We’ve been calling 2017 “The Year of the Customer.”

In December, as a company, we had a book study focused on customer service. Together, we read and discussed “Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit” by Leonardo Inghiller and Micah Solomon. The book led to great discussions and insights. I highly recommend it, both for service- and product-central businesses. Here’s an excerpt:

Few businesses realize how valuable customer loyalty is, and even fewer know how to achieve it consistently. But a company of any size can build great wealth and stability through customer loyalty. Businesses with loyal customers grow faster than others when times are good, and they have the most breathing room when times are bad. At its root, creating loyal customers is about taking the time to learn about your customers individually and then using simple systems to turn that knowledge into enduring business relationships.

The book discussion was great and a meaningful use of time. But we wanted to experience great customer service up close, too. So for our 2017 RoboSource annual trip, we took the group – where else? – on a cruise to the Bahamas. We spent three days aboard Enchantment of the Seas by Royal Caribbean. Welcome to the world of room stewards who know you by name, waiters and waitresses who bring you anything you ask for, and staff whose entire job exists to make sure you have an incredible time. We experienced it to the fullest.

We just got back from our customer service fact-finding trip. We’ll meet next week to review our observations. But in the meantime, here are a few things I noticed:

  • Calling someone by a name goes a long way.
    Lincoln, our room steward, cheerfully greeted us each morning and called to me anytime he saw me on the boat. “Good morning, Miss Kendra! Is there anything I can do for you today?” When I asked for an extra pillow, it appeared in our bed like magic, right before bedtime. Since Lincoln knew my name from the first time I met him (how do they do that? Do they study photos?), I made sure to remember his name and was much more likely to think of him as a person, who could easily get overwhelmed with work at any given moment, and more likely to give him grace (not that he needed it – Lincoln did an incredible job!).
  • If you’re not sure, try both!
    Our group dinners were a lot of fun. One of our favorite parts was how the wait staff would bring multiple entrees, appetizers, or desserts, if we couldn’t decide on one. Sometimes unexpected generosity takes a decent experience to a whole different level!
  • If you’re incredible about customer service the whole time, but drop off right at the end, a lot is wasted.
    This is true of both cruises I’ve been on – they gush over you and try to get you to relax the whole cruise, until the last day. On this day, they wake you up early and start hollering at you to get off the boat. They are pushy and in a rush and I always leave feeling harried, rather than rested. There’s got to be a way to do this better. The same can be said about writing software, I suppose. We can be our customers’ best friends, but if we just disappear after the software is written or don’t work hard to please the customer all the way through deployment, we’ll be wasting our time (and our customers’ time).

What about you? What are your rules for customer service? How do you go above and beyond for your customers day after day?