Customer Service Perfection

Duty Calls

Leaving the parking garage of my office, I called home. My wife and daughters had been getting ready for a vacation this weekend and would I mind getting dinner for everyone? My day has been difficult, my team has wrestled with a hardware failure of one of our databases and most of the day has been spent getting everything back in place.

Dad Calls

So after I hang up, it’s time to decide: who do I call? So many requirements float around at that moment in my head. Quick service… want something on my path home… have to take into account my picky eater…

This time, I’m really only choosing for the kids. The Lady and I have been on a pre-packaged diet meal plan.

I choose a Pei Wei that I’ve ordered from maybe twice previously. (Thank you iPhone and Google maps for getting me the phone number so fast!) I give them a call:

“Thank you for calling Pei Wei, this is Gabby, how may I help you?” says a cheerful voice.

“I’d like to place an order to go, please,” I’m trying to think of what my non-picky eater might like tonight. I can’t remember if she has a favorite at this restaurant or not.

“Is this for ‘Jordan’?” Gabby asks.

“Wow! Efficient …and a little creepy. Yes it is.”

“Would you like your Kids Wei Honey Seared Chicken with sauce on the side and Dan Dan Noodles with Beef tonight?” Dan Dan! That was what I was trying to remember. I’m really glad we don’t have to go over the menu on the phone since I’m in a bit of a hurry.

“Nothing would make me happier this evening, thanks!” I say only half kidding. This order has been a breeze, I’m thinking. We close by Gabby giving me my total and telling me that “We’ll see you at 6:55.” (it’s 6:40 when I call).

Breaking Down Walls

“So what,” you say? “You placed an order and they used some technology tricks during the process.” Over simplified a bit, but yes that’s basically true. But how many times have you dealt with a company and thought at some point: “I’m trying to give you money. Why are you making it so hard for me to do that?”

That’s what struck about this interaction with Pei Wei. They executed brilliantly on what every smart business should do:

Enable painless transactions with your customers.

PeiWei’s made a decision at some point in the past to make it as easy as possible for their customers to get what they wanted in as little time as possible and be treated well by Pei Wei employees. My conversation with Gabby was no longer than 60 seconds. I didn’t even get out of the parking garage before my order with her was done and we were off the phone.

This company had carefully thought through every part of a customer transaction to make it possible for customers in a hurry (like me that night) to place and order and get on with the next dozen things in their day:

  1. My call was answered on the second ring and Gabby’s greeting was genuinely pleasant instead of forced or rehearsed.
  2. I was handled quickly, but not rushed so they could get to the next customer, giving me the feeling that at that moment, I was their only priority.
  3. The sales suggestions were dead-on for what I needed. (Yes, technology, but the same success can be had with any correctly applied technology).
  4. My expectations were clearly set (in this case price and time to pick up).

All of this in 60 seconds. I’ve waited that long for some companies I deal with just to pick up the phone.

Who do you think I’m going to be thinking of first from now on when I’m in a pinch and need to grab something to eat? And every other company I work with will be compared with this standard from now on.

It’s easy to make an argument that this just one of many sales tactics like offering lower prices, two-for-one deals, reward programs and the like. But companies that really embrace the philosophy I experienced with this company have a competitive advantage because they have internalized this fact:

It’s about the long term relationship with the customer and not about this one sale.

This is key. The pricing gimmicks, the coupons and the punch cards tell me as a customer that you want my money.

When you as a company make a genuine commitment to value the long term impact of pleasing your customers you will survive any competitor, any other company’s sales promotion and any economic downturn. Because when you let your customers know that they matter to you and that you are expecting to please them on this visit and every other, your customers will choose to keep coming to you even when their financial situation has forced them to cut back with other companies. They will never forget that you did more than just “get the sale” or take their order. You worked to build a relationship with them.

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