No matter what you buy, whether it’s a product or a service, customer service will be an element in your overall experience.
That customer service can be great or terrible, or most of the time, somewhere in between. That range is something I don’t understand because customer service is surely something that the product or service provider can control.
You can choose to smile warmly when you serve coffee or you can be grumpy and spill coffee on the table.
I bet that you can remember on one hand how many great customer experiences you’ve had this year. Which is pretty shocking given how many interactions we must have had as customers. The ones that stand out to me are airline cabin crew (of good airlines like Cathay Pacific) and the best customer service I’ve ever experienced which was at the Covent Garden branch of Aesop. It was so good that years later I still tell people about it, and I’m writing about it here.
I was looking for a Christmas gift for my wife. She loves lotions and moisturisers and anything like that. I was walking past Aesop and thought I’d pop my head in. I’ve never been in a shop like that, and certainly not on my own. I wasn’t a huge fan of moisturisers (at the time). When I got to the door, I probably didn’t look that comfortable and all the staff looked like they were with other customers. However, one of the staff looked up and acknowledged that I was there, and gently indicated that she would be with me after she’d finished with the customer that she was with, and the indication was done in such a way that the customer wouldn’t have minded the imperceptible break in attention even if they had noticed.
When she came over to me whilst I was pretending to browse, I explained that I was looking for a gift. She led me to a row of sinks where she asked for my hand and gently wet it. She applied a washing product and gently washed my hand. She asked me how it felt and if I liked the smell. I said yes it was nice. She then took a fresh hand towel and patted my hand dry. She then asked if she could put on a moisturiser. I said sure. She then applied it to my hand.
Afterwards, she asked me if I might be interested in a gift set. It was around £100 which I would normally have baulked at for a product like this. But something told me it probably good value. I said sure I’ll take it. I followed her to the till where she asked if I wanted to join the mailing list. I said sure. When handing me back my card, she had neatly folded the receipt around my card. She then took the bag in her hands and instead of handing it to me over the till, she walked with it like it was precious cargo, around the till and handed it to me with care. The BEST customer service I’ve ever received!
What is great customer service? I think you know it from getting a warm and fuzzy feeling. That feeling when someone gives you full attention, treats you with warmth and respect. It’s a rare feeling but surely possible to give regularly. I’m sure that Aesop manage to replicate this experience and feeling in most of its customers, if not all.
It’s not common, but that doesn’t mean that it’s hard or impossible to do. Pret asks that its staff smile and have high energy levels. It’s a condition of working there. Imagine that your favourite coffee shop gave you the sort of experience that I got in Aesop? Wouldn’t that coffee shop have a huge competitive advantage on other coffee shops. All things being equal with the coffee itself, the shop that can add incredible customer service is going to drive its rival into the ground.