Coates & Associates, Inc - "Steering Organizations to New Horizons"
The Coates Perspective

Customer Service 101: "Going The Extra Mile"

Picture this! It’s a beautiful Saturday morning in late August. College football season opens today and I have the family packed in the SUV headed to the stadium to tailgate before the game. Our drive time is about 1.5 hours. About 45 minutes into the trip, I notice a light come on the dash. Since the car appears to be performing okay and because I am not sure exactly what the problem is, I decide to keep driving. A few minutes later, a couple more lights pop up on the dashboard. At this point, I know something is happening, probably some electronic glitch, I think. 

In a desperate attempt to keep the trip moving towards the game, I decide to call Billy Threadgill, my car dealer friend, from whom I have bought many cars, to see if he has any thoughts. All the while, I am trying not to alert the family of the pending dilemma, because you see, in South Carolina, next to church and hunting, not much else gets in the way of college football, especially on opening day. 

As I describe the symptoms to Billy, he immediately diagnoses the possible problem. He suggests I keep driving to the nearest exit and try to find an auto parts store, perhaps I need an alternator. He goes on to say, “if you need me, just give me a call and I will come get you.” 

Within minutes, the car shuts off. I coast off the interstate and into the parking lot of a convenience store. All the while, I am dialing my phone to call Billy. Now the family is alerted to what is happening. A very disappointed feeling is overshadowing an otherwise beautiful day.  Billy's words immediately remind me of why I do business with him. He says, "tell me exactly where you are and I will come get the car, bring you a rental car, and get you on your way to the ballgame." This is Saturday! Billy is not open on Saturday. But within an hour or so, he is there and we are on our way. 

This kind of service is indicative of Billy and his family at Van’s Auto Sales. They “go the extra mile” for all of their customers. Many people and companies say it, but today, far too few do it. There are companies and businesses that have seemingly mastered it and their growth and success display its value. Other organizations have ignored it and have given more attention to profits only to lose the battle in lieu of it.   

What can a person or organization do to instill a culture of “going the extra mile?” While there are many common sense answers to this question, here are a few that can get your team on the way to delivering this kind of service:

1) Listen to your customers. 
2) Hear what they say are their wants and needs. 
3) Look “outside the box” for ways to help your customers.  
4) Focus on each customer encounter as a gift, not a burden. 
5) Treat your customers like family. 

These concepts seem basic, like theory or principles taught in every beginning business class in college. Perhaps this is generally true, but Customer Service 101 is apparently more difficult than most think. It is a rare encounter for most of us. If you master the notion of “going the extra mile,” you will soon find that your customers ARE family. Your customer encounters become relationships that last a long time. This ultimately means repeat business, built in customer referrals, and possibly an improved bottom line.        

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