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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 September 18, 2019

How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

What to Write Down

Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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Dates of Events

Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

Names of People

Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

Theories or Frameworks

Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

Definitions

Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

Arguments and Debates

Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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Images

Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

Other Stuff

Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

Your Own Questions

Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

1. Outlining

Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

2. Mind-Mapping

For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

Here’s the idea:

In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

3. The Cornell System

The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

The Bottom Line

I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

More About Note-Taking

Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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