Turning Castor Oil into Champagne

Castor Oil: “A foul tasting oil used in the 1950’s to cure whatever ailment a kid claimed he had that would keep him from having to get on the early morning school bus.”

My mother believed castor oil was a miracle cure. From a stomach ache to sore legs to ringing ears, a spoon full of castor oil was the “all-purpose” answer to almost any malady. But, she added a small twist. Before she directed me to, “Open your mouth,” she would ask: “What is the best tasting thing you have ever eaten?” For me, it was wild blueberries. “Now, think about that great taste.” Thinking about those blueberries never altered the taste, but it surely made the castor oil go down easier.

All customers face occasional “foul tasting” aspects of getting service. Airlines have canceled flights; doctors have emergencies that leave you stranded forever in the reception area; hotels have room keys that occasionally don’t work; and, popular restaurants have longer than normal waits at peak times. Smart service providers find ways to “turn castor oil into champagne” by managing their customers’ experiences to “think about blueberries.”

When we exited the Hertz courtesy van at the Hartford airport, the strong below-freezing winter wind bit hard. But, the Hertz attendant had a warm smile and an eager-to-help attitude. “This is way too cold!” one of us commented. She almost giggled. “Now, you guys know in Hartford, we do weather as entertainment!” Ten miles down the road we were still laughing at her unexpected champagne comment. What can you do to make service maladies seem more pleasant to your customers?