Two of my three businesses are service businesses. We are in the business of renting equipment, but it is the service that our clients buy. Over the holiday weekend, I took my family for a short trip to Chicago. I love Chicago.
My favorite thing about going to the city is the service. We stayed at the Four Seasons, which is pretty affordable on holiday weekends. The service in these hotels is amazing. By service, I mean the way people treat you and how they respond to your requests with a simple "of course" or "I would be happy to do that".
We were enjoying the swimming pool and being a coffee adict, I needed to find a cup of coffee. Since I didn't know my way around, I asked the young lady at the desk leading to the spa. Instead of giving me directions on where I could get coffee, she simply said, "I will bring some out for you. Do you require cream or sugar?" In a few minutes she arrived with two coffees and a little cup of cream. Only later did I find out that in order to get that coffee, she stopped everything she was doing and trotted (they never run at the Four Seasons) down to the cafe to get the coffee.
Of course, when you stay at a nice hotel like the Four Seasons, you expect that sort of service. It is unquestioning, polite and effortless. The amazing part is that the hotel finds people who are willing to go that extra step. Does this mean they only hire from the top end of the spectrum? No, not really. I doubt that people who work there make much more than their counterparts in other hotels.
These employees seem to recognize that they benefit by serving. The very act of service to others is their payment. They take a quiet pride in making their guests happy. That in turn creates a very loyal following and of course builds a successful company.
So how do I, a little rental company guy, bring that type of service to my clients. Right off the bat, you may say that trying to bring a four-star resort service attitude to a rental company is unrealistic. But I have this thing about trying to reach and do things that cannot be done. So here it goes:
First, service must begin with the management. In this case, Me. I need to clearly set service as the main goal of the company. We are not in the business of renting things, we are in the business of serving our clients.
Secondly, there are some things which can be integrated into the system such as thank you cards and follow up calls which we do now. We can also go the extra mile to provide the "surprise" service such as the cookies and milk in the afternoon which was brought up by some friggin elf. I am not certain what the surprise element might be, but I guess that is part of the surprise. For my tent business it could be a bouquet of flowers. For RentQuick, we already include a tootie-pop with each projector. (I know, we are showing how much we suck.)
Third, in order to keep track of what our clients want we need to fully use our CRM software. Things such as customer likes, dislikes and requests need to be documented. In this case, I am not talking about marketing info like birthdays, but instead, I want to gather information for the sole purpose of serving the client better.
Finally, we need a way to truly measure how we are doing in the service to our clients. For years, we have included a simple survey in every rental. But to take that a step further, we should do exit interviews with our clients to make sure we are covering all the bases.
Although some people would say that high-end service like that of luxury hotels is expensive to create for the masses, I like to think that service in and of itself is a reward and it is far better to over serve and lose money in the short term than to underserve and lose money in the long term.
(P.S. Thanks to all those who said they are reading the posts. )