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?

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.

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.

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.

  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.

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