Going the extra 50 feet.

The other day I wrote about how a check out clerk at a grocery store went the extra 50 feet (as opposed to the extra mile) to make my shopping experience faster and more convenient. His going the extra 50 feet brought the service experience from acceptable to great in my eyes. He didn’t do that much extra, but he did do enough to make a difference.

I preach about the importance of the little things day in and day out and when companies have employees that do them consistently, they always do end up making a difference. It doesn’t matter if the company is an average customer service provider or a world-class customer service company, employees going the extra 50 feet consistently will make a difference. It makes a difference because customers appreciate it when employees do put in that extra effort to make their customer service experience better than usual.

I am working with a company that needs to adapt the extra 50 feet mentality. They do a great job at providing the basics and while they often do go the extra 50 feet, they don’t do it consistently. They are now at the stage where they are building the idea into their processes and procedures.

They’re hoping to go from acceptable to great by not only encouraging employees to go the extra distance, but by building it into all of their processes and procedures. If going the extra distance becomes standard operating procedure, chances are, it’ll happen a lot more than if it was left up to chance. For companies that don’t really have a culture of customer service ingrained into the company DNA just yet (very few companies do – think Nordstrom and Ritz Carlton as examples of companies that do), the extra distance has to be built right into the processes. Eventually, going that extra distance will be automatic and assumed, but chances are it won’t start off that way.

The challenge that my particular client, as well as countless other companies, is facing is where and how to go that extra distance. What’s too little and what’s too much? There is no definitive answer for any particular company or industry. Everyone has different customers and different ways of providing service. And I think that is what makes it such an interesting question and an interesting challenge.

3 Responses to “Going the extra 50 feet.”

  1. chad said:

    Jul 16, 08 at 9:46 pm

    In my current environment, efficiency is almost equivalent to excellent service. However, I have been in many companies that do not believe in excellent service, and they have paid the price. As I’m sure you are aware a certain coffee company (for whom I used to work) had to begin to re-tool its focus to return to servicing customers. I was let go from said job for insubordination, for opting to help a customer prior to helping an assistant manager.

    Story short: customer was skipped over by 9 people by my estimate, ASM asked me to retrieve a stock item from the back that was not critical at the time, I said I wouldn’t leave my customers even while drinks were blending. I felt this was more important than hot cup lids being *fully* stocked in late September in Houston.

    My thoughts were with the customer. If they had been skipped over, then what would they think if they saw the person who was personally handling their business walks off? The ASM was looking at the big product picture. Certainly, we were *low* on lids. We were also *low* on these customers’ lists of viable coffee shops.

    My biggest issue with customer service in the larger big box retail stores and service centers is the reliance on branding. I wonder if this company sees its dropping sales as stepping away from customer-oriented operation, or as an economic issue. Is the mentality of their reassessment of its issues an attempt to fight the economic downturn, or make the way its baristi have treated customers for *years* now?

    I have not worked much in my current field. But I know customers, and I DO know workers. I feel like your checker did go the extra mile. Successful companies create an environment that turns that 50 foot giver into a mile-giver. We’re out there. My friends are mile-givers who are treated like Astronomic unit-takers, and their productivity (over YEARS) declines, their morale drops out, and they soak up the minimal paycheck they receive. Administration workers should find the 50 foot-givers and turn them into mile-givers, and those that don’t resist are rewarded. Those that refuse are held put. Those who can’t give 50 feet don’t belong in customer service.

    You can teach (insert information-based technical skill here) because I have had to take new baristi and train them to be amazing. But you canNOT teach demeanor.

  2. Service Untitled said:

    Jul 16, 08 at 10:41 pm

    Chad,

    Thanks for the detailed comment! The customer should come first. Your manager should have tired to reason with you or vice versa, but I see where you’re coming from with a situation like that.

    Companies focus on customer service for all different reasons. Everyone ultimately does it for the bottom line results, but a lot of companies just want to provide better service to their customers and simply don’t know how exactly to do so.

  3. Service Untitled » The system won’t let me. - customer service and customer service experience blog said:

    Aug 08, 08 at 2:01 am

    […] invest in hiring and training friendly customer service representatives (and getting them to go the extra 50 feet) is wasted if the “system” doesn’t let them do their jobs and work with […]