up at a hotel or airport check-in counter at a peak time, you can still get great service but it usually involves being more organized than otherwise so that the service provider can meet your needs efficiently.
  2. Make it personal – refer to people by their name. With few exceptions, addressing a person by his or her first name is the best approach. Check for a name badge or simply ask. If you are in a situation where you are not sure of the preferred protocol (first name, last name, doctor, etc.), simply ask the person for his or her preference.
  3. Give a damn – smile and ask them how they are doing. This simple gesture can make a big difference with almost anyone and at any time, whether at an empty restaurant or crowded doctor’s office.
  4. Become a regular or let them know you are a first timer. A typical business has a number of regular customers they care about. This might not be a big deal for the passport office where you might only show once every five years. It is certainly true for restaurants if you take at least one meal per week there, or hotels you stay at a few times per year. Most businesses love their regular clientele and will go out of their way to keep them happy. Service providers get to know you and your preferences. Things tend to go more smoothly the better they know you. First timers also seem to get better service if they let the service provider know this is their first visit. Like most people, service providers will usually make an extra effort to make a good first impression.
  5. Check online reviews. You can match your service expectations to what you see in the reviews. Most reviews will mention something about service aspects so you won’t come completely unprepared for the service you receive. If something is a little off, you can mention what you saw in the reviews.
  6. Be knowledgeable – being disorganized or indecisive does not help. Service providers are not mind readers. If you can clearly articulate your needs and interests to them, this makes it much easier for them to give you great service. Whether you are talking to your doctor, the person handling your airline reservation, or giving your destination to a taxi driver, having the relevant specific information handy can make a big difference.
  7. Use proper etiquette and appropriate protocol. A round peg fits into a round hole better than a square one does. Even if a great fit can not be made, by attempting to match protocols and use proper etiquette, you can make your interaction with the service provider go much more smoothly.
  8. Engage the management where appropriate– before, during and after your engagement with the service provider. This should not be confined only to situations where there is a problem. In some cases, follow up letters can be a great aid in improving service. If you mention to your service provider that you are thinking of writing a follow up letter to management and would like the contact information to address some sort of problem, you will likely get his or her attention. To make it positive, suggest that you would like to highlight the good points, while also addressing how the problem (if there was one) is being handled. If you are spending considerable time with your service provider, such as during a long voyage, and have time to write during the trip, show the draft and ask for additional input. Offer to send them a copy of the letter you are sending the CEO, manager, etcetera so that the person is kept in the loop.
  9. Greet them in their own language, especially if you are visiting them in their country. Let’s take a page from the book of linguist (and creator of an online English language program Thelinguist.com ) Steve Kaufmann. He speaks nine languages fluently and suggests that when in Rome, you don’t need to speak Latin, but at least try a little Italian. Opening a conversation with someone in their own language, no matter how awkward it may seem at the time, will go a long way to establishing an interest on the part of the service provider in helping you with your needs.

Try these things out and in less time than it takes to locate your lost luggage, you will have become an expert at receiving exceptional service, without having to reach into your pockets for extra cash. Do you have any additional tips? Please let us know.

Peter Paul Roosen and Tatsuya Nakagawa are co-founders of Atomica Creative Group, a specialized strategic product marketing firm. Through leading edge insight and research, sound strategic planning and effective project management, Atomica helps companies achieve greater success in bringing new products to market and in improving their existing businesses. They have co-authored Overcoming Inventoritis now available.

At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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Con #2: Less Human Interaction

One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

Con #4: Unique Distractions

Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

Final Thoughts

Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

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