Sunday, January 2, 2011
Your Career and You: "The 'Experience of Being Served'"
My wife and I met for our New Year's Eve lunch at a rather posh hotel restaurant in Boston. Won't mention names, but the hotel's headquarters is in Hong Kong!
Bottom line...worst dining experience in ages. We left, after having a long conversation with the manager on duty, vowing never to return.
A learning point came out of this, though, that I want to share.
My public relations undergrad students at Curry College, as well as my graduate communications students at Regis College, hear this from me constantly by the way.
That point is about "service"...what your client or boss or customer experiences as a result of your activities on his or her behalf.
After noticing that no one was paying any attention to our table... we hadn't eaten yet, so I couldn't possibly have had a piece of spinach stuck in my teeth!...I decided to time how long it would take for someone to notice that my water glass was empty.
Thirty minutes later, our waitperson wandered by and, as kind of an afterthought, asked if we needed anything. I had to point out the fact that spiderwebs were forming in my glass! (Prior to her arrival, by the way, various hosts and hostesses had passed by our table a total of 15 times...not one single person even acknowledging that we existed!)
"So what," you ask? "They probably were busy doing their jobs."
Sadly, you are absolutely correct. They were busy just doing their jobs!
And that's the whole point here. Service, as I define it, is doing what it takes to ensure that your client, boss, guest, friend...whoever...feels that he or she is the most important person in your life at a particular moment.
Note that I haven't said one word about your "job description.
Job descriptions tell you what is expected of you as an average employee...one who gets his or her job done in the required number of hours with a minimum of mistakes.
"Service" is what you add to the equation.
Now I'm not talking about sticking your hand in a meat grinder or throwing yourself in front of an oncoming car. I'm talking, purely and simply, about anticipating what it takes to create "the experience of being served."
What am I talking about? A "Kirk story," of course.
Part of the "routine" each year when we're on vacation in Taipei is that I get one of my (noticeably, according to some) infrequent haircuts.
I've been going to one particular stylist for five or six years, mostly because I've gotten used to the place, and she, for whatever reason, remembers how I like my hair cut even though she only sees me once a year!
This year, we got settled in earlier than usual, and I decided to go that afternoon for the ritual.
Settled into the chair; looked like hell (14-hour flight, maybe?!?). She took one look and asked, "When did you arrive?"
"This morning," I mumbled.
What followed was the most amazing half-hour neck and shoulder massage I have ever had. Hurt so bad and felt so good I wanted to cry!
Then on to the regular spruce-up.
The point of this story?
She didn't have to provide that extra bit of service. I would have been satisfied with the usual great job she does with my rapidly-vanishing hair. But she recognized how bone-tired I was and knew there was one thing she could do that would help a little.
In return, she has now converted me from a satisfied customer to a raving, deliriously loyal client who tells anyone he runs into about the experience.
Another point? It doesn't matter what your job is. What matters is the pride you take in the performance of your job. And customer service is part and parcel of every job that exists on this earth.
But this is the difference between doing your job and providing quality customer service. You take yourself out of your job description box and put yourself in the shoes of the person you are working with or for.
Don't get wrapped up so tightly in your job description that you forget the people with whom you interact.
Success, in my book, comes from delivering, as often as you possibly can, "the experience of being served."
"Small service is true service while it lasts;
Of humblest friends, bright creature! scorn not one:
The daisy, by the shadow that it casts,
Protects the lingering dewdrop from the sun."
William Wordsworth, "To a Child, Written in Her Album"