Different customers want and expect different things from the businesses they support. While there are certain variables that most customers consider important, there is also great variety in this issue of customer satisfaction. It just makes sense that since there are so many different types of people, there are different ways that those different people will feel valued by a business. There is a considerable amount of research about customer satisfaction. There are some “givens” about customer satisfaction, and there are ways a business can differentiate itself, especially with its most important customers. And yes, some customers of a business are more important than others. The only qualification I make to this statement is that if you are a business providing a necessary service, such as a hospital, all customers should be considered as important as any other, although that just isn’t how it plays out in the real world. But the focus of this article is business in general, so I will not make any more comments about that here. That can be the subject for another article.
Most customers expect value, and it is the customer’s definition of value that is most important, not the definition of value held by the business. Most customers expect timely response, especially when they encounter a problem. Most customers expect quality, and the cost/quality relationship is extremely important. Sometimes it is possible to provide more quality than the customer is willing or able to afford. While this is not an all inclusive list of general customer expectations, it is a sufficient list to now discuss the differentiators in customer service. For such, I have three recent examples.
Mike and I are in Sint Maarten on our annual vacation. We have been coming to this same property for 16 years. It is almost like our second home. And we are not unusual in this thinking. I was walking this am with a woman who has been coming here for 38 years! And she described her feelings about this place exactly the same way as we do, a second home. Why?
There is very little turnover of staff here, and as such, we were greeted like family by several people when we arrived. Contrast that to arriving at a new location where you know no one, or a familiar location that can’t keep staff. You can feel the difference. This home away from home is the Royal Islander. If you look at it on line, you might not be as impressed as you would expect from my information. But believe me, it is much nicer than it presents on line. You can’t always judge a book by its cover.
When we arrived in our unit, we had flowers and champagne from our favorite jeweler on the island, Ron of Joe’s Jewelry in Philipsburg. We have shopped with Ron for all of these 16 years, and we found him by chance. While we are not big spenders on jewelry (my Mike would disagree with this statement!) we always buy some jewelry, and always from Ron. While we have bought jewelry from a couple of other stores when Ron did not have what we were looking for, (and it is usually a particular designer, not a certain piece of jewelry) we always go to Ron first, and judge all others by him. I could talk more about Ron and the difference I find in his level of service, but that would take too much time. Suffice it to say, Ron and Joe’s Jewelry store on Sint Maarten sets the bar high on service. And lest you wonder, this is the first time in 16 years that we have received anything tangible such as flowers and champagne. Ron did invite us to dinner with his family once years ago. But dinner and flowers and Champagne aside, my customer satisfaction and loyalty cannot be bought, so those are just “thank you’s” for being a long time loyal customer, not a guarantee of future business. I remain a loyal customer of Ron’s and Joe’s Jewelry because they continue to deliver not just great jewelry at great prices, but exceptional service. If Ron isn’t there when you go, ask for Harry (who just happens to be the manager) or anyone else. You will be treated like family.
One final example. Mike and I went to a restaurant yesterday that we have been to before, Bistro de la Mer, in Marigot, the French side of the island. I was “wowed” by the action of our server. We ordered our meal, and she asked if we wanted water. Mike rarely drinks water, but I do, so I said, “Yes, tap water.” The water in Sint Maarten is fine to drink, and I do not like to pay for water that can be free. Well, this restaurant only provides water for purchase, so I said, “No thank you.” It is hot and humid in Sint Maarten, so it is good to drink water. A few minutes after serving us our drinks, the server came by with a large cup of ice for me and said, “This is extra ice for your drink.” My drink did not need extra ice. I realized immediately that she found a way around their system to give me water! The ice melted quickly, and I had more free water to drink than I needed! All businesses should be so fortunate to have staff care enough about the customer and find ways to go around their system to not just satisfy, but WOW, their customers. While the food was excellent, I expect that, and willingly pay for it. The service in general is good, and I expect that. What differentiated this experience was the action of the server. She provided an experience that I did not expect, but will always remember. She set the bar high for other experiences. I regret that I did not ask for her name.
How does your business and staff compare to these examples?