On Labor Day I was approaching the practice area at my golf club when my smartphone chimed indicating a call. I know, it should be off or at least on vibrate at a golf club. I usually change the ring setting as I put my phone away in my golf bag at the start of a practice session, but the call beat me to it.
It was a United Airlines representative calling, which annoyed me at first because I thought it was a little much to be getting a sales call at 9:00AM on Labor Day. I quickly realized my first impression was wrong when the representative said, “I’m calling because there’s a change to your scheduled flight next month, and we can no longer get you to New York that day to make your connection.”
Any frustration I was beginning to feel evaporated when she continued, “I’m calling because I want to work with you to make sure we find an alternative that works for you.”
I stepped away from the practice area into the parking lot and asked her what the alternatives were. After some discussion we settled on a Plan B, and she concluded, “If there is any problem with this itinerary, please don’t hesitate to call back. We want to be sure your travel plans are taken care of.”
Fast forward to my weekly stop for coffee at a local Starbucks. There are three in the Burlington, Vermont area. One of those three – the one on my way to work – has an insanely loyal customer following. Of course everyone there appreciates each person’s business by following the head barista’s lead in greeting the customers warmly and engaging with them beyond simply taking their orders. I walked in wearing a light green tie. As soon as the head barista saw me, she exclaimed, “Awesome tie! I love that color.” She went on for a minute—while simultaneously making cappuccinos and lattes—about how the color really looks good and I should wear it more often. To this day, I can’t look at that tie much less put it on without thinking about her reaction.
On the heels of my United experience, I began thinking about what defines exceptional customer service as I waited for my coffee. Both the United representative and the people at the Starbucks, especially the head barista, exemplify great customer service.
In a nutshell, they convey sincerity, friendliness, a positive attitude, a focus on you, a desire to help you get what you want, and honest appreciation of you as customer. The result: customer loyalty. That’s a pretty good deal for everyone.
Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers’ questions in The Boston Sunday Globe’s weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of “The Etiquette Advantage in Business” and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book “Essential Manners For Men” was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of “Essential Manners for Couples,” “Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf,” and co-author of “A Wedding Like No Other.” Post is Emily Post’s great-grandson. His media appearances include “CBS Sunday Morning,” CBS’s “The Early Show,” NBC’s “Today,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and “Fox News.” Follow Post: @PeterLPost.