In 1933, my father opened a Sinclair service station. In those days stations like his provided a broad array of services to motorists who came to "fill 'er up", including greeting customers with a smile, pumping gas, cleaning the windshield, sweeping the floor board with a whisk broom, adding water to the radiator, checking oil and fluid levels, and offering a genuine "thank you and please come back" after collecting for the gas - which was about $0.18/gallon (around $2.50 in current dollars). All this while offering other services like engine tune ups, brake adjustments, and tire repairs.
Recently, I ran across the letterhead for Reggie's Service Station. Under the name was the tagline, "We Serve to Serve Again". That was my dad's lifelong philosophy in every business he owned and one that he insisted his employees embrace as passionately as he did. He walked the talk. He lived this philosophy in everything he did - every day!
Oh, how I long for and seek that philosophy in every company with whom I do business. It was the standard I was exposed to all of my life and have come to expect from others.
Unfortunately, the "serving to serve again" attitude is becoming more challenging to find in today's business environment. Here are a few personal stories of instances where I have found companies more structured to serve the owners than to serve their customers.
My younger daughter was getting married and I just bought a new $150 formal shirt to wear with my new tux for the wedding on May 17th. It needed pressing so, on Tuesday, May 7th, I brought it to a nearby cleaners where I engaged with the owner and discuss how I wanted to look sharp when walking the lovely bride down the aisle the following Friday. The owner assured me that it will be perfect, without a crease or a wrinkle. Confident it will be done right I left, returning Saturday morning, May 10th, to pick up the shirt only to find the cleaners closed and a sign in the window stating "We will be closed from May 9th to May 20th", something the owner failed to tell me. I had to then order a second $150 shirt and take it to another cleaners two days before the wedding to have it ready in time for the big event. Now I have two single-purpose shirts for that tux I wear two or three times each year.
So, who is the owner of this business here to serve? The public or the owner? Does the owner "serve to serve again"? Obviously, this was a cleaners that was not in business for its customers, rather it was in business for the owner.
With few exceptions, customers are being spoiled by 24/7 online accessibility to just about anything they want or need. That accessibility is expanding and consumers have the luxury of choosing from a plethora of companies that are there to best accommodate the needs of its customers.
Another example is a small specialty grocery whose owner is a delightful gentleman. It is a great source for food items and ingredients not easily found in traditional markets and I enjoy shopping there because of the "old world" atmosphere. The only problem is that the store is only open Monday through Friday from 10:00AM to 4:00PM, making it very difficult to coordinate a shopping trip. On several occasions I have arrived at 10 o'clock only to find an employee waiting for the manager to open the store - sometimes not until 10:15 or later.
Again, is the owner "serving to serve again"?
Finally, one of the most irksome examples is a veterinary clinic we use for our dog. It's a great place. The staff is wonderful and our dog loves it there. The problem I have is that they, like many other clinics, are closed on Sunday and holidays. In fact, they even close the Saturday before a Monday holiday, like Labor Day. So, we may have to drop our pet off two days before we actually have to and cannot pick her up until a day or two after we return. It's not just the economics of having to pay for one, two, or three days of extra boarding, it's a matter of not being able to reconnect with our other "family member". (I know you pet owners can relate to that).
Who are they in business to serve? Are they "serving to serve again"?
Of course, the list could go on ad nauseam (don't get me started on the healthcare industry) but my point is made. On the other hand, two models of exceptional customer service excellence are Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and Disney. When conducting my signature workshop entitled "They Don't Quit Doing Business . . . They Quit Doing Business with YOU!" I hold up these companies at the top of those that deliver uniform experiences across all channels of their respective companies. They epitomize what is required and what it means to "serve to serve again" by creating memorable engagements that guests crave to have repeated over and over.
Take a look at your business and ask yourself, "Does our business serve our customers or does it serve us?" You may discover that your business might be more competitive and productive by refining the focus of how your serve your customers. Are you in business to "serve to serve again"?
The Next Step
Here's an article that speaks to this very issue: https://bit.ly/2JeCg7Q
Contact Fred Reggie to schedule a call to discuss how you can elevate your customer service model.
Be sure to visit Fred's Food For Thought to gain additional ideas and insights beneficial to your brand.