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Get Exceptional Service Every Time, Without Paying for it

Get Exceptional Service Every Time, Without Paying for it
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.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

Curiosity

Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

Patience

Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

A Feeling for Connectedness

This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

How to Self-Taught Effectively

With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

1. Research

Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

Learning the Basics

Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

Hitting the Books

Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

Long-Term Reference

While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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2. Practice

Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

3. Network

One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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4. Schedule

For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

Final Thoughts

In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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