Posted by: Chris | June 21, 2007

Making It Look Easy

This afternoon, after seeing for the first time the bean-shaped, beating blob which will grow into my second child, I observed two services marketing initiatives which, while embarrassingly simple, were incredibly smart moves.

Preemptive Complaining

As my wife, daughter and I checked out of our OB-GYN’s office this afternoon, I noticed a small, nonassuming sign on the counter which read, “We are currently updating our computer systems. Thank you for your patience.” Beyond a mere apology (i.e. “Excuse our mess”), this sign provided a quick explanation, a hint of good things to come, and an implied apology—all before I ever had a chance to complain to my wife. Customer service issue, solved. Thankfully, this is not so uncommon. But I wouldn’t mind seeing the same type of thing when businesses are temporarily short-staffed (and slow) for reasons other than poor scheduling, or when, ironically, I am unable to connect with my cell phone service staff due to internal systems problems. As much as I love to complain, I like even more the idea of smartly snatching the opportunity right out my hands before I ever have the chance.

Making Appropriate Introductions

As I headed back to my place of intern-ment (that’s a little joke), I saw on the Applebee’s sign just south of I-44 a message which introduced the restaurant’s cook by name. At first, I thought it was a strange way to use the highly visible signage. (Why aren’t they advertising their latest promotion?) But then, I thought about how it made me feel. At first, I was pleasantly surprised and impressed that this oft-maligned mass-produced neighborhood grill had enough pride in its cook to go through the trouble to introduce him to all passers by. But the feeling it left me with was that of familiarity. We (almost) always know the names of our servers, sometimes the names of our managers, and occasionally our hostesses. But rarely do we know the name of the person who actually puts his hands all over our food! The introduction established a relationship with the restaurant that would last much longer then their $9.99 sirloin special. In light of this guy’s role in the success of my evening out, I would like to know his name-even when it’s just at Applebee’s or Cheddar’s or Chili’s. And, like the placement of the explanatory sign at our baby-doctor’s office, the gesture was very incredibly simple.

I would be interested to know of more of these simple, effective, less-than-five-dollar gestures that enable the service industry to build community with its clients and customers.

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